Apple will once again license technology from Imagination Technologies, the chip designer that used to provide graphics processors for the iPhone and iPad, the UK-based company announced today. In a short statement posted on its website, Imagination said that it had entered into a multiyear license agreement with Apple, under which the Cupertino, California-based firm will have access to “a wider range of Imagination’s intellectual property in exchange for license fees.”
Apple announced its split from Imagination back in April 2017 when it said that it would start designing its own graphics chips, and it would stop licensing the company’s technology within two years. After the split was announced, Imagination expressed skepticism that Apple could design its own chips “without violating Imagination’s patents, intellectual property, and confidential information.”
In spite of this, Apple went on to announce the iPhone 8 and iPhone X later that year, which, thanks to their A11 Bionic chips, contained what Apple called its first Apple-designed graphics processor. It went on to boast that the GPU was 30 percent faster than its predecessor. Apple also used its own graphics processor in the 2018 iPad Pro, according to Bloomberg.
Following the news of the agreement’s termination, Imagination’s share price dropped sharply overnight. The company claimed that Apple only gave it a few days’ notice that the deal would be coming to an end. (Apple disputes this.) Later that year, it was forced to sell itself to a private equity firm, Silicon Valley-based Canyon Bridge, for £550 million (around $725 million). At the time, it maintained that it was still “in dispute with Apple.”
Apple’s attitude toward its graphics processors is part of a broader effort to reduce its reliance on other chip designers and manufacturers. In 2018, the company acquired part of chipmaker Dialog for $300 million in a deal that saw it license some of Dialog’s power management technology and acquire 300 engineers. The following year, it acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business, putting it on track to produce its modem’s in house. At one point, it reportedly even considered a similar acquisition of Imagination, according to the Financial Times, but it’s thought to have decided against a full takeover.