Launch day for Apple’s 5th generation iPad began very early as our team has been camped out at Bayshore in Ottawa since 4:00 am. We were second in line and our iPad Air made it back to the labs in no time at all. Last night, we had the opportunity to examine the high res images provided to us by our friends at iFixit via Melbourne, Australia. This allowed us to determine what was new and what was not. The first thing to point out is that we have different markings on the A7 processor than what we’ve seen inside the iPhone 5s. Initially we thought this could potentially mean a completely new beast. But upon further review, the only difference appears to be the part number.
Here are some nice shots that we borrowed from iFixit, you can see their whole teardown here. Also pictured below are some our own shots as well.
As customary, we are going to complement iFixit’s story with a focus on the silicon rather than on the overall bill of materials. But before we focus on the technology side of Apple’s new iPad, let’s have a quick briefing on the company’s current revenue situation to get a better understanding of the tablet market.
Apple reportedly reached $37.5 billion of revenue in the final quarter of the year, which was the first time this fiscal year that Apple recorded a revenue increase. That being said, Apple’s iPad product revenue still slipped 3% compared to last quarter, which made it the 3rd consecutive quarterly revenue drop of this fiscal year. As it currently stands, the new generation iPad Air and iPad Mini will play a key role in pushing Apple’s product line revenue back on track. Easier said than done. Even for Apple.
Despite swimming atop a sea of fierce competitors in what is already a crowded tablet market, it is imperative that the iPad Air features at least a couple new innovations. It does have that - it's the lightest and thinnest iPad so far, at a pound in weight, and with 14 bands, the LTE version can be used in more countries than ever before. And the antennas are doubled up to give better wireless performance in both WiFi and LTE. AnandTech rated it as "the most significant upgrade to the iPad in its history."
The A7 inside the iPad Air
The package markings on the A7 inside the iPhone 5s were APL0698. We were expecting the same markings inside the iPad Air. But like our friends at iFixit helped us point out, the markings on the A7 inside the iPad Air are APL5698. We thought that this could be a new layout on a Samsung foundry or it could be an existing design on a new foundry. But we have confirmed it to be the same die, the only difference is the package markings. The renaming could be because the iPad version is reported to be running at 1.4GHz rather than the 1.3 Ghz of the iPhone 5S, or the chip-on-board mounting used in the Ipad could mean a different pin-out to talk to the Elpida memory next door. It's quite a hefty heat sink on the chip, so it's definitely running warmer.
The iPad Air’s Power Management IC, typically surrounded by inductors and resistors is pictured below. It is Apple branded with an Apple part number and it has always been manufactured by Dialog Semiconductor who has a tradition of naming their chips after female names that begin with the letter “A”. In the past we’ve already seen Angelina, Alexandra and most recently, Ashley. We will find out shortly what they named their new Apple 343S0655-A1. With a more powerful A7, the combination of its 28-nm process and the new PMIC seems to keep the battery life at ten hours, even with a smaller battery. We will post additional new devices as they come out of our labs, stay tuned for an update.
Known for being the best in the industry at recycling devices, Apple’s new iPad Air is no exception. There are major improvements and new devices if we compare the iPad Air to its 4th generation predecessor, but as we predicted, the iPad Air is mostly composed of devices that we have already seen. At first glance, the Qualcomm MDM9615M Baseband Processor is being recycled from the iPhone 5 and the famous M7 (NXP LPC18A1) is being recycled from the iPhone 5s. Other recycled devices include:
- Apple 338S1116 Cirrus Audio Codec, also found in the iPhone 5c
- Two Broadcom BCM5976C1KUB6G Touch Screen Controllers, same devices we've already seen in the iPhone 5s/c
- Qualcomm WTR1605L RF Transceiver, seen multiple times
- Qualcomm PM8018 PMIC is another familiar device
- Toshiba THGBX2G7B2JLA01, 16 GB NAND Flash, same device as we saw in the iPhone 5S