Word is going around that Intel may make a big splash into mobile devices in 2016 as VentureBeat reports the chip giant has roughly thousand people working on outfitting Apple's "iPhone 7" with the Intel 7360 LTE model chip.
Intel is reportedly putting in a lot of effort in this project because of its importance to the firm's future in the mobile market. The company has been running behind Qualcomm and is putting a lot of manpower into this to make it work, to ensure it can achieve a wider cooperation with Apple and other vendors in the future.
Intel failed to seize on the mobile chip market early on, and has been running far behind rival Qualcomm ever since. “This is a must-win for Intel,” one source told VentureBeat.
Apple is a very demanding client though, so Intel still needs to hit some milestones before Apple will officially sign up Intel as a supplier of the modem chip. At present all iPhone devices feature the Qualcomm’s 9X45 LTE chip, it's believed that Apple will try to dual-source the modem chips for its next-gen iPhones from both Intel and Qualcomm.
Intel to fab iPhone chips?
If all goes well, the longer-term goal would be to use Intel's foundry services to create the SoC for Apple's iPhone lineup. Currently, the production of Apple's iPhone A9 is sourced to Samsung and TSMC, but Apple reportedly wants to switch to Intel's more advanced nodes. In this scenario, Apple would design the SoC and license the LTE modem from Intel:
Apple would design the SOC, which would carry an Apple brand name, and would license the LTE modem intellectual property from Intel for the SOC, one source said.
This would be a sensible arrangement, in light of the fact that Intel hasn’t excelled at SOC design in the past, and because Apple does vertical integration very well. Apple’s skill in this was most recently seen in the integration of its M9 graphics chip with its powerful A9 chip for the iPhone 6s.
This will probably not happen in the 2016 timeframe but thereafter, perhaps on a 10nm node.