Two new rumors surfaced today courtesy of Taiwan's DigiTimes. The first rumor claims that Apple reportedly has plans to form a new Research and Development team responsible for developing next generation baseband processors for use in their 2015 iPhones. Apple recently hiring two former Broadcom engineers give this rumor some credibility. The second rumor that comes second hand from China's Economic Daily News claims that Apple is developing the iWatch processor in-house and is set to begin production this August. Whether this latter rumor is really describing an iWatch or other wearable-computer is unknown at this time. However, other industry rumors that have surfaced this year would suggest that an "iWatch" won't be ready in this time frame. That being said, we've added a translation of the Chinese rumor report about the iWatch for your convenience.
On the more credible rumor, DigiTimes is reporting that "Although some sources also indicated that Apple may develop SoC chips that will integrate application processors and baseband chips, it is more likely that Apple will continue to use discrete baseband chips."
DigiTimes further notes that "Apple currently purchases baseband chips from Qualcomm, which then produces the chips at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Under Apple's new plan, the baseband chip orders could go to differing plants such as GlobalFoundries and others. DigiTimes' sources note that Apple's new plan could affect Qualcomm and TSMC.
The global production value of baseband chips for handset applications totals about US$16-19 billion a year, with Qualcomm accounting for over 50% share in the segment, indicated the sources. Apple's new plan could save them money and would better secure any secret features they wish to include.
Since January Apple has hired two top Broadcom engineeers that gives this rumor more credibility. The first is Paul Chang who was the Principal Engineer/Project Manager/Chip Lead at Broadcom. The second is Xiping Wang who was the Manager, Hardware Development Engineering at Broadcom.
Wikipedia brings up an interesting point when it comes to baseband processors. They note that "Since the software which runs on baseband processors is usually proprietary, it is impossible to perform an independent code audit. By reverse engineering some of the baseband chips, researchers have found security vulnerabilities which could be used to access and modify data on the phone remotely."
They further note that last month "makers of the free Android derivative Replicant announced they have found a backdoor in the baseband software of Samsung Galaxy phones which allows remote access to user data stored on the phone."
Apple taking control of their baseband processors therefore could translate into adding another layer of security for future iPhones. This could be very important as Apple considers a future iWallet application.
New iWatch Rumor
The second rumor that DigiTimes is reporting on comes from China's Economic Daily News. A rough translation of the original article is presented below for your convenience.