Intel has signed an agreement with Apple to sell their smartphone modem business for $1 billion USD. This agreement will include the transfer of certain patents from Intel to Apple, but it will not prevent Intel from creating modems for other industries. Intel can still develop modems for PCs, IoT devices, automobiles, and so forth.
Apple will also acquire about 2,200 employees from Intel.
It seems like Apple is continuing their trend of owning literally anything that is required to make an iPhone. In this case, Intel was probably willing to sell, and that could give Apple a good steppingstone to create their own modem. They have been using their own CPU cores for a while now, and they just recently switched their GPUs to an internal design (and away from Imagination Technologies). The modem is a logical next step, especially after their recent legal battle with Qualcomm.
At this point, there is not a whole lot of chips in an iPhone that Apple sources from third parties. The camera sensor is the obvious outlier, although those are well outside of Apple’s domain. Other than that, it’s mostly things that Apple wouldn’t have a reason to customize, such as the RAM, flash storage, and battery controllers.
There is the other question: “How long until Apple can cut out Qualcomm?”
I really don’t know. On the one hand, Qualcomm has great products, and Apple would need quite a bit of time to catch up. On the other hand, the iPhone XS and XS Max already use the Intel modems, showing that Apple is willing to settle with a little lower performance for political reasons. That ignores the potential slowdown during the acquisition, however.
Regardless, it looks like Apple will, one day, develop their own smartphone modems from Intel technology.