Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
Apple is reportedly working to design more chip components in-house, with the company said to be establishing a new office with the aim of replacing components that Apple currently sources from Broadcom and Skyworks, according to Bloomberg.
The new office is said to be in its early stages but will eventually focus on “wireless radios, radio-frequency integrated circuits and a wireless system-on-a-chip,” in addition to “semiconductors for connecting to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi,” Bloomberg says.
While the A-series and M-series SoCs that contain the CPU and GPU for Apple’s iPhones and Macs get most of the attention, there are tons of additional chips inside those devices, handling things like power management, USB connectivity, wireless charging, and more. As iFixit’s iPhone 13 pro teardown documents, Skyworks and Broadcom supply a significant portion of the iPhone’s third-party circuitry — parts that Apple, it seems, would prefer to design on its own to create more bespoke solutions for its hardware.
One of the most prominent examples of third-party chips is the iPhone’s modem, which is currently manufactured by Qualcomm (but had previously been the subject of a years-long legal battle that briefly saw Apple switch to using Intel parts). Apple has made no secret about its ambitions to develop its own 5G chips instead of paying for Qualcomm’s chips, either: the company bought Intel’s smartphone modem business in 2019 for around $1 billion and is said to be looking to switch over to its own in-house modems for the iPhone as early as 2023.
That Apple is looking to build more of its own chips may not just be about exercising a greater level of control and hardware integration, though: it could also be about getting a better handle on part supply. Right now, Apple is already feeling the impact of the ongoing global chip shortage with supply issues for parts from suppliers like Broadcom, which forced Apple to slash its manufacturing targets back in October. Building its own chips could help Apple alleviate some of those issues in the future, assuming it’s able to continue to work well with its manufacturing partners.