Apple announced it broke a record with 4 million first-day pre-orders of its recently announced iPhone 6, which was double that of the iPhone 5 two years ago. Several industry forecasts projected 9 million orders to be processed in its first weekend. One of the major draws is the larger 4.7-inch screen for the iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch screen for the iPhone 6 Plus.
Apple never announces its component and chip manufacturers; however, reverse engineering firms quickly break Apple mobile devices apart to identify their suppliers, once they are available on the market. Once these companies are announced, it has a dramatic impact on their stock prices, depending on their new or lost stake in a new Apple product.
A gadget repair company called iFixit, based in Melbourne, Australia, has revealed the manufacturers of many chips and other electronic components within the iPhone 6, which has boosted exposure and investor interest in these chipmakers. iFixit technicians dissected an iPhone 6 to find a Murata WiFi module, a Broadcom touchscreen controller, and chips from Skyworks Solutions, Avago, RF Microdevices (RFMD), and TriQuint Semiconductor, among others.
Avago Technologies has both a high-band amplifier module and an integrated ultrahigh-band amplifier/FBAR filter module in these phones. Skyworks is developing the power amplifier modules for the new iPhone. TriQuint Semiconductor incorporated a 3G amplifier module, and RFMD has an antenna switch module. RFMD and TriQuint, long-time analog chipmakers, are awaiting regulatory approval for their merger, and recently they announced the new name for the future merged company to be called Qorvo.
An InvenSense #MP67B MEMS-based motion sensor was found in the iPhone 6, which had been provided by STMicroelectronics in earlier models. This new InvenSense 6-axis accelerometer and gyroscope has a standalone compass and an APU. [Editor’s Note: See Figure 1 for an image of Invensense MPU-6000 family of which the MP67B is most likely an offshoot.]
System diagram of the Invensense MPU-6000 family (Image courtesy of Invensense website)
GT Advanced Technologies, a crystal growth specialist, has provided the sapphire glass in past iPhones but was displaced by Corning Gorilla Glass for the cover. Qualcomm was identified as the manufacturer for the 4G LTE modem in the phones, while NXP Semiconductors has radio chips to enable the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for the Apple Pay mobile e-payments service. The e-payment system has been touted as one of the major differentiating features for the iPhone 6 over the iPhone 5 models and top competitors, fueling the Internet of Things revolution. In addition, NXP also supplies a motion co-processor, which is critical to enabling the iPhone 6 sensors to work efficiently without excessively draining its battery.
Apple took the initiative yet again in designing its own main processor with technology licensed from ARM Holdings, denoted as an A8 chip that was ultimately manufactured by the Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which is the largest global foundry and a leader in advanced chip technology. This move has allowed Apple to become independent from Samsung processor chips, which muddied the waters with respect to its competition with Samsung for the high-end smartphone market share.
Apple has stated that it has 2 billion transistors, which is double the number of the A7 for the prior iPhone, and is reportedly based on TSMC’s 20 nm chip process flow design kit. Also, it is 13 percent smaller than the A7, while Apple claims about 25 percent faster CPU and 50 percent faster graphics. In comparison to the original Apple iPhone, the latest model’s CPU is 50x faster and up to 84x faster in processing graphics, while also using 50 percent less power than the A7.
The iPhone 6 is poised to have a dramatic impact on the smartphone market over the next year in terms of functionality, while Samsung is gearing up for another counter-punch. In the meantime, electronic component producers will be evaluating and improving upon the technology incorporated into this latest model from Apple to make a strong case for being incorporated into subsequent models, amid the global frenzy of orders and lucrative prospects for future business. Thus their positioning could make or break their financial performance over the next couple years, as many derive more than 70 percent of their sales from Apple.