Strong iPhone 12 demand pushes Qualcomm to number one chip designer revenue

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The launch of the iPhone 12 lineup has been a bright spot for Qualcomm, launching Apple's 5G modem chipmaker to the number one spot in a ranking of IC design companies by revenue.

Despite the fact that the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro devices launched later in the year than usual, the San Diego-based chipmaker retook the top spot with $4.96 billion in a quarterly revenue. That's a 37.6% increase year-over-year, according to Trendforce research.

Trendforce attributes Qualcomm's rise to a number of factors, including it entering the Apple supply chain earlier in 2020 and the fact that 5G adoption has been steadily increasing.

Apple and Qualcomm ended their years-long, tortuous legal dispute in 2019. The Cupertino tech giant signed a multi-year supply contract with Qualcomm and agreed to pay between $4.5 billion and $4.7 billion to settle the patent battle.

Although that contract requires Apple to source chips from Qualcomm for a set period of time, Apple is also said to be working on its own in-house modem chips.

In 2020, Apple was said to have officially kicked off development of first-party cellular modems.

Apple previously used Intel modems in its iPhone until 2018, when the company was unable to deliver 5G chips in time for a 2020 release. After Apple and Qualcomm settled their patent spat, Intel ceased development of its 5G modems and sold its corresponding patent portfolio to Apple.

The deal with Qualcomm includes a six-year supply licensing agreement that took effect on April 1, 2019.