MediaTek, the Taiwan-based fabless semiconductor company, will likely supply wireless chips for Apple’s HomePod speakers. DigiTimes reports that Apple is still evaluating its ability to produce a key component for the 5G iPhones.
The report notes that Apple may be looking to switch modem suppliers ahead of the launch of 5G cellular networks. The Cupertino-based iPhone maker is engaged in a battle with Qualcomm over royalties and patent licensing and is said to be looking to get rid of the San Diego-based chipmaker for future supply of modems. Apple is believed to be looking at MediaTek’s Helio M70 modem, which is expected to hit the market six months ahead of schedule and reach up to 5Gbps speeds on the next-generation 5G networks.
The MediaTek Helio M70 modem, like Apple’s next A-series chipset, is being fabricated by TSMC using a 7-nanometer process and it will offer power efficiency and performance that can rival modems from Qualcomm and Samsung. Apple has been working to replace Qualcomm modems on its existing devices due to the ongoing dispute but Intel, the second supplier has continued to suffer from performance issues and recently lost CEO Brian Krzanich under unusual circumstances.
For MediaTek, a contract from Apple could serve as a fresh lease of life, since its presence is limited to low-cost smartphone makers. It would also be a major change for Apple, which is known for making partnerships only with leading names in the industry. Huawei is the only other company capable of supplying 5G-ready modems but the Chinese company is facing ban in the United States over concerns of espionage.
The report adds that there is no official MediaTek-Apple deal for 5G modems yet but the Taiwanese company is eager to win Apple’s business. The deal will depend on product roadmap and MediaTek’s ability to reliably supply millions of modem parts needed for the flagship smartphone.
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DigiTimes also reports that MediaTek has created a new chip business unit specifically to develop custom chips for individual clients. As part of that project, MediaTek is said to be working on a customized WiFi chip for Apple’s HomePod speakers, which will likely serve as a precursor to 5G modem commitment. Apple HomePod is not a mass market product like iPhone and this project will help the companies work together.