iPhone as Bellweather for Semiconductors

The last few weeks I’ve had “iPhone on the brain”. It is such a great vehicle for conveying ideas and thoughts. Last week, Telebusillis posted a UK vs USA scorecard (thanks for the nice comments British buddies 8) ). The scorecard is interesting on many levels. Here are 3 that quickly come to mind.

The first level is that all of the 5 chips have processors in them. CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio) devices are all processor based, and I’m guessing that the touch screen controller has a uP in it as well. All of these uPs are ARM based. MIPS cores don’t kick in until much higher performance is required.

The second level is that there is “lotsa” value in the firmware that Samsung, Infineon, Marvel, CSR, and Broadcom are developing. Much of this firmware tackles problems that used to be the domain of “analog chip design”. The rest of the firmware tackles problems solved by ASIC/ASSPs.

The third level is that it appears that most of these chips were not designed specifically for the iPhone. These chips were designed as “platforms” and all the customization is done with firmware and some higher level software. ( ie these are chips designed for long-tail … not specific “sockets”…) interesting indeed 💡

The Telebusillis list

  • Applications Processor: Samsung – ARM11
  • Baseband Processor: Infineon – ARM926
  • WiFi Processor: Marvell – ARM946
  • Bluetooth Processor: CSR – XAP
  • Broadcom touchscreen controller – Broadcom Inhouse (team located in Cambridge)