Qualcomm’s X60 5G modem will power the next generation of 5G flagship phones

Qualcomm is bringing the 5G connectivity in today’s phones to the next level: The company has announced the new Qualcomm X60 modem, which Qualcomm says will help bring 5G into the mainstream through a new generation of flagship smartphones.

5G in general is likely to take off in 2020. Carriers including Verizon, AT&T, and the new T-Mobile/Sprint are finally widely rolling out their 5G networks, and smartphone manufacturers like Samsung are beginning to build 5G into their smartphones by default — rather than offering a special 5G-enabled version of a device that costs a lot extra.

The X60 is Qualcomm’s 3rd-generation 5G modem, and offers a few features over previous-generation 5G modems. For example, the modem is built on a 5-nanometer process — down from 7 in previous-generation modems. Not only that, but the modem offers features like millimeter-wave-sub6 spectrum aggregation. The result? You’ll get faster 5G connectivity, that can more easily switch between different types of 5G waves, and take advantage of the connections that are available. According to Qualcomm, the modem will deliver download speeds of up to a whopping 7.5 gigabits per second, and upload speeds of up to an impressive 3 gigabits per second — though the speeds you get will obviously vary widely depending on things like what your carrier offers and how many people are connected to the cell tower.

The X60 modem also comes with Qualcomm’s new QTM535 antenna module, which is built to offer better millimeter-wave performance. The antenna design is sleeker and more compact than previous-generation antennas, freeing up space inside a phone for other things, or allowing companies to make slimmer devices. (Although companies like Apple think it isn’t small enough.)

“Qualcomm Technologies is at the heart of 5G launches globally with mobile operators and OEMs introducing 5G services and mobile devices at record pace,” said Qualcomm in a statement. “As 5G standalone networks are introduced in 2020, our third-generation 5G modem-RF platform brings extensive spectrum aggregation capabilities and options to fuel the rapid expansion of 5G rollouts while enhancing coverage, power efficiency and performance for mobile devices.”

Qualcomm says the X60 modem will ship to manufacturers in the first quarter of 2020, and is expected to be available in commercial devices in early 2021. Because of the timeline, we expect the modern to ship alongside the next-generation Qualcomm mobile platform, which will be a follow-up to the Snapdragon 865.

Apple trying to design 5G iPhone antenna after snubbing Qualcomm’s

We’ll see if you’re holding it wrong this time.

Despite a notorious track record in antenna design — remember the whole “Antennagate” thing? — Apple has reportedly decided to design the antenna for this year’s iPhones, the first models to support 5G technology.

Qualcomm will provide the 5G modem chip for the 2020 iPhones, namely the Snapdragon X55, which is also used in the Samsung Galaxy S20. But when Qualcomm offered the QTM 525 millimeter-wave antenna module, Apple decided to pass — because it reportedly does not fit the “sleek industrial design” the company wants for the 2020 iPhones, Fast Company reported, citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

Apple usually prepares several designs for its products, and according to the report, it is still working on one that uses Qualcomm’s antenna. The source said it is still possible for Apple to go with this option, which will mean a slightly thicker iPhone than the company wants. Apple will likely have to make a final decision this summer.

Apple has not found success designing its own antennas, notably the dropped calls problem of the iPhone 4 that led to the Antennagate issue. It is also more difficult to design an antenna for 5G devices, according to Fast Company’s source. The 2020 models will be Apple’s first 5G iPhones, and the company has no room for error.

In December, Qualcomm said that its top priority was to assist Apple with launching a 5G iPhone and that it was working “as fast as it can” as the two companies were fresh off a settlement to a long-and-drawn-out legal battle over royalty payments.

Shortly afterward, reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed Apple was working on a way to secure savings elsewhere in the 2020 iPhone to offset the cost of more expensive, new components, in order to maintain its price. Kuo also mentioned that the 5G iPhone will bring back the design of the iPhone 4 with a metal frame.

It remains unclear if Apple will be able to keep pace with the development of the 5G iPhone and maintain its cost now that the company is designing the antenna for the device. It will be a while before Apple provides official confirmation though; the 2020 iPhones are not expected to be unveiled until September.