Huawei would be open to selling 5G modem technology to Apple following claims of woe with the iPhone maker’s current partner, Engadget reported in an article which delivered more questions than answers.

Citing a “source with knowledge of the situation”, Engadget noted it is unclear if the companies have actually engaged in conversations, with neither party responding for requests for comment.

Such a move would certainly be unusual for Huawei, which has previously used its silicon technology internally as a differentiator to rival companies. The report doesn’t indicate a wider change of strategy: the only company Huawei would supply is Apple, Engadget said.

The wider issue is Apple’s 5G plans are currently surrounded by speculation, notably that silicon partner Intel may not be able to supply modem technology for the iPhone to support the timing of Apple’s launch plans. In terms of alternative suppliers, it is not clear if MediaTek would be able to deliver on time, or if Samsung could meet demand beyond its own 5G smartphone business.

While the majority of device makers eyeing 5G devices are using Qualcomm technology, Apple is locked in a fierce legal battle with the company, putting it out of the iPhone running.

Sitting pretty
Huawei is in an interesting position: its 5G modem technology is already powering home routers and with commercial smartphones likely to follow in the near future, it is at the front of the pack. Supplying Apple would also be something of a magnanimous gesture for the company, which is experiencing strong growth while rivals struggle with a shrinking market.

From Apple’s perspective, there are two issues: doing a deal with a fierce competitor, and the wider political situation.

On the first, the company has bought components from Samsung, so is clearly reconciled to the fact that while it competes with a company on one level, it may be a customer on another. Apple has also inked a deal to make its services available on Samsung smart TVs.

But the bigger problem is Huawei is currently persona non grata in the US and, should Apple look to source technology from the company in preference to Intel, a deal would likely be hampered by politics. There is an option for Apple to use a split supplier strategy, with Huawei technology in overseas markets and Intel at home, although this would still be likely to cause some ire in the face of the ongoing US-China trade spat.

From a cynical point of view, the mooting of the idea Huawei would be open to supply Apple is something which works firmly in the favour of the Chinese vendor: it looks to be playing a fair and honest hand in the knowledge it is massively unlikely it will ever need to deliver.