updated 03:35 pm EDT, Thu April 19, 2012
Qualcomm 28nm LTE chip hit may touch Apple
Analysts at Citigroup and Piper Jaffray helped trigger stock market jitters on Thursday over the implications of LTE chip supply as it relates to Apple. Following Qualcomm statements after its quarterly results that there was a supply shortage of its 28 nanometer chips made at TSMC, Citi's Glen Yeung and Piper's Gene Munster both suggested that was a direct sign of Apple choosing a 28nm MSM9615 cellular chipset for its next iPhone. To Yeung, a ramp down in existing 45nm parts combined with the shortage was a sign Apple was switching production and lowering orders of older hardware as it got ready to produce the new.
Qualcomm's mounting production in the summer and fall would reflect Apple's own patterns, Yeung said. He anticipated a new iPhone in September or October.
Piper, however, saw the supply issue as less of a shift and more as something "likely" triggering a delay in the next iPhone. Qualcomm wouldn't have enough capacity any sooner to support a launch any sooner than the fall, Munster believed, citing "checks."
Qualcomm already has some use of the 28nm process in the Snapdragon S4 processors powering the HTC One series. The MSM9615 may still be its primary advantage, however, as it will let companies like Apple and others not using a Snapdragon implement the first truly efficient chipset that combines both 3G and 4G. Outside of HTC, many 4G Android and Windows Phones, as well as the new iPad, have often had to be bulky and carry oversized batteries for reasonable lifespans with 4G active.
Apple has gone on record as saying that an LTE iPhone in 2011 would have involved design sacrifices it wasn't willing to make.