Intel's Upcoming 5G Modem May End Up in iPhones in 2020

Intel has moved up the launch date for its new 5G modem chip, which means it could end up in next-generation iPhones, but not until 2020. On Monday, the company said the Intel XMM 8160 modem will start shipping to tech vendors in the second half of 2019, about six months earlier than previously scheduled. But despite the new rollout date, the XMM 8160 won’t arrive in commercial devices until the first half of 2020, the company added.

Intel’s modem will offer download speeds of up to 6 gigabits per second, making it about three to six times faster than current LTE modems found in many smartphones. It’s a good bet that Apple will use the new modem. The company has been favoring Intel’s radio technology at a time when Apple is locked in a legal battle over stolen trade secrets with Qualcomm, another provider of 5G modem tech.

Last week, Fast Company reported that Apple was planning on releasing a 5G iPhone in 2020, using what it called an Intel “8161 modem chip.”

Intel's Upcoming 5G Modem May End Up in iPhones in 2020

The 2020 arrival date may be a little disappointing, given that the first 5G mobile networks will start going live across the US next year. Intel’s competitor, Qualcomm, is seeking to capitalize on this with its own 5G modem, the X50, which is slated to land in smartphones during the first half of 2019. Qualcomm’s X50 supports up to 5 gigabit per second speed and can be easily paired with the company’s Snapdragon mobile processer chips.

Vendors including HTC, OnePlus, and ZTE say they plan on using the X50 modem in upcoming products. Apple, on the other hand, has generally waited to adopt the latest radio technology. For instance, the iPhone 5, the company’s first LTE-enabled handset, arrived in 2012, almost two years after the first 4G wireless network went online in the US.

Intel said its XMM 8160 modem stands out for its power-efficiency, and small footprint, which can enable smartphone vendors to keep their products thin and light. The XMM 8160 modem can also support 4G, 3G, and 2G connections on a single chipset. Apple has already adopted Intel’s modem tech in its newly released iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

The devices use the Intel XMM 7560 modem, which does offer some impressive speeds, but isn’t quite up to par with Qualcomm’s X20 modem, according to PCMag’s own testing.

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