Posted: October 18, 2012

In our last teardown blog we promised that it would be the last one on an Apple product for at least a short while (we have a nice DSLR camera and a frightening Halloween teardown queued-up).

Lesson learned. Don't make promises.

Reverse engineering is not forward engineering done backwards and so you never know what you will learn or when you will learn it. Enter the Apple Lightning Adapter plug. Deserving of some analysis since we are undertaking a full systems report on this particular slice of Apple technology. To quote one of our engineers, "there is a ridiculous amount of silicon here", so when you plunk down your $30 you can feel satisfied that you are getting value-for-money.

The first look insideEven without the couple hundred engineering hours involved in a systems analysis, we can at least make a few observations from the teardown.

Firstly, the box features a very close approximation of what is inside it. Kudos to Apple for applying a cool brand where once it was a descriptive (boring) 30-pin adapter. At least it isn't an acronym for 8 syllables of techno-speak (USB anyone?).

Getting inside a lot of goopGetting the small package apart while still getting the good quality pictures needed is not easy. Once the cover is removed, we can't really see anything.  A few die with markings that don't show any evidence of their manufacture. There are quite a few die for such a tiny adapter. Removing the rest of the components are where we can tell the story. The "less useful" images are at right for those interested in the blow-by-blow.

Lightning Board Side 1Once we have the board we can start cataloging the chips.  On the one side of the board we have the same NXP20P3 that is also present in the lightning cable. It continues to present as an  analog chip with  very large transistors or diodes (confirmed with the polysilicon layer image). We think this is most likely an multi-channel interface filter. Again, this is looking at a die photo and not a complete RE project, but at this point we are fairly comfortable saying that.

We were initially surprised by the lack of a package similar to the Texas Instruments BQ2025 that was found in the cable, but after the depot treatment it was right there in the package marked 261L025, right below the NXP chip.

Over on the right side of the board we have the package marked DZB0J2CH with an Intersil ISL9110die inside. According to their website this is a 1.2 A High Efficiency Buck-Boost Regulator.

Lightning Board Side 2Here we have the bulk of the media devices. The Wolfson WM8533 DAC, that we think is taking the digital audio and converting it into the analog signal that the 30 pin delivers.

We also have the Apple 338S1081  which is a Cirrus Logic audio chip with die markings CLI1596A0 and date code 2011. For those who might be wondering as to its functionality, it didn't directly compare to the die we cataloged in the prior generations of iPhones (in the models we tore down).

We are adding this to our library of Functional Analysis Reports on Apple/Cirrus Logic.

No surprise is that there are no similar chips here for converting video since there is no support for video out into the older 30-pin devices. This may impact some niche peripherals out there, but you can't fight progress.


Other devices depotted

  • The 8APLSGVG218Z  which is an STMicroelectronics design win with die markings R764B
  • The  VCR package had a die with markings that decoded to the Texas Instruments SN74AVC2T245 dual bit non-inverting BUS transceiver
  • An unknown die with the marking "F" (last one at right)


Here is the full board shots for those interested:

Apple Lightning Adapter Circuit Board Side 1 (click to enlarge)

Apple Lightning Adapter Circuit Board Side 2 (click to enlarge)


Reports on technology discussed in this teardown

Texas Instruments BQ2025 Serial Communication Chip from Lightning Cable Circuit Analysis
Apple / Cirrus Logic CLI596 A0 Audio Chip Functional Analysis