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Apple's latest big change sets up future iPhones for VR and AR

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Apple has confirmed to a partner company it no longer requires its services, as the Cupertino-based firm is working on its own independent graphics chip design.

Apple told British chipset designer Imagination Technologies - a company Apple has been using for GPU tech since the first iPhone - that it will stop using its tech at some point in the next two years.

The statement confirmed Apple is “working on a separate, independent graphics design in order to control its products and will be reducing its future reliance on Imagination’s technology.”

That may mean we’re about to see a big improvement on the iPhone when it comes to gaming. Apple bringing graphics chip production in-house will give it more control over what the innards of the iPhone or iPad can do.

The dates suggest Apple will stop using the technology in the next 15 to 24 months, which would mean it could be ready for the new iPhone we see in September 2018.

Another reality

This may also suggest Apple is readying itself to jump into the world of virtual or augmented reality tech.

Tim Cook has made clear his intention to bring AR technology to the iPhone in the future and this could be the major step forward the firm needs to make it happen.

Apple had previously considered taking over Imagination Technologies, about a year ago, but this news seems to confirm the acquisition is no longer underway. 

Apple has been designing its own CPU for a number of years, so being able to reconfigure GPU tech within Apple itself will likely be a major benefit to the company and hopefully iPhone users too.

Imagination Technologies is uncertain Apple will be able to make the chip technology without breaking patents owned by the former though.

The statement from the firm says, "Apple has not presented any evidence to substantiate its assertion that it will no longer require Imagination’s technology, without violating Imagination's patents, intellectual property and confidential information. This evidence has been requested by Imagination but Apple has declined to provide it.

"Further, Imagination believes that it would be extremely challenging to design a brand new GPU architecture from basics without infringing its intellectual property rights, accordingly Imagination does not accept Apple’s assertions."

Whether Apple will be able to do it without ensuing a major court case is yet to be seen, but this move may make certain that the iPhone is the best mobile gaming device in a few years time.

James Peckham

James is Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He has also worked on other leading tech brands, such as T3 and Gizmodo UK, as well as appearing as an expert on TV and radio for the BBC and other publications. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all the latest smartphone news.

James is currently most excited about the Samsung Galaxy S22, God of War: Ragnarok and the rumored foldable iPhone