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Apple iPhone 3G exposed

Posted: 15 Jul 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPhone 3G  user experience  base band  wireless connection 

Aside from some very surprising component choices in key parts of the up-graded communications section, as well as some software improvements and some basic design tweaks, the old adage 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' has clearly shaped the design of the iPhone 3G, the follow-up to Apple's phenomenally successful launch of the iPhone line of handsets.

"It's incrementalism at play," said David Carey, president of teardown specialist Portelligent. "They learned a bit from their 'Touch' solution and replaced two boards with one."

Instead of trying to reinvent the device, Apple focused on enhancing the user experience and expanding its fan base. It has done this by not only expanding its geographical footprint and speeding up its wireless connection, but also through the iPhone applications development network. Clearly one of the bigger stories behind the 3G launch, the developer program will see Apple providing resources, real-time testing and distribution, to accelerate the delivery of more diverse applications to the consumer.

The success of that program will be determined over the coming months, but for those consumers with an iPhone 3G in hand, there will be little to 'oooh' and 'aaah' about, aside from the 3G data rates, where available.

From the outside, the phone looks very much the same, except for a plastic backing and a move away from a recessed headphone jack to a flush connector. It has the same look and feel and the same 2Mpixel camera feature. That said, it does add built-in GPS capability and MobileME application software.

Diving Under the Hood, analysts from Portelligent, as well as TechOnline and Semiconductor Insights, were taken aback by the strength of Infineon's wins in the 3G communications portion, as well as the inclusion of TriQuint for three front-end modules.

"Infineon clearly made their mark on this board with four key design wins," said Allan Yogasingam, a TechOnline technology analyst. "And TriQuint really came from left field with their win their modules. I didn't see a single press-release or speculative article hinting at a relationship between the two companies. In today's internet world, that's a tough thing to keep under wraps."

As previously reported, TriQuint provides three power-amplifier (PA) front-end modules, the first is the TQM676021, which is an integrated 3-V linear UMTS Band 1 PA, duplexer and transmit filter module, with output power detector. It supports HSUPA operation with transmission data-rates up to 10Mbps. Next is the TQM666022, a similar device, but for Band 2 operation. Finally comes the TQM616035 W-CDMA/HSUPA PA-duplexer module for Band 5 and 6 (no datasheet available).

Moving up the signal chain, Infineon won big. It supplies the UMTS transceiver, suspected to be the PMB 6952, as well as the base band processor, which is actually a two-chip module in a single package. The first chip is the X-Gold 208 (PMB 8877), which caters to GSM/GPRS/Edge waveforms. The second chip is marked the PMB 8802 and is suspected to be the W-CDMA/HSDPA accelerator for 3G. While there's still some debate as to whether this combo package with Apple markings may in fact be Infineon's XGold 608 (PMB 8878), which Quirk and Yogasingam expected to see, that chip has as yet not become available to verify under Semiconductor Insights' microscope.

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