Apple is developing its own graphics chips for iPhones

Apple is one of only a handful of phone makers to develop its own mobile processors, but now it appears that the U.S. firm will go one step further and design the graphics component itself, too.

Apple is tight-lipped about the technology that powers its products, but long-time partner Imagination Technologies has revealed that Apple has told it that it will cease to use its intellectual property for GPU chips within 15-24 months. That’s apparently because it wants to use its own home-spun alternative.

“Apple has asserted that it has been working on a separate, independent graphics design in order to control its products and will be reducing its future reliance on Imagination’s technology,” Imagination said in a statement.

While the prospect of a custom GPU will excite iPhone aficionados for potential performance gains, it is a massive blow for the British tech firm. Like many of Apple’s partners, it has come to rely on the iPhone-maker for the majority of its revenue. Indeed, Reuters reports that its share price has plunged by 69 percent on the back of this disclosure.

Almost a year ago, in a rare disclosure, Apple confirmed rumors that it considered buying Imagination. (The firm currently holds an eight percent share.) No deal was reached, however, and six months later, MacRumors reported that Apple had poached a handful of engineers, presumably to get this graphics project off the ground.

It’s rare for Apple suppliers to go public with intimate details in this way, and it looks as though Imagination is steeling itself for a potential patent battle. The firm said in its statement that it believes “it would be extremely challenging” for Apple to develop its own GPU without infringing on its IP.

“Apple’s notification has led Imagination to discuss with Apple potential alternative commercial arrangements for the current license and royalty agreement,'” the firm added, hinting that the two could reach an arrangement in the future.