Posted: October 2, 2014

iSight and FaceTime cameras


Apple launched dual versions of iPhone for the first time in 2013. Each version featured different iSight cameras, and Apple has again used different iSight cameras for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Phil Schiller introduced us to the new generation of iSight camera and its phase detection autofocus (AF) system. The Focus Pixels reportedly enable a 2x improvement in AF speed, as compared to the previous generation. The iPhone 6 Plus gets the premium camera with the introduction of optical image stabilization (OIS). OIS technology, already in use or on the road map of several other phone manufacturers, is new for iPhone and, as Phil points out, is another crushing blow to the point-and-shoot digital camera market. Next target: camcorders. The new iPhones have cranked up the video performance to 1080p 30/60 fps and up to 240 fps for Slo-mo.

Credit has to be given to the A8’s image signal processor and the lens system, but it pays to have a great silicon chip. The iPhone 6 Plus iSight camera chip is housed in a camera module measuring 10.6 mm x 9.3 mm x 5.6 mm thick. Fabricated by Sony, the iSight camera chip is a stacked (Exmor RS), back-illuminated CMOS image sensor (CIS) featuring 1.5 µm generation pixels (introduced for the iPhone 5s). The die size is 4.8 mm x 6.1 mm (29.3 mm2). The phase pixel pairs have all been implemented in the green channel and cover the majority of the active pixel array. Our exploratory analysis of the iSight camera module and chip is still in progress and we plan to publish Device Essentials and Basic Package Analysis reports in the coming weeks.

While we expected the new version of the FaceTime cameras to get a bump in resolution from 1.2 MP to 2 MP, they’ve in fact stayed at 1.2 MP for both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The FaceTime cameras did get a larger aperture (allowing 80% more light), burst mode for selfies, and single shot HDR and HDR video. Our speculation of Sony winning the FaceTime sockets, though, turned out to be correct. We’ve just confirmed the iPhone 6 Plus FaceTime camera is a stacked Sony CIS and we will provide more details in a future update.

Update (September 29)

Our labs have been busy cataloguing all the new iPhone chips and we’ve now collected enough information from our camera analyses to share an update. Both are Sony stacked die structures (CIS + ISP) that are electrically connected to ceramic chip carriers through solder bumps. Note that the iSight and FaceTime camera chip die photographs were taken with the microlenses, color filters, and aperture grid removed.
The iSight camera chip supplied by Sony is 5.97 mm x 4.71 mm (28.1 mm2). The chip features 105 bump pads located on four sides of the die. (Die photo is the last thumbnail above). These pads are implemented in the ISP top metal and connect to the CIS die using through silicon vias (TSV) arrays on three sides of the active pixel array.


The FaceTime camera module is 6.2 mm x 6.0 mm x 3.8 mm thick. The stacked chip die size is 4.13 mm x 3.36 mm (13.9 mm2). The die photograph shows 73 bump pads located on four sides of the die and TSV arrays located to the right and below the active pixel array. The pixel pitch of the FaceTime camera has increased from 1.75 µm on the last few generations to 2.2 µm for the 6 and 6 Plus. This is a noteworthy event as iPhone has now reversed the pixel scaling trend of FaceTime cameras just as it did for the iSight camera for iPhone 5s. A close look at the optical photograph of the RGB color filters shows a “+” shaped artifact over each color filter. We expect this to be a 2x2 microlens array for each color channel, and will confirm our suspicions as we continue on with technical analysis for our upcoming reports.

Texas Instruments Haptic Driver


We observe the Texas Instruments DRV2604 haptic driver on the main board, which is used to drive the vibrator on both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. This Texas Instruments device is no stranger to Chipworks either; we have observed it in all of Xiaomi’s recent models. Getting another  is a great design win for Texas Instruments and just adds to the revenue that they will be generating from their analog products in smart mobile devices.

Envelope Tracking


The Qualcomm QFE1100 envelope tracking DC-DC regulator (feeding the PAM) makes its third debut of 2014 and we have seen the QFE1100 in over 16 handsets since its debut. Scoring design wins in the Samsung Galaxy product line, and now in the iPhone product line, assures Qualcomm hundreds of millions of unit shipments over the coming quarters.