Examining the iPhone 6 Supplier Hit Parade

A breakdown of the supplier roster for the iPhone 6 reveals that Apple has largely continued to rely on the procurement sources it used for the iPhone 5 — with a few surprises in the component mix as well.

The components and inner circuitry of the iPhone 6 Plus was revealed in detail when iFixit took apart and analyzed the smartphone's parts at its Melbourne office a few days ago ahead of the US launch.

(Image: iFixit)

(Image: iFixit)

Big winners
One of the first takeaways was that Avago (high band PAD), Broadcom (touchscreen controller), Qualcomm (LTE modem), SK Hynix (128 Gb/16 GB NAND flash), and TriQuint (power amplifier module) were able to convince Apple to use their devices like it did for the iPhone 5. Out of them, leading communications chipmaker Qualcomm was also able to supply more carrier aggregation and envelope tracking capabilities for the iPhone 6 compared to its predecessor, which in turn generated demand for additional components for these features.

“Qualcomm has gained more carrier aggregation and envelope tracking content on the iPhone 6,” Vijay Rakesh, an analyst for Sterne Agee, wrote in a report. “We would note this bodes well for the RF suppliers as new CA plus ET capabilities imply need for more filters and PADs.”

The new iPhone has more NFC capabilities, which benefited antennae supplier RF Micro Devices. The NXP 65V10 NFC module has an NXP PN544 NFC controller inside and there is an NFC antenna in the device, iFixit found.

The new iPhone has two accelerometers, which iFixit spokesman described as “something you don't see every day.” According to Chipworks, the separate Bosch and InvenSense accelerometers reflect Apple's engineering creativity. It speculated that the Bosch accelerometer was added for applications requiring less heavy lifting but that also consumed less power. The InvenSense device is used for applications requiring more robust functionality, while it consumes more power than the Bosch device does. InvenSense's accelerometer would have likely drained too much power from the battery had it been used alone, Chipworks said.

Other improvements versus the previous iPhone design that iFixit noted include:

  • “The battery is rated at 3.82 V and 11.1 Wh of energy, for a total of 2915 mAh — nearly double the capacity of the 1560 mAh unit in the iPhone 5s, and slightly larger than the 2800 mAh burner in the Galaxy S5. “
  • “Continuing the trend from the iPhone 5 series, the display assembly comes out of the phone first, simplifying screen repairs.”
  • “The battery is straightforward to access. Removing it requires a proprietary pentalobe screwdriver and knowledge of the adhesive removal technique, but is not difficult. “
  • “The fingerprint sensor cable has been re-routed, fixing a significant 'repairability' issue with the iPhone 5s and making the phone much safer to open. (On the 5s, the cable is easily torn if a user is not careful while opening the phone.) “

Supply and price
Despite reports indicating per-chip pricing for certain Qualcomm devices in the iPhone 6, the actual price per-component estimates remained unconfirmed by Apple. “It's basically a guessing game — only Qualcomm and Apple know how much Apple's paying per IC,” the iFixit spokesman said.

Regardless of pricing, Apple once again has run into supply problems like it did when it released its iPhone5, while the company has yet to specify where the shortages are in its supply chain. When Apple reported last month that pre-order sales for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus totaled over four million units in 24 hours (double the number of pre-orders received for the iPhone 5 in that time period), it also said that the new iPhone exceeded “the initial pre-order supply.” Deliveries of the pre-ordered phones are only expected to reach customers by the end of October.

Reports have also surfaced revealing problems customers have had when ordering the smart phone through carriers in the United States prior to Apple's scheduled pre-order launch of the iPhone6 in China set for October 10.

Once the iPhone 6's supply problems have been solved, the device's new component mix and features will largely determine whether the iPhone 6's rollout will be a success or not. For the time being, the loyalty of millions of consumers who often share a near-fanatical devotion to everything iPhone and the mystique of Apple as one of the world's most recognized brands are largely responsible for the inventory depletions.

If the iPhone 6 does eventually prove to be a success in the months ahead after the pre-launch hype, expect to see more of the same component mix in the next iPhone.

3 comments on “Examining the iPhone 6 Supplier Hit Parade

  1. _hm
    October 13, 2014

    How safe is to carry 11.1 Wh enrgy in once pocket? What is probability that it can really hurt someone?

  2. Anand
    October 17, 2014

    It cannot hurt anyone. All iPhones are low-radiation certified phones. Although if you keep any phone on your chest every night and sleep, you'll develop heart problems easily and you will also have shorter sleep cycles, meaning you would wake up tired all the time.

  3. Anand
    October 17, 2014

    I don't think Apple will release any statement about how much it pays Qualcomm for the components in the iPhone because if they do, users will know that the pricing of the iPhones are absurd. It's not like Apple pays extra for Qualcomm to offshore the chips in a secret factory somewhere.

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