Apple put up, and then took down, a job posting that suggested the company is preparing to give up on wireless chips manufactured by Qualcomm – a supplier it is currently in a contentious legal battle with – and is possibly cutting out Intel as well for future generations of iPhones.
An iPhone X for sale at the Apple Store on New York’s Fifth Avenue in November 2017. Photo: AP
According to a report in Cult of Mac, Apple’s site briefly had a listing for an individual who would be “at the center of a silicon design group”, specifically a “millimetre-wave IC design engineer” with a PhD and qualifications perfect to help design the next generation of 5G modems for future iPhones. An archived version of the posting that survived on Glassdoor mentions the following responsibilities:
Work with platform architects, system group, and digital design group to define the requirements for mmWave phased-array front-end and baseband blocks based on the product requirements.
Work with technology team and foundries on process evaluation/selection for the target device.
According to Business Insider, Apple has been testing millimetre wave technology since at least May 2017, when it received a Federal Communications Commission licence, and it recently applied for permission to test equipment in the “gigahertz” band.
Milimeter wave is only one of the technologies that will eventually comprise the yet-unfinalised 5G standard, Business Insider noted, though it helps achieve data transfer rates unparalleled by current mobile networks. Yet there are drawbacks with that method, the site wrote:
One issue is a “propagation” problem, which means that its waves can’t travel very far before they start losing information. Another problem with millimetre waves is often it requires a clear line-of-sight between the device and the transmitter.
Per Cult of Mac, reports have suggested Apple might simply be hiring someone to work with Intel to develop future generations of wireless chips, but it’s unclear why they would delete the job listing if that is the case. (On the other hand, Apple has long been one of the least transparent big tech companies when it comes to their trade secrets.)
Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Apple plans to cut out Intel chips from future Mac computers and turn to Apple-made, ARM-based processors instead as soon as 2020. Apple’s long-term plan under CEO Tim Cook is reportedly to “own and control” the primary technologies behind its devices, which would entail cutting out many of the suppliers that manufacture Apple’s components.
It’s clear at least that the posting is probably for a role that will include iPhones, however: The listing mentions that it will involve bringing “functional products to hundreds of millions of customers”, and Apple currently does not manufacture any other line of devices in that quantity. Apple sold 77 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2018, and just over five million Macs during that same period, according to MacWorld.