Apple iPhone Teardown by Chipworks

CPU, GPS, Memory ???  Chip analysis and review.  Ok, Im getting way to Geeky (Grin)  I love this shit. (Kev)

Update 6/25/2010

Dr. Wreck has some more info on the Chips.

Apple really has built a fantastic device. From the super durable “strong as crystal” display, to the minimal construction tolerances to the amazing CNC’d Steel “cage” which acts as both core structure and antenna. Once again, they’ve set the standard every other design house and ODM will try to meet. Count our words, we’ll be seeing less fake “metal” surrounding the edges of our non-Apple devices in the near future.

Dr.Wreck really likes the fact that the so-called “bevel” on these things is made of steel. As you probably guessed, he’s hard on his phones. Drop your BlackBerry 8800 + once and you’re sure to see some battle scars.
Steel Bevels, Hard as crystal front and back? Oh man, this thing sounds scratch/bomb proof – I wonder how it will withstand drops?
For all your teardown needs, make sure to check out ifixit’s, step-by-step. They’ve snapped some beautiful shots of the process.
Once the EM/Heat shields are removed, We see the surprisingly compact PCB. Compare this thing to the first Gen iPhone and be amazed. Heck, compare it to a current Gen, HTC device – it’s unbelievable. IC integration/convergence has come such a long way.
Of course, the first thing we see is Samsung’s A4 processor. This is the same core we find in the iPad and boy does it hum. Fixed function, software/hardware ecosystems really do work well. Compare this with the 3Gs (S5PC100 ARM A8 CPU) We’ve got nearly double the processing capability. This thing will literally leave the 3G/3Gs iPhone’s in the dust. We’re on Jobs’ side, how can you support the original 2G with so much additional capability and power?
Technical Specifications at a glance:
  • PowerVR SGX 535 3D Graphics Core
  • 1GHz Cortex-A8
  • L1 cache – 64KB
  • L2 Cache – 640KB
  • P0P – 2X 256MB DDR SDRAM chips, 64-bit data bus
The iPhone 4 also introduces the brand-new AGD1 3-axis gyroscope. Think you’re accelerometer was fun? There’s an app for that. We’re not too sure who makes it, ifixit thinks STmicro. It’s possible, Apple likes to take proprietary dibs on hardware.
Move a little further along and we see plenty of Skyworks logos. The devices in question are all either FEM’s or PowerAmps. STmicro provides the accelerometer – STM33DH (why isn’t this an MCP with the gyroscope if both are STmicro?)  and Triquint rounds out the board with the ever popular TQM duplexers/power amps.
WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS are all provided by Broadcomm, the BCM4329FKUBG does 802.11n and 2.1+EDR/FM, similar to the 3Gs with added “n” functionality. The separate BCM4750IUB8 does GPS.
Flipping this puppy over reveals the flash memory, looks like Apples big deal with Samsung has held out, this particular model grabs the K9PFG08, yet another proprietary piece. We can’t help but think this NAND has a built in controller.
Bumping along, we see the Cirrus Logic 338S0589 audio codec, the same device that powers iPad’s audio. Compass functionality is provided by AKM8975, Touch Screen Controller is by TI (343S0499) and looks like Infineon brings in the Baseband memory win with the 36MY1EE NOR/DDR.

And that’s it! Hang in there for our review coming in hot over the next few days. Thanks again to ifixit for providing such fantastic photos and working hard to get the deviceMove a little further along and we see plenty of Skyworks logos. The devices in question are all either FEM’s or PowerAmps. STmicro provides the accelerometer – STM33DH (why isn’t this an MCP with the gyroscope if both are STmicro?)  and Triquint rounds out the board with the ever popular TQM duplexers/power amps.Bumping along, we see the Cirrus Logic 338S0589 audio codec, the same device that powers iPad’s audio. Compass functionality is provided by AKM8975, Touch Screen Controller is by TI (343S0499) and looks like Infineon brings in the Baseband memory win with the 36MY1EE NOR/DDR.

Apple iPhone 4 Smart Phone – Teardown to the Silicon

iPhone 4 Teardown - small Past public teardowns on Apple mobile devices from Chipworks and others have tended to focus on the lack of state-of-the-art silicon. They pointed to Apple’s success as a result of good systems integration and a holistic experience. While this presented headline-worthy analysis, it downplayed the importance of the truly amazing semiconductor innovation. Chipworks will take the reader inside what makes the iPhone 4 so amazingly cool – and it isn’t just the great new role playing app you just installed off the app store.

The acute iPhone 4 shortages caused us no end of pain as we had buyers lined-up in Japan, New York, and California only to get it 2 days early in North America. This initial look will be a basic teardown (in partnership with iFixit) without die-level analysis of all the key chips. But more is to come so register to be updated.

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iPhone 4 Teardown - showing battery First thing is first – taking off the back

Inside we see a very large battery, a camera module, some shielding, and the antenna (which is actually the perimeter of the case).

Apple iPhone 4 Teardown - mainboard-top

Apple iPhone 4 Mainboard top (image courtesy iFixit) (Click image to enlarge)

On the board – top

First off, we see a much smaller overall area than previous generation products. Chips appear more packed together and we expect some consolidation in SoCs. We see the A4 processor (more on that later).

Additionally we can see:

Skyworks SKY77541 GSM/GRPS Front End Module

Skyworks SKY77542 Tx–Rx iPAC™ FEM for Dual-Band GSM/GPRS

Apple iPhone Board - Back

Apple iPhone 4 mainboard bottom (image courtesy iFixit) (click image to enlarge)

On the board – bottom

The most obvious device is the Intel marked, 36My1EE. This is Numonyx Nor and mobile DDR. Next to it is what looks like an Apple white-labeled Infineon transceiver chip.  The rest of the interesting bits seem to be covered up.

Apple iPhone 4 Back No Cover

Apple iPhone 4 mainboard bottom with cover off (click image to enlarge)

Under the backside cover

Here we see the touchscreen controller with die markings 343S0499. This is the same one seen in the iTouch and Magic Mouse.

Other devices:

  • Samsung K9PFG08 Flash memory
  • The Cirrus Logic 338S0589 audio codec (Apple branded)
  • The AKM8975 – newest magnetic sensor that promises to improve the performance over the prior generation
  • The TI 343S0499 Touch Screen Controller
TI Apple Touch Screen Controller - thumb

Annotated Die Photo of Apple / TI Touch Screen Controller (click  image to enlarge)

Touch screen controller

As expected Texas Instruments has won the touch screen controller socket with an un-branded chip marked 343S0499. Apple has followed a fairly predictable evolution in the use of touch screen controllers.  The first generation products used a 5-chipset solution, the next generations used a 3-chip solution and this generation uses an all-in-one chip from TI.

This device should have die markings for Texas Instruments (F761586C) and be a 3 x 3 mm die with circuitry going across 6 metal layers. The devices functions by measuring the changes in an electrical charge that is on the touch screen (in a grid-array) and the logic on the chip is able to discern what type of multi-touch or gesture is happening. The way in which the screen itself functions is well documented.

In order to have such a powerful chip you need both the analog circuitry to drive the grids on the screen and the digital logic to quickly interpret them. This chip features close to 50% digital circuitry in the form of logic and memory in a 90 nm process technology. The industry follows a roadmap of what is called process technology generations.  This 90 nm technology generation was introduced back in 2004, but many devices are still made at this geometry today.  Of course, the processes have been subject to continuous innovation and improvement (more on the scale of a nm later).

OmniVision BSI Die - Thumb

OmniVision OV5642 Die Photo with annotated pixel array

OmniVision BSI Array - Thumb

OmniVision pixel array showing the microlens structures (click to enlarge)

OmniVision Wires - Thumb

OmniVision pixel circuitry (only 1 of the 4 layers) – there are 5 million of these (click to enlarge)

Design Win for OmniVision

Although we haven’t fully torn down the image sensor module (coming in a few days), industry sources tell us that the 5 MP camera is another win for OmniVision. Apple already disclosed that the sensor used Backside Illumination (BSI) technology and therefore, it is likely that the device is the OmniVision OV5642. We will of course confirm that once the device gets out of the teardown lab and into the chip reverse engineering lab.

OmniVision is one of the few players to have a proven successful implementation of a state-of-the art BSI process. This technology helps to maximize the ability for each pixel to collect light and delivers improved the quality with a smaller sized camera.  However, to focus only on the BSI would be to under-sell the innovation that goes into this CMOS image sensor.

Image sensors is one of the most hotly contested markets with over 20 players competing for multiple applications. This competition has resulted in significant innovation in a CMOS-based technology that only a few years ago was the poor sister of CCD technology. Therefore, these devices are not only interesting on a competitive basis, but are great demonstrators of semiconductor innovation. For instance, what does it mean to fit 5 million little pixels into a die area that measures a mere 10 mm2, or about the size of a pea?

It means putting in the circuitry necessary to get the signal from the sensor array, the lens for focusing the light, the color filter, the photo cathode to collect the light, and the isolation to avoid electrical noise into 5,000,000, 1.4 µm diameter pixels. This device is manufactured at 130 nm process generation so when you think about, this success isn’t even at the smallest possible technology in the semiconductor world.

If you are interested in more details on OmniVision’s technology then you can visit the report library to learn about the full reverse engineering reports.

iPhone 4 Accelerometer

ST 3-axis accelerometer in tilt view (click image to enlarge)

Inertial Sensors / Movement Sensing

Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) are used to sense the motion of the device. It is another red hot sector in the semiconductor industry fueled by their relatively recent inclusion in consumer portable electronics.

Based on industry sources we believe that the part AGD1 is the new 3 axis gyroscope designed for Apple by STMicroelectronics. These markings don’t link it to the commercial version, known as the L3G4200D and it is another piece of silicon that we will be going inside of to show the die images.

The other sensor is the STMicroelectronics STM33DH 3-axis accelerometer.

By combining the two sensor types the iPhone provides a level of sensitivity and accuracy to translate pretty much any motion into an electrical signal. We can’t wait for the “iPitch” app to allow budding young baseball pitchers to measure the forces on their curve balls by whipping their iPhones into home plate.


Broadcom BCM4329 Die Markings

Apple iPhone 4 Teardown  -GPS

Broadcom BCM4750

Other Networking

As expected, Broadcom wins the slot for multiband low power 802.11a/b/g/n with Bluetooth. This amazing little chip combines several proven wireless technologies with a CMOS PA while consuming very little power, due in part to being made in a 65-nm process. Interestingly, it includes an FM radio – something Apple has not yet taken advantage of.

In addition to this chip, Broadcom has also scored a win for the BCM4750 single chip GPS receiver IC fabricated at 90 nm RFCMOS.

iPhone Teardown - A4 Chip

Apple A4 Microprocessor (click to enlarge)

Samsung 45 nm Process Transistor

TEM of Samsung 45 nm Transistor in cross-section (from Xilinx Spartan 6)
(click image to enlarge)

Samsung 45 nm SRAM Top - thumb

Samsung 45 nm SRAM cell and logic in topographical view (click image to enlarge)

The Microprocessor

The news much of the world is waiting for is whether Apple has released yet another new microprocessor. It turns out that the A4, first seen in the iPad, is used again (as expected) in the iPhone 4. Date codes show it to be a newer ‘batch’ but the device remains the same, with the exception that there is double the memory. This is a package-on-package and inside we should see 4 Gb (512 MB) of SDRAM die and the processor. Later analysis will show us whether it is one or two SDRAM dies.

Since Apple does not manufacture its own silicon, we assume that they have continued to outsource the fabrication of this design to Samsung, who are using a very advanced 45 nm technology. Until we get it back to the RE lab we can’t be 100% certain, but we don’t know about any dual-foundry strategy employed by Apple so it is a fairly safe bet.

This chip represents the glamorous part of semiconductor technology – the smallest of the small. To understand how technology generations/shrinks are classified you need to be a semiconductor process junkie. Suffice to say that only a few companies in the world have the R&D, manufacturing, and volume needed to be manufacturing products at these very small sizes.

But what does this mean? Well, basically a transistor is logic that amplifies or switches electronic signals. An integrated circuit contains millions and millions of these. Samsung’s 45 nm process observed fully in a Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA reverse engineering analysis we did showed a gate length of 47 nm with a full transistor width of about 200 nm.  If we were to say that the average a human hair is about 100 um in diameter (100,000 nm) then that would mean that you can fit over 2000 of these gates across it.

Other Devices Catalogued

We aren’t going to depot every single chip on this phone.  If you know what some of the unlisted parts are or would like to order a die photo, then please feel free to email us at and we’ll respond accordingly.

Apple iPhone Teardown by Chipworks.

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