Yes, Apple Can Develop Its Own Baseband

Will Apple further bolster its silicon efforts by developing a cellular baseband?

Apr 15, 2014 at 10:30AM

There have been rumors going around that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), the consumer electronics giant that invented the smartphone as we know it today, is planning to develop an in-house cellular baseband for its mobile products. Now, this rumor is largely based on a handful of new hires at Apple as well as the company's increasing silicon prowess, but it's one that's not so easy to dismiss.

Apple can't do it? Nonsense
While Qualcomm has the lion's share of the cellular baseband market today, people seem to forget that there are a fairly large number of companies out there that have successfully developed these types of processors including (but not limited to):

  • Qualcomm
  • Intel
  • Broadcom
  • Marvell
  • MediaTek
  • Spreadtrum
  • ST-Ericsson
  • Samsung
  • Altair Semiconductor
  • Texas Instruments

Now, while not every player on this list has been commercially successful at building a cellular baseband, and while the list of companies at the bleeding edge of cellular technologies is much smaller than this, cellular basebands clearly aren't black magic. With the right investment level and the right teams, it can be done successfully. Apple, which has shown its silicon might, could very well do it too with the right resources if much smaller, much less powerful companies have pulled it off.

By 2015? Probably not
The big question, then, is whether Apple actually will develop its own cellular baseband. While the Digitimes piece that helped give some credibility to this rumor claimed that Apple planned to launch products with an internal baseband by 2015, this timeline seems highly compressed. The typical semiconductor development cycle is about four years, and basebands are tricky because they need carrier certification.

So, if Apple recently began working on its own baseband, then it'll be several generations of iPhone from now. However, if it began building a baseband in the 2011/2012 time frame, then a late 2015 smartphone launch seems plausible, if a bit aggressive given that Apple's team would be new to this. Further, given that Apple hasn't made any high-profile acquisitions (for example, the Renesas Mobile asset that Broadcom bought in late 2013), it just doesn't seem like something that's imminent.

How about eventually?
While an Apple-built baseband is unlikely to be something that'll launch anytime soon, it may eventually be necessary for power and cost reasons for Apple to build one to integrate into its applications processor. This would probably help it pretty significantly in bringing down the cost structure of its iPhones, which will become more necessary as smartphone margins continue to come under pressure.

Bigger than the iPhone? Here's the biggest thing to come out of Silicon Valley in years
If you thought the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad were amazing, just wait until you see this. One hundred of Apple's top engineers are busy building one in a secret lab. And an ABI Research report predicts 485 million of them could be sold over the next decade. But you can invest in it right now... for just a fraction of the price of AAPL stock. Click here to get the full story in this eye-opening new report.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel and NVIDIA. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel. It recommends NVIDIA and owns shares of Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers