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IHS iSuppli: iPhone 4S Shows Key Design and Component Changes

While much of the coverage of Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4S announcement focused on the new device’s similarity to the iPhone 4, an IHS analysis of the product illustrates key changes in the product’s feature set and component selection.

Important differences include a major upgrade to the apps processor, the use of a higher-resolution and more advanced camera module, and the addition of a new cellular radio that makes the iPhone 4S a true world phone, according to Wayne Lam, senior analyst at IHS. Information on the iPhone 4S represents a preliminary analysis based on features announced by Apple. IHS iSuppli soon will reveal the results of its full physical teardown that will provide actual data on iPhone 4S components and features.

The iPhone 4S uses a new apps processor compared to the single-core A4 used in the previous HSPA and CDMA iPhone 4 models. The iPhone 4S employs the same dual-core A5 apps processor used in the iPad 2, likely along with the same SDRAM memory configuration at 4 Gigabits (Gb). The use of this low density of memory highlights the efficiency of Apple’s iOS operating system compared to those of competitive smartphones, which use twice as much SDRAM, at 8Gb. This lowers the cost of this memory subsystem, leading to greater design economy relative to alternative phones.

The iPhone 4S integrates a five-lens camera module, a first in any smartphone analyzed by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis service. Previously, the state-of-art has been a four-lens approach. The 4S camera module is an autofocus device with an 8-megapixel (MP) resolution, compared to 5MP in the iPhone 4 models. Like the iPhone 4, the 4S employs backside illumination (BSI) technology.

iPhone 4S merges the HSPA and CDMA radio capabilities found separately in the two previous iPhone 4 models into a single product that can address global wireless networks, making it a world phone. No other handset OEM produces a single device for multiple operators and for multiple geographies on this scale. Because of this, the iPhone 4S can be used on both the AT&T and Verizon wireless networks, in contrast to requiring two different models of the iPhone 4 to work in these areas. The iPhone 4S also can work with the Sprint network, making it compatible with the top three networks in the United States. Changes to the radio design include the use of an updated Qualcomm baseband processor, the MDM6610.

In contrast to the iPhone 4 models, the baseband processor is discrete and is no longer integrated with the radio frequency (RF) transceiver. The RF transceiver is the Qualcomm RTR8605, a dual-mode device previously observed by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis Service in other handset designs, such as the Hewlett-Packard Veer and HTC Thunderbolt.

The 4S also likely makes use of three different power amplifier module (PAM) module suppliers: Avago, Skyworks and TriQuint. Previously, only Avago was found in the CDMA version of the iPhone 4, and both Skyworks and TriQuint were featured in the HSPA/GSM version of the iPhone.

IHS iSuppli

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