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Apple eschews 5G and EVs in favor of VR goggles

Apple continues struggling to develop its own 5G chipsets and an electric vehicle (EV). But the company is scheduled to ship its new Vision Pro virtual reality (VR) goggles this week.

Mike Dano

February 1, 2024

3 Min Read
Apple store Mumbai team member with Apple Watch lineup
(Source: Apple)

Apple extended its 5G chipset deal with Qualcomm into 2027, two years past an earlier deadline. That move, coupled with recent reports about Apple's troubles in developing its own electric vehicle (EV), appears to reflect the iPhone maker's current focus on its new Vision Pro virtual reality (VR) goggles at the expense of some other efforts.

"Apple cannot get its 5G modem right. Big win for Qualcomm," wrote Daniel Newman, CEO of The Futurum Group, on social media. Apple has reportedly been working to develop its own 5G chipset since it purchased Intel's 5G operations in 2019.

Apple's 5G struggles popped up in Qualcomm's newest quarterly earnings report, released this week. The smartphone chipset vendor ultimately offered a mixed outlook that worried investors, who sent the company's shares down almost 5% in trading Thursday.

Apple, for its part, is scheduled to release its own quarterly earnings later Thursday. The company is expected to begin shipping its newest product – the extremely expensive $3,500 Vision Pro VR goggles – this week. Apple's VR gadget is relying on Wi-Fi – not 5G – to introduce "spatial computing" to an estimated 200,000 initial customers.

According to reviews, Apple's Vision Pro represents a major step forward in the market for VR goggles, but it isn't yet ready for the mass market.

Another Apple product that reportedly isn't ready is its "project titan" effort to build an automobile. According to a recent Bloomberg report, the release of Apple's long-rumored EV is now scheduled for 2028, a two-year delay from its last reported release date. The scale of the project has also reportedly been paired back.

Thus, the iPhone remains Apple's primary bread and butter for the foreseeable future. And that device will continue to run Qualcomm's chipset, according to the chipset vendor. "Apple exercised its unilateral option to extend its global patent license agreement for an additional two years, taking the existing agreement through to March 2027," Qualcomm chief Cristiano Amon said during his company's quarterly earnings call, according to Seeking Alpha.

Extending an agreement with the world's top smartphone vendor represents a clear win for Qualcomm. Moreover, the company's quarterly financials exceeded expectations, another indication of a stabilizing market for smartphones. However, as noted by Reuters, Qualcomm is facing headwinds in China and from other customers like Samsung. Qualcomm did manage to extend its chipset agreement with Samsung, but the smartphone vendor opted to use its own chips in some of its recent gadgets.

Broadly, Qualcomm continues to make progress in developing business beyond smartphones. For example, Qualcomm scored $589 million in sales in its automobile business. But that still pales in comparison to the $6.69 billion it rang up from its core smartphone business.

And in smartphones, Qualcomm joined a range of other companies in touting its embrace of AI technologies. "We're definitely excited about what we see in the beginning," Amon said of the company's efforts to stick AI into its chipsets for smartphones.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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