Mobile
Commentary
1/17/2011
08:47 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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iPad, iPhone Chips May Come From Qualcomm

The iPad 2 and iPhone 5 might mark a significant supplier shift for Apple, which will switch from Infineon cellular radios to those made by Qualcomm.

The iPad 2 and iPhone 5 might mark a significant supplier shift for Apple, which will switch from Infineon cellular radios to those made by Qualcomm.Infineon has been the historic provider of Apple's cellular modem and baseband chips for the iPhone. These are the components that allow the iPhone (and 3G version of the iPad) to speak to cellular networks, such as AT&T's. In order for Apple to create an iPhone for Verizon Wireless, it had to purchase modem and baseband chips that work on Verizon's CDMA network. Those chips likely came from Qualcomm, which owns a huge number of CDMA-related patents.

By striking such a deal, it opened the door for wider adoption of Qualcomm's chips across the board for Apple.

Citing sources it relies on, Engadget reported over the weekend that Apple is indeed going to move to combination CDMA / GSM / UMTS chips from Qualcomm both for the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5 (product names unofficial). Right now, Apple is making two versions of the iPhone 4. One for Verizon, and then one AT&T (and other GSM-based operators). Apple could reduce its costs by making just one iPhone that works on both CDMA and GSM networks. Qualcomm makes such chips, and in fact, they are used in a number of Verizon Wireless smartphones, including the BlackBerry Storm/Storm2.

Engadget believes it is possible that Apple will go with Qualcomm's Gobi chipset. I actually wondered why Apple didn't go with Gobi for the iPhone 4. Rather than combine two separate radios on one chip, Gobi uses a software-defined radio that can easily switch from CDMA to GSM and back without changing any hardware. It's all done via software.

The Gobi chips were first introduced for laptops years ago. They let enterprise buyers purchase laptops that weren't locked down to a single broadband network. This offered businesses the flexibility they needed to make changes if/when necessary in order to ensure connectivity for mobile employees. Now, Apple may do the same for its iPad and iPhone product lines.

This woud reduce the number of SKUs Apple needs to develop for its mobile portfolio and would make the whole darn business easier to manage.

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