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Apple iPhone 5 – the RF

The chips that deliver the RF capabilities of a phone tend to be over shadowed by more consumer-friendly specifications like the number of GB of storage, or the clock speed of a processor. However, they are critical to the user experience of the device. Because of the nature of radio frequencies, they also require a complex number of different components to work together in harmony – or more accurately, without interfering with one another. We wrote about all this complexity back with the iPad3 for those who want a refresher.

What is interesting to note is that the boards from the various iPhone 5 models appear to be exactly the same. There are a few minor differences in the passives used to accommodate different frequencies, but our first look under the magnifying glass shows them to have identical layout.

The iPhone 5 in its various models supports all the major specifications and the one we tore-down in detail was the A1428 while we originally reported on the package markings in the 1429:

  • GSM model A1428*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 4 and 17)
  • CDMA model A1429*: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5, 13, 25)
  • GSM model A1429*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5)
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology

Starting from the bottom, because it is a bit easier to explain, are the chips supporting both the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Broadcom BCM4334 wins this socket, and is located inside the Murata 331S0171 module.This module is like a tiny circuit board inside a chip where all the functionality necessary for Wi-Fi communication is sold in a single package. They can be a challenge to do simple teardown analysis on because, if you put them in acid then you lose package markings.

Murata 339S0171 WiFi Module Side Profile X-Ray

 

Murata WiFi Module

The (long named) BCM4334 Single-Chip Dual-Band Combo Device Supporting 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 +HS & FM Receiver is fabricated using a low-power 40 nm RF-CMOS process from TSMC and measures 4.07 mm x 4.48 mm. This design win continues their success in this socket with a notable recent design win that includes the Samsung Galaxy SIII. With this, Broadcom has won (arguably) the two most important flagship phones in the world at this time!

Broadcom BCM4334 Die Photo

But before the processing can begin, you need to get that data out of the air (so to speak) by separating the bands and getting the noisy data in shape so lets look more closely at what is inside the Murata module (click to enlarge below thumbnails).

2.4 GHz Band Pass Filter

2.4 GHz Front End Module Die

Crystal

Skyworks 5 GHz Power Amp Die

Skyworks 5 GHz Front End Die 1

So to help explain how the system works, we looked to a product selection tool that was found on Skyworks website. Although they don’t have all the design wins inside this Murata module, their diagram is very useful for helping to reader to sort out what is what. In this case they have won the 5 GHz functionality shown at the bottom of the block diagram.

WiFi Front End (image sourced from Skyworks)

With respect to the cellular standards we will also use a Skyworks diagram for consistency:

Smartphones Front End (image sourced from Skyworks)

Here there are a number of different vendors contributing to the overall solution and summarized at the end of this article.

For LTE support, we have the Qualcomm MDM9615 4G LTE Modem. This device is a 28 nm LTE (FDD and TDD), HSPA+, EV-DO Rev B, TD-SCMA modem. It is responsible for transmitting simultaneous voice and data transfer on LTE. According to an article by Qualcomm, the radio frequency IC will be optimized for low power consumption and will integrate a high performance GPS core with GLONASS support. Since we haven’t found a standalone GPS chip it is likely that Qualcomm is providing this functionality. This is a multi-chip package including 1 Gb of Samsung DRAM memory, as seen in the x-ray and die photos below (click to enlarge).

          

We also find the Qualcomm RTR8600 multi-band/mode RF transceiver. The RTR8600 is paired alongside the MDM9615 to support various bands, including 5 UMTS bands, and over 5 LTE and 4 EDGE bands.

RTR8600 Die

 

And more Murata modules.  These ones are antenna switch modules – with this many frequency bands, we have to be able to switch between them all! So we have a Murata module D06 with Peregrine DP12T RF Switch, Die mark C9930.2 and the Murata module SWUA127 with Peregrine SP8T Switch, die marks C9941-1 (click to enlarge).

Peregrine Semiconductor Design wins in the Murata Antenna Switch Modules

 

We’ll close the detailed portion of this blog with a look at the Antenna Tuning Modules supplied by RF Micro. The RF1101 is a high power SPDT Switch and the RF1102 helps by optimizing the iPhones’ antennas for the specific bands in use.  This lowers the power consumption of the phone whilst also allowing the carriers the ability to add more customers to the network.

RF1101

RF1102

And finally, since we have looked at both the 1428 and 1429 variants, here is a handy little comparison chart of the models we looked at sourced in Australia and Canada. Notably, the 1429 Australian version appears to have the same silicon as the 1429 Verizon version in the US, which is not a surprise given the part numbering scheme that Apple has used.  Here are the specific devices we looked at:

Part Number

1429 – MD297X/A

1428 – MD293 C/A

Purchase Location

Australia

Canada

Power Amplifiers

Skyworks 77352-15 GSM/GPRS/EDGEPower Amplifier Module

Same

Skyworks 77491-15B Power Amplifier Module

Skyworks 77487-18 Power Amplifier Module

Avago AFEM 7813 Power Amplifier Module

Avago AFEM 7814 Power Amplifier Module

Avago  ACPM-5613 LTE band 13 Power Amplifier

Skyworks 77729-4 LTE Band 17 Power Amplifier

Skyworks 70631 LNA

Same

Triquint 666083-1229 WCDMA / HSUPA power amplifier / duplexer module for the UMTS band

Triquint 666084 Power Amplifier

Switches

Murata module D06 with Peregrine DP12T RF Switch

Same

Murata module SWUA147

Murata module SWUA127 with Peregrine SP8T Switch, die marks C9941-1

Other

RF Micro RF1101 Hi-Power SPDT Switch

Same

RF Micro RF1102 Antenna Tuning Module

Same

Qualcomm MDM9615 LTE Processor

Same

PM8018 RF Power Management

Same

Murata 339S0171 WiFi module

Same

Qualcomm RTR8600

Same

 

 

Other Pages in the analysis of the iPhone5

Page 1 – Initial Teardown of the iPhone 5

Page 2 – Camera and Battery

Page 3 – Apple A6 Analysis

Page 4 – A closer look at the RF Chips