Apple

Apple Moves Away From Qualcomm – New iPhone XS Sports A x86 Modem For Cellular Connectivity

Every smartphone today uses an ARM processor,  because it consumes significantly less power than the x86 chips used in computers. Even iPhones use ARM processors, but long back Apple wanted the iPhones to run on a modified low-watt Intel Atom processor however Intel wasn’t able to provide.

Decrypted firmware
Source – Tweakers

A security researcher name “lcq2” actually decrypted the psi_ram.bin file in the iPhone XS’s firmware, named ipsw in the downloadable. He found out that the new iPhone XS actually uses a modem running on the x86 architecture.

This chip only handles wireless connectivity in the iPhone XS, which still runs on an ARM processor. The previous iPhones actually used modems from both Intel and Qualcomm.

Some of the previous iPhones had two different variants, one with the Intel XMM 7480 modem and the other with the Qualcomm X16 modem. The X16 modems from Qualcomm were actually superior and they did come with 4×4 MIMO antennas, which would theoretically give better cellular performance. But Apple disabled those extra MIMO antennas, because that would mean better cellular quality in some of the identical iPhones.

This year there wasn’t a very big difference between the latest Qualcomm and Intel modems. Both the Qualcomm X20 and the Intel XMM 7560 are very similar on paper, also having LAA, 4×4 MIMO support and over 1Gbps downlink speeds.

It would make a lot of sense for Apple to move away from Qualcomm modems as both the companies are engaged in a series of lawsuits against each other. Sourcing modems from a single manufacturer will also benefit consumers, as having a similar modem in all iPhones will ensure better worldwide connectivity.

There were talks going on between Intel and Apple, but they weren’t able to reach a consensus. In an interview with The Atlantic, Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini did state that Apple didn’t offer enough money for the Intel modems.

From the decrypted file, we know that it’s a x86 modem, but the make and model aren’t known. It’s definitely not from Qualcomm, so it’s highly probable that Intel and Apple were able to agree on a deal.

In case Apple is using the new Intel XMM 7560 chips, iPhone users will enjoy better cellular connectivity compared to previous models. There’s also support for LAA, which is being used in crowded urban centres in the US, it offers tremendous download speeds and works on unlicensed 5G spectrums.

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