Friday, September 28, 2012

Inside the iPhone teardowns

In the days leading up to the official unveiling of the iPhone 5, industry watchers made a list of what they expected to be new and improved functionality -- and who would be the key semiconductor suppliers behind those additions. Now the usual teardown labs have had their say: iSuppli, Chipworks, iFixit, and TechInsights (Chipworks in particular has some nice cross-section SEMs of the A6 and the custom ARM core layout), confirming most of what was expected inside the iPhone 5.

Much is similar to or the same as the iPhone 4S components, but there are a few important changes. Among component suppliers keeping their Apple business with the new phone are Samsung, Qualcomm, Murata, Dialog, Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, Cirrus Logic, Avago, Skyworks, NXP and AKM, reports iSuppli. Even so, nearly all components has been upgraded.

As expected, several existing suppliers enjoy a major boost in their content contributions in the iPhone 5. Qualcomm ($25-$30 vs. $15), Cirrus Logic ($3.50-$4 in content vs. $1.25), and Skyworks Solutions ($3 vs. $1.25) see big upside, points out Barclays analyst CJ Muse. Others enjoying more of their content in the new iPhone include Broadcom (25% increase in content to $4), Avago ($2.40 vs. $2), and Triquint ($1.40 vs. $1.10).

iSuppli's teardown also confirmed its bill-of-materials (BOM) base estimate of $199 for the low-end (16GB) model; adding some manufacturing costs bumps that to $207. The 64GB model clocks in at $209/$230. None of that includes expenses related to software, licensing and royalties, etc.

Special attention has been given to the new A6 processor, which appears to be a custom-designed Samsung 32nm-fabbed device. Amid increasing higher-level unease between those two electronics giants, so has risen speculation of whether and where Apple might be considering its future alternative chip source(s) -- most industry watchers are betting on TSMC, which is itself bolstering capacity, possibly to take on this future business. Our own blogger Phil Garrou has his own thoughts on this.