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Inside smartphones: The essentials

Posted: 09 May 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:accelerometers  e-compasses  gyroscopes  smart devices  Bosch 

In this article, we will cover the accelerometers, e-compasses, and gyroscopes found in today's smart devices. Since July 2012, has published 83 Deep Dive teardown analyses. These reports cover phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices. In our research, we seek a broad sample of devices across manufacturers, price tiers, and markets.

Of this sampling of devices, the number of units and percent of sample in which these functions were observed can be seen in table 1.


Table 1: Feature prevalence.

Clearly, accelerometers and compasses have a quantitative edge over gyroscopes, but we are seeing more frequently the combination of accelerometer and gyroscope in one package. To a small degree, we are also seeing the combination of accelerometer and e-compasses in single packages.

Three-axis accelerometer
The current players in the accelerometer field are Bosch Sensortec, STMicroelectronics, Invensense, Rohm Kionix, and Freescale. The top three parts in the sample are the Invensense MPU-6050 (10 observations), Bosch Sensortec BMA250 (8), and Bosch Sensortec BMA255 (7). Those parts are mature parts (having first been seen in mid-2012), and it appears that the first two are at or near the end of life.

We expect the Bosch Sensortec BMI055 to become a significant player along with the Invensense MPU-6500 and STMicroelectronics LSM3xx series of parts. All of these upcoming parts combine an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Table 2 contains a list of manufacturers and their prevalence.

Table 2: Accelerometers.

In our Teardowns, we documented 74 of the 83 devices (89%) that contained e-compasses. This space is dominated by two players: AKM Semiconductor (at a 81% share) and Yamaha (at a 14% share). The AKM Semiconductor AK8963 and AK8963C family of parts are used in 31 devices. They were first observed in mid-2012 and continue to be seen at this time. Another AKM Semiconductor series of parts, the AK8975 and AK8975B, were observed in 14 units. They were last seen in September 2013. Yamaha takes the third spot with its YAS532B part, which was found in 10 units. The YAS533 appears to be a successor part. The other players can be found in table 3. It's worth noting that both Bosch Sensortec and STMicroelectronics have combination e-compass and accelerometer parts.

Table 3: e-Compasses.

Fifty-seven devices (71%) sampled included the use of gyroscopes for movement sensing. Only three players were found in this feature. The two dominant players are Invensense and STMicroelectronics. Bosch Sensortec is a recent third entrant but has only a 5% share. It should be noted that the first device with the Bosch Sensortec BMI055 part was observed in late 2013. Table 4 shows the number of occurrences and marketshare.

While 17 different devices were observed, the top three parts were the Invensense MPU-3050 (11 occurrences), STMicroelectronics L3G4200D (10), and Invensense MPU-6050 (9). Six accelerometer/gyroscope combination parts were observed, while the Invensense MPU-6050C included both of those features along with an e-compass.

Table 4: Gyroscopes.

Coming up
We tear down more than 300 devices a year. Based on this, we'll continue to discuss technology trends and the design wins we are seeing in this space. For one of my next articles, we'll review trends in the connectivity and sensors IC space. I will talk about observations in the areas of NFC ICs and barometric and humidity sensors. NFC is an up-and-coming area, while barometric and humidity sensing are still in their infancy in the mobile space.

About the author
Joel Martin is senior vice president and general manager of, a part of TechInsights that has been doing design, integrated circuit analysis, and bill of material costing for 15 years.

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