According to The Telegraph Sunday, a leaked email reveals that Apple poached Umashankar Thyagarajan, Intel’s lead developer of 5G technology, mere weeks before the iPhone maker settled the royalties legal battle with Qualcomm. Thyagarajan now is an "architectuer at Apple," as listed on his Linkedin profile (opens in new tab).
Apple Starts Building Its Own Modems
According to previous reports, Intel is working on its own wireless modem chips, after years of conflict with Qualcomm that ultimately resulted in Apple suing Qualcomm over its abuse of patents to charge excessively high royalties.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, Apple was also previously in talks to pay Intel several billion dollars for its 5G division, but as it seems Intel refused or the negotiations broke down.
With Intel seemingly unable to finish its 5G modem in time for the 2021 iPhone, it seemed Apple had no choice but to settle with Qualcomm and start hiring 5G modem engineers, including ones from Intel. Intel and Apple were still 5G partners when Apple hired Thyagarajan in February.
Apple Relied Too Much On Intel
The 5G situation may be a lesson for Apple. After years of regretting that it couldn’t convince Apple to use its Atom chips in iPhones and iPads, Intel finally got its chance to sell Apple a chip that would be in hundreds of millions of iOS devices -- and then that opportunity was completely wasted.
Apple completely broke ties with Qualcomm, its exclusive modem supplier until then, when it switched to Intel. Later, Apple was willing to use an Intel chip with significantly lower performance and efficiency compared to Qualcomm’s solutions. Meanwhile, competitors adopted Qualcomm’s 5G chips. However, Intel couldn’t even deliver on this schedule, giving Apple no option but to cancel its contract with Intel and settle with its recent industry enemy, Qualcomm.
Intel tried to put the blame on exiting the 5G business on Apple’s settlement with Qualcomm. However, it seems unlikely that Intel would’ve had a real modem business to begin with if not for Apple giving it an exclusive iPhone deal for the past two years.