iPhone 5s chips: Samsung-made A7, NXP-made M7, Bosch accelerometer, Sony CMOS

By , Sep 20, 2013

iPhone 5s promo (A7 chip closeup 002)

After conducting its ritual teardown analysis of the new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, both of which went on sale earlier today in the United States, China and an additional nine major global markets, the repair experts over at iFixIt teamed up with Chipworks for a high-tech analysis of the iPhone 5s’s innards.

Putting the Apple-designed 64-bit A7 chip under a microscope, deep scans reveal the new iPhone engine is still being made by Samsung…

According to both iFixIt and Chipworks, Apple for the time being continues to rely on Samsung’s semiconductor manufacturing expertise to build the A7 chips in volume.

Apple A7 (Chipworks 001)
The A7 package, pried open.

“We have confirmed through early analysis that the device is fabricated at Samsung’s Foundry,” Chipworks states. The chip experts believes the A7 is being fabbed on Samsung’s 28-nanometer Hi K metal Gate (HKMG) process technology that the South Korean conglomerate uses for its own Galaxy S4 Exynos processor.

Apple A7 (Chipworks 002)
The die markings give it away.

We’ve been of course expecting such an outcome.

Keep in mind that code strings discovered back in June in early iOS 7 Betas pointed to the then-unknown next-generation iPhone processor being built by Samsung. By the way, The Korea Times may want to scrutinize their sources.

As for the M7 – a brand new chip tasked with taking continuous measurements from the accelerometer, gyro and compass sensors while the A7 is sleeping (these tasks would draw six times the power if handled by the A7 processor), the package has been identified as the LPC18A1 module, which happens to be made by NXP.

Yes, Apple simply rebranded (and likely customized) NXP’s chip.

iPhone 5s keynote (M7 specs slide)

Noting that the LPC1800 series are “high-performing Cortx-M3 based microcontrollers,” Chipworks concludes that this is obviously a major win for NXP.

The compass sensor is Asahi Kasei Microdevices’s AK8963 unit, while STMicroelectronics continues to supply the three-axis gyroscope. Interestingly enough, Apple no longer sources the three-axis accelerometer from STMicroelectronics.

dieshotAPL0698_148138_PolyB
The undressed A7 silicon.

Instead, Chipworks identified the accelerometer as Bosch’s Sensortech BMA220 unit, the first a Bosch MEMS device made its way inside any iPhone.

Here it is:

bosch

Chipworks notes:

Holding the compass socket for another round is AKM’s AK8963 3-axis electronic compass IC. The AK8963 combines a magnetic sensors to detect X, Y, and Z axis, a sensor driving circuit, arithmetic circuit and signal amplifier chain.

As for the back-facing iSight camera with a fifteen percent larger CMOS sensor, that part is a custom 1.5 µm pixel pitch stacked Sony Exmor-RS sensor.

We first saw Sony’s stacked CMOS image sensor chips in the 8 Mp ISX014 (from a Fujitsu tablet), and then in the 13 Mp IMX135 from the Samsung Galaxy S4 primary camera.

Here’s the Sony sensor.

03

Other notables include a Broadcom BCM4334 package with 802.11 a/b/g/n single-stream MAC/baseband/radio, Bluetooth 4.0 + HS and an integrated FM radio receiver, Qualcomm’s MDM9615M 4G LTE modem utilizing “a two-chip solution in the form of a Samsung DRAM to retain carrier specific information and a Samsung-fabricated LTE baseband processor” and more.

iPhone 5s motherboard (A7 chip, iFixIt 001)

To learn more about the A7, check out AnandTech’s excellent analysis.

The revelations raise an interesting question: what exactly is TSMC building if not 2013 iOS device chips, as the credulous Wall Street Journal reported?

Maybe next-gen processors for an iPhone 6 and 13-inch iPad?

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Apple commissioned TSMC to build smaller quantities of the A7 processors until it becomes confident in the foundry’s ability to meet Apple’s large volumes.

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  • seyss

    “to fab”…..

  • batongxue

    Damn!!!!!!

  • Jonathan

    Careful Tim. I now have extremely high expectations for the A8 chip.

    • Matt Taylor

      And the A7X!

      • Jonathan

        That too.

    • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

      Apple AQuantum

  • Joseph

    So, technically, Samsung wouldn’t be copying Apple if they put a 64-bit chip in their phones since Samsung made it in the first place? :p

    • Cameron Chao

      i would never call that copying anyway, it is a natural progression. Copying is when they release S-voice straight after iphone releases Siri, copying is when Apple releases passbook, and then samsung releases wallet soon after that has almost the same looking app icon and app interface.

      • @sexyhamthing

        yes… but just want to point out that nether of those were apples ideas :P

    • Joseph

      Gotta love how Apple fans seem incapable of taking jokes. Christ’s sake, people, get a sense of humor.

      • bw00ds

        They’re some of the most sensitive people around. Even when you attach an emoticon like you did. (I guess they need chocolate.)

      • Rowan09

        Ummmm no.

      • Cameron Chao

        Go on youtube and read the comments, you will notice that on videos featuring apple products you get about 90% of the comments coming from Android fans saying how Apple sucks and all. Then go on an Android video, you will notice barely 10% of Apple fans saying Android sucks. My point, the Android camp is far more sensitive than the Apple camp, my guess is they want to justify the price they paid for their non-apple product. Anyway, i will admit that i do fall in that 10% from time to time.

      • bw00ds

        Oh, no way, sorry. Go to any other comment board and you see the diatribe. I’ve been on boards and just watch the Fanboys explode. I read some of the overreaction to friendly ribbing and even just stating plain facts here in this forum plenty of times.I really do not think that your data collection on YouTube is accurate. And that’s just considering comment boards, not the people in real life, which at times is worse. The snobbery from Apple fans is pretty deep and goes back longer historically. The “snobbery” from Android, Windows is push back in reaction.

      • Cameron Chao

        Of course it isnt accurate, but youtube is more of a neutral battle ground. If you go on a pro Apple blog like this one, you are more likely to get a response from us when you bring in Anti-Apple comments. Yes, Apple fans are pretty snobby, which is why most of us avoid commenting on Android, hence my point in my earlier reply. Meanwhile, as i said, the Android camp feels a need to justify what they paid for their non apple device. Apple users tend to be comfortable with their device, Android users are extremely insecure with what they paid for.

      • bw00ds

        Not trying to be argumentative, but I’ll just say that I disagree with that statement. You go onto sites with ratings of products, like Amazon, and the Android people are really happy with what they have. I see you admit that Fanboys are “pretty snobby,” but I think it is presumptuous of you to assume that Android owners are “extremely insecure” about their purchase. I see no such evidence. They simply love their devices, just like Apple owners rightfully enjoy theirs. All the Samsung owners I run into love their devices and don’t even blink when they see I have an iPhone 5. No big deal. On the flip side, I see the attitudes of many Fanboys who look condescendingly down at others just because they think that Apple is Utopia. Well it is–for them. What they don’t recognize is that Utopia can exist differently for others. In my experience, which I guess differs from yours, is that on any kind of blog, Fanboys are a pretty sensitive and pompous lot.

      • Cameron Chao

        The most insecure people will tell you they really love their Android, then go online in their privacy of their screen name and troll youtube or Apple blogs. That is what insecurity means.

      • Boris

        Apple Fanboys have been around for decades. Fandroids are relatively new.

      • Cameron Chao

        Oh believe me, about 95% of the Apple fanboys started with the iPhone. I started with the iPod Mini.

      • bw00ds

        You missed his point…

      • bw00ds

        Oh, let’s end this conversation here. You have no proof of that nor could you or I ever prove it to be true/untrue. That’s just a ridiculous thing to say.

      • Rowan09

        I can take a joke and far from sensitive but I didn’t think it was funny that’s all.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Even if it was funny its still completely inaccurate since although Samsung manufactures the processors as far as I know it’s made by Apple. Samsung is just a hired hand to mass produce it…

      • felixtaf

        You can convince someone who like to understand. And You cant do it to someone who thinks that they are always right, no matter how many examples you give…

      • Ken Guthrie

        That is why Samsung is Apple’s processor Bitch!!!

    • Rowan09

      No they made it and Apple designs it. Nevertheless it’s not copying because you can’t own a regular standard, it’s like saying the first phone with Bluetooth was copied by every other phone with Bluetooth.

    • mehrab

      The kfc”s recipe came from cononel sanders but is made by millions of people around the world
      Here apple made and designed it in their labs. Samsung has the ability to make masses of them so they get asked to manufacture them. Its not like apple went to samsung HQ and was like hey bros sup? Make me a a7 chip put in a 64 bit on it and etc

    • felixtaf

      Made by Samsung.. Designed by Apple… So even technically, its wrong. And am not against 64 bit computing coming to other devices!

      • Joseph

        Reread my statement, people. I didn’t say ‘designed’, I said ‘made’- which is the exact statement you’re all making.

      • felixtaf

        Foxconn is manufacturing iPhone. Does it mean that its from Foxconn???
        And If its Samsung technology, y the hell they are selling it to Apple. They are competing hard with Apple. So, a 64 bit cpu in their phone will be top of the line. Then y they are not using in their phones? Someone commented the other day like they want more money – No, thats a stupid logic.
        You cant make something without designing and optimizing it. right????

      • Joseph

        It’s stupid logic that you don’t understand that it was a goddamn joke. And it was stupid logic on my part thinking that this wouldn’t be the reaction.

    • brian_x

      It’s more complicated than that. Not only would Apple come down on them like a ton of bricked Galaxies for stealing their in-house-designed Cyclone core, but ARM might decide to revoke their IP license for doing an end run around another partner. Samsung would probably have to switch to MIPS or Intel, which would cost them a ton in terms of engineering, never mind legal fees.

    • Ted Forbes

      No they wouldn’t be copying because they made it with Apple money. They will be infringing, stealing, hijacking Apples workmanship and Apples ability to get things done first, finished, complete, proper and at the same time ahead of the compo (thanks to Bill Gates). Thats all. Now go ahead Samsung, do what you do best and give it to Android so they can stay ahead of iOS.

    • Sawaf99

      Not really, they part that made the chip is for manufacturing and doesn’t even conflict with samsung devices, if they do put it it would be considered stealing

  • omrishtam

    yet they cant put it on theire own device before apple does…..shamsung

    • diggitydang

      Exactly what I was thinking – it sounded like Sammy was surprised after Apple’s announcement of a 64-bit chip and Sammy’s CEO coming out and saying they will offer it soon too – really odd… I can see Tim Cook sitting in a boardroom saying “Ok Sammy… I need some 64-bit processing chips… it is NOT for our iPhone… *whistles and looks around the room*… so, you think you can do it?”

    • bw00ds

      It probably wasn’t an issue of ability, it was probably an issue of legality.

    • felixtaf

      No. the design architecture is by Apple. Samsung is just a manufacturer. So they cant use it (Since they will have legal agreements and patents covering them).

  • Cameli Paulos

    Actually Apple designed the A7 chip but manufacturing is done by Samsung. it is not like Samsung made this 64Bit chip.
    Samsung CEO already annouced that they will copy this tech n will give 64Bit chips in next Galaxy devices

    • ClaudieX X

      Samsung said it will make 64 bits “COMPATIBLE” chips, that’s not a 64 bits chip… It’s a 32 bits chip that brake one 64 bit routine in 2 32 bits routines, needing 2 clock cycles to do what a real 64 bits chip do in one. That was what intel did when AMD did the Opteron 64 bit chip… first 64 bit x86 compatible. Intel made 64 bits COMPATIBLE chips. A shame in real performance. That were the gold days of AMD.

      • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

        Samsung can pull out a 64-bit processor very easily. But they will lie to the users about that special “spec” because Android will run 32-bit just like all the apps. it will be basically a 64-bit processor with a “windows 32-bit OS installed”.

        The hardware will be there just to have another number to pull out some sells, like they did with the Mega Pixels, Quad-Cores, and other stuff.

        I remember seeing android devices having quad-core and even dual core cpus when Android was not optimized for them. Its a shame specially because most of the users ( the non-tech people) never knew this.

      • erod434

        You obviously have no idea what your talking about. Android is based upon the Linux kernel which natively supports 64 bit. Therefore there will be no need to remake the os or kernel. In fact even the apps will simply need to be recompiled using an updated JIT (no code changes). So please stop spreading lies. Don’t believe me search slash gear android 64 bit.

      • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

        First, I don’t need to read anything to know what im talking about.

        So, to be clear, I know that Android have already a 64-bit kernel. So what I said was.

        a) If it was easy for them to make Android 64-bit a reality, they would have done already.

        b) Even if they make a Android 64-bit kernel, all apps will be 32-bit only. 100% of Android devices out there made that already clear.

        c) They can’t deliver apps in 32-bit and 64-bit… or do you honestly believe that developers want a new way of fragmentation?! The have to deal with a lot of android devices already and its a huge pain for them.

        The transition will be a pain to Google either, because since the beginning, Android it’s all F..cked up with his ecosystem.

        iOS made that reality really fast because

        1) OSX foundation.
        2) They don’t have to deal with 3rd party drivers.
        3) A single App can have both 32-64 bit versions, a thing that either Android or Windows can’t have. They need a installation for each.

        Good luck with that Google. Also save this comment and start counting the days until you will see 64-bit (OS and Apps running natively)

      • ClaudieX X

        You have an idea but you are not a programmer, Android is Linux based and iOS is Unix based. So being the same kernel estructure the only reason of all the problems of Android to change to 64 bits is because android apps are not Linux native processes, they are Dalvik executables that works on a java like virtual machine, they are more JavaScript code within native JavaScript engine… Exact the same as Google ChromeOS. If you know programming just open a .dex android app and you will see what I’m talking about. So going to 64 bits will be a mess. That’s why Samsung and may be all android hardware makers will do (what it calls) a theatrical 64 bit chip. That means a 32 bit chip that reads 64 bits chains.

      • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

        Finally. Clap Clap Clap

    • BozzyB

      I think a lot of people get this wrong because Apple tells them so and they just believe everything they say. But you should watch the words they use carefully:
      Apple does has not “designed” like “developed or constructed” the 64 Bit Chip. Apple just licensed the chip design with its components from the company ARM. Apple “bought” the ARMv8 64 Bit design from ARM with their prefered features. It’s like you go to a car dealer and choose a car with AC, leather or a bigger engine. After that they let Samsung manufacture it with those specs.

      • Tuomas Korhonen

        No, Apple licenced the ARMv8 ISA, not a full processor design. The A7 is a custom Apple design, not a licenced ARM core.

  • bw00ds

    Just another thing to show that these phones have a lot more in common than differences, in spite of what either side has to say.

  • CrAppleJinxer

    Even after it was announced last year that Samsung as ARM’s lead foundry (and Samsung as fellow member of both Common Platform Alliance and the HSA- Heterogeneous Computing Foundation) was the first to license ARM’s A50 64bit series chips. They were already retooled for Samsung’s HKMG Process Technology for 64bit chips to be in an upcoming unannounced product. Octa is capable of Heterogeneous computing and it will be enabled with a firmware upgrade. So I don’t think we’ve seen the true benchmarks the chip in GS4! :D

    And Samsung is already ramping sampling processors for the next Galaxy, which will be a dual OS booting device. It will be running both Tizen 64bit and Android in ARM’s new Visualization Hyper-visor. This will enable them to run simultaneously as one. Android Apps will be able to run right from Tizen’s Desktop. In fact you can run two Apps up on screen, one from Tizen and one from Android and seamlessly do true multitasking. Unlike Apple with it’s legacy archaic old HFS+ file system still stacking tasks one on top of the other, instead of at least using a clone or stealing IBM’s “Pervasive Multi-threading” engine. But at they have Apple’s good old trusty 90’s “Preemptive Task Management”! :D

    Yeah…. it gives OS X and iOS the power to suspend one task or App in order to run a more important one. Gee isn’t that just so swell? ;-P ….since Apple can’t seem to get out of it’s own way otherwise!

    • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

      Android is so good in performance that somehow they can’t manage them for run well on a tablet (and even in todays top smartphones). So many failures after failures and fandroids keep living in the wonderland.

  • Cameron Chao

    meh

  • fteoOpty648

    The key point is the performance of the A7 chip that Anand benchmarked against the current leaders. Although, preliminary in nature, it shows rather amazing performance for 1.3Ghz clock speed compared to 1.8Ghz T4, 2.3 S800, 1.8G BayTrial Atom. It seems to have smoked all of them. So the question is how does Apple do this on a 64bit design ?. Where reference Arm A57 can get 40% performance but Apple is getting much more than that!. The size of the die core gives some clue. The dual core die area is bigger than a quadcore A15 die area!. So a lot of complex and sneaky logic is operating in there to get such an advantage!.