Rumor: Apple plans to use Intel 5G modem chips in 2020 iPhones

Forget 2018 and 2019 iPhones; let’s look ahead to 2020 models. According to a Fast Company report, Apple plans to use Intel’s 8161 5G modem chip in its 2020 smartphones.

Mock-up courtesy of “5G-Mobile”

Mock-up courtesy of “5G-Mobile”

The article, quoting an unnamed source, says Intel has been working on a precursor to the 8161 modem chip (the 8060) that will be used for prototyping and testing the 5G iPhone. If everything goes as planned, the chip maker will be the single for iPhone modems.

Chances the rumor is true, according to the Sellers Research Group (that’s me): 90%. The report makes sense if Apple and Intel are still best buds. That’s a big “if” since everyone is expecting Apple to make its own Mac processors in the not-too-distant future. That’s probably going to happen, but Apple isn’t likely to make its own smartphone modems anytime soon.

But 5G is the future. Most consumers now use 3G or 4G/LTE networks, which were introduced to the public in 2001 and 2009, respectively. 5G is expected to offer three main benefits, as noted by NBC News (

  • Faster speed: Data transfer speeds are projected to be about 10 times higher with 5G than is possible with 4G. That means significantly faster transmission of images and videos. With 4G/LTE, downloading a high-definition movie might take about 10 minutes. With 5G, it should take less than a second.

  • Shorter delays: Though it’s not always noticeable, there is often a brief lag in time from when data is sent to when it’s received. 5G should reduce this so-called latency, making it possible, for example, to watch high-speed virtual reality video with no delays or glitches.

  • Increased connectivity: Cell towers equipped with 5G technology would have greatly increased capacity over 4G/LTE. That means more people — and more devices — should be able to communicate at the same time.