Apple MacBooks could soon have 5G modems built right into them

The iPhone isn't ready to get its own Apple-designed modem just yet, but after that its laptops will be the next to benefit according to one report.

1 minute & 43 seconds read time

If you own a current Mac laptop like the excellent MacBook Air or the powerful MacBook Pro, you only have a couple of options in terms of getting online. The first is to use a Wi-Fi network like the one at home or at work for example. The other is to use your iPhone and connect to its hotspot and tether that way. But that can be expensive if you don't have the right plan. However, Apple could be about to add a third option and it'll all be thanks to a new piece of hardware.

That hardware will of course be a new 5G modem, with Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reporting that Apple is working on bringing such a thing to future MacBooks. There have been rumors to this effect in the past, but this is the closest that we've come to hearing something more concrete - because Gurman has a timeframe.

Gurman shared the timeframe in his weekly Power On newsletter, saying that Apple intends to be able to put a 5G modem of its own design in the future. But only after it's brought its own modem to the iPhone. That's likely to happen in 2026, which means that we are unlikely to see Apple's 5G modem make its laptop debut until 2028 or 2029. That means that there's still quite a while to wait.

This is all against a backdrop in which Apple has been trying to ditch Qualcomm for its iPhone modems for years. Apple bought Intel's modem business for $1 billion in 2019 but has been unable to turn that into a modem that it can use in its devices so far. Gurman suggests that the previous plan to ditch the Qualcomm Snapdragon modems in 2025 now seems unlikely to come to fruition, leaving Apple to wait until 2026. However, that's problematic because Apple's already extended its deal with Qualcomm once and that deal comes to a close in the same year - 2026. That could mean Apple will have to go to Qualcomm cap in hand to extend the deal once more, and it isn't clear what terms that might be under given Qualcomm is likely well aware of the sticky situation Apple has found itself in.

Apple's plans to use its own iPhones have reportedly faced miniaturization issues of late, with the chip simply being too big to fit into its iPhones. That constraint wouldn't be so tight in a MacBook, but it still seems that Apple wants to use its modems in the iPhone first.

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Based in the UK, Oliver has been writing about technology, entertainment, and games for more than a decade. If there's something with a battery or a plug, he's interested. After spending too much money building gaming PCs, Oliver switched to Apple and the Mac - and now spends too much on those instead.

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