Software At Heart Of iPhone's Simplicity

My overall reaction was an engineering fascination at the shoehorning used to pack it all in, said Portelligent analyst David Carey.

Patrick Mannion, Contributor

July 2, 2007

3 Min Read

Commack, NY — Analysts at Portelligent did a quick overnight teardown of the Apple iPhone and uncovered yet more semiconductor design wins, while succumbing to an unusually high level of giddiness over the simplicity and grace of the device and its software-enabled user interface.

"To state the obvious, this is a milestone product for both Apple and the wireless industry, so having a place among the suppliers of key ICs that enable the iPhone carries heavy bragging rights in the semiconductor industry," said David Carey, president and chief technology officer at Portelligent. "Without pre-judging the commercial success of the iPhone itself, there's no doubt that the semiconductor makers who have chips in this product view their design-win as having significance that goes beyond just the revenue implications — it helps validate their solution and their approach."

Portelligent agreed with many of the findings of Semiconductor Insights in its initial report (see: Under the Hood: Inside the Apple iPhone), including design wins by Infineon, Wolfson, Skyworks, Marvell, CSR, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Broadcom, Texas Instruments and Linear Technology. However, it also found a few more and disagrees with a couple of SI's findings.

"The Samsung memory for the Samsung processor is a package-on-package construction and is Mobile DDR SDRAM, not SRAM as indicated [by SI]," said Carey. He also believes that the NXP part is the main power management unit [SI pointed to the Texas Instruments chip as the PMU], and that the NXP chip is, "possibly corresponding to or similar to the PCF50633." Carey also clarified that National Semiconductor got the design win, "at both ends of a Mobile Pixel Link LCD interface, one device on the board, and another on the glass."

Adding to the list of design wins, Carey confirmed that STMicro provides the LIS302 accelerometer and that Micron got the 2-megapixel CMOS imager win. "Others I suppose could be used if it's a standard module and the same applies to the storage NAND and a few other parts of a commodity nature," he said. Finally, Amperex Technology Limited supplied the Li-Poly battery, "but this too likely is multi-sourced."

In summation, Carey said, "My overall reaction was an engineering fascination at the shoehorning used to pack it all in; dead airspace was kept to a minimum." While the chips were interesting, Carey was enamored by the software that gave the device its characteristic ease of use. However, "Despite external simplicity and a serene look-and-feel, the internal implementation is actually quite complex," he siad. "There are many secondary operations, fastener screws, and difficult orientations needed for final assembly, making the manufacture of the iPhone in China a near-must."

Try as he might to remain objective, this veteran of many hundreds of teardowns of the latest technological offerings, finally came clean: "I'm still a bit giddy from playing with it — it really has a jewelery-like quality in some respects. I'll reserve on further gushing until potential warts emerge — I'm sure there are some latent faults — but it's hard to deny the 'Wow Factor' at the moment."

Related articles:
Under the Hood: Inside the Apple iPhone
Can Apple sustain its iPhone launch success?
Inside the Apple 8GB iPod Nano

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