At this point, it is assumed that microprocessor giant Intel (INTC 0.90%) will supply modems to Apple (AAPL 1.55%) for the iPhones that will launch in about a week. Numerous reports from several sources (Bloomberg, DIGITIMES, and various Wall Street analysts) have reported on this, but we still have yet to see any hard evidence.
A fresh leak found on Weibo may be the first hard evidence of Intel's involvement in the new iPhone supply chain.
Notice something interesting?
Here's the image from the leak:
Notice that this sheet (which may have been removed from the back of an iPhone 7 Plus box) indicates that the iPhone 7 Plus supports GSM, UMTS, TD-SCDMA, LTE-TDD and LTE-FDD cellular standards. What it doesn't say is that this particular model supports CDMA, as current iPhone 6s/6s Plus and iPhone SE boxes do.
Intel's XMM 7360 modem, which is what Apple would use if it is, indeed, using an Intel modem in the iPhone 7/7 Plus, currently lacks support for this standard. This is why even though Apple appears to have picked Intel for some portion of the upcoming iPhones, Apple can't currently switch entirely to Intel modems.
That being said, Intel acquired Via Telecom's CDMA assets a while back, presumably to open the doors to greater share within future Apple iPhones.
Intel inside the iPhone is a nice win, but it won't move the needle much
The fact that Intel seems to have captured a spot inside of Apple's next generation iPhone is an impressive achievement, particularly as Intel's victory comes at the expense of wireless giant Qualcomm (QCOM 2.99%).
However, before investors get too excited at the potential impact that this will have on Intel's financials, it's worth rewinding to the company's most recent earnings call.
On the call, one analyst asked Intel whether shipments of the XMM 7360 modem were a significant portion of the company's second quarter results or whether such shipments will have an impact on the company's financial results during the second half of the year.
Intel CFO Stacy Smith began his response by saying that the company is guiding to an "above-seasonal growth rate" for the second half of 2016. However, he indicated that the main drivers of this boost will be a reacceleration in its data center business, "an improvement in memory and an improvement in revenue in [Internet of Things]."
In other words, it doesn't seem like shipments of modems into the iPhone 7/7 Plus are going to be all that big of a deal for the company's financial results this year.
This hardly comes as a surprise, though. Intel took in more than $55 billion in revenue during 2015 and the company expects growth during 2016. If we assume that Apple is going to ship, say, 100 million iPhone 7 models during 2016 and Intel is inside 30 million of them, then at perhaps $10-$15 per modem, Intel is maybe looking at $300 million to $450 million in incremental revenue.
For most semiconductor companies, such revenue would be a big deal. However, given Intel's sheer size, it's very rare that a single design win can really move the needle financially.