The hardware lead for Apple's 5G development team appears to have been let go by the Cupertino outfit, after Apple and Qualcomm recently settled their legal dispute. By coming to a settlement, Apple can once again tap Qualcomm to build 5G modems for its mobile devices, which unfortunately for Apple's previous 5G hardware lead, could mean his job is no longer necessary.
Part of the settlement reached between Apple and Qualcomm includes a chip licensing deal that began at the beginning of this month, and runs through the next six years. There is also a two-year option to extend the licensing agreement. In addition, Apple agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to Qualcomm.
The agreement effectively means Intel is out as Apple's cellular modem supplier. What's more surprising, however, is that Apple appears to have fired its 5G hardware lead, Rubén Caballero, and presumably disbanded the 5G team.
A person who was supposedly familiar with Caballero's work told The Information that Caballero was responsible for "leading Apple's charge into 5G." However, his email address is no longer valid, and his office phone number has been turned off. A couple of other internal sources also said that Caballero's name no longer appears in Apple's directory and organization chart.
Even though Apple and Qualcomm have settled their differences (for the time being, anyway), this is a surprising move, if things went down the way they appear. It's no secret that would prefer to be self-reliant for hardware. This was an opportunity to do that, and Apple could have worked on developing 5G chips while continuing to license parts from Qualcomm. However, it's also possible that the settlement included language that Apple would not be allowed to develop its own 5G chips (purely speculation on our part).
Caballero's departure from Apple could also be completely unrelated, so we want to be careful not to draw any conclusions. The team may still be hammering down on 5G chips, just under new leadership and/or in a different division. Either way, it is an interesting development.