Yole and System Plus Consulting Analyze the RF Front End Used in iPhone 12

System Plus Consulting and its partner, Yole Développement (Yole), have published a new report that analyzez the RF Front End used by the Apple iPhone 12. In the report, RF Front-End Module Comparison 2021 – Vol. 1 – Focus on Apple, they state that Apple’s iPhone 12 series which was released in 2020, has reduced their overall board size in spite of integrating a 5G module from Qualcomm. This technical choice made by Apple has been based on the reverse engineering concept. The RF Front End setup in the iPhone 12 consists of an NFC antenna, GPS L5 (1175 MHz) module, power amplifier, 5G module with n260 and n261 band compatibility for mmWave applications, SAW filter, BAW filter, and a switch.

The RF Front-End Module Comparison 2021 – Vol. 1 – Focus on Apple report provides insights into technology and cost data for RF front-end modules. The report was created after analyzing the selection of components in 18 smartphones from the Apple iPhone series since 2016. The report also underlines Apple’s dependency on specific component manufacturers for the integration of millimeter wavelength (mmWave) communication technology.

Yole has already released 5G’s Impact on RF Front-End and Connectivity for Cellphones 2020 report, at the end of 2020. The 2020 edition gives a detailed analysis of each RF technology’s strengths and weaknesses and delivers a detailed ecosystem snapshot. It showcased market trends and forecasts, market shares, ecosystem, and US/China trade war analysis. Yole’s study also pointed out COVID-19’s impact on the RF front-end and connectivity business.

The analysis done by the System Plus Consulting’s team in the new RF Front-End Module Comparison 2021 – Vol. 1 – Focus on Apple report, mentions that 5G Sub-6 GHz band and mmWave technology's integration into the 12th generation of iPhone has lead to an increase in the space required by the RF module. While comparing the device with other players like OnePlus, the RF area is almost 40% larger. DSBGA is the standard package used for enclosing the FEM.

Apple relies heavily on highly integrated US suppliers like Qorvo, Broadcom, and Skyworks. Using Qorvo’s Antenna tuners, Apple can offer a smartphone with a lower number of Antenna.

SAW filters are playing a key role in RF front-end module industry. This has been examined in the SAW Filter Comparison 2020 report from System Plus Consulting. But, with the last generation iPhone 12 Series, the BAW filter had a huge increase in the dedicated area (x6) of the FEM. This because of the rise of 5G and WiFi 6 technologies. The IPD device has also consumed space in the FEM. This is mainly due to 5G and UWB implementation. 

All major mobile device manufacturers rely on the expertise of one or more major RF companies to provide state-of-the-art RF components. The major leaders are Murata, Skyworks, Broadcom, Qorvo, and QualcommHowever, a variety of other companies from China, South Korea, Japan, and Europe are also competing for the RF front-end segment.

Click here to read the full report.