iPhone 11 Pro teardowns indicate STMicroelectronics (STM) and Sony (SNE) , as well as Apple (AAPL) itself, are supplying more chips for this year's flagship iPhones than they were for last year's models.
During its iPhone 11 Pro Max teardown, research firm TechInsights discovered a power management chip (PMIC), a microcontroller (MCU), an infrared camera chip (for Face ID) and a wireless charging receiver chip from STMicro. While iPhone XS teardowns indicate STMicro was supplying the first three types of chips for the XS as well, Broadcom (AVGO) , rather than STMicro, supplied a wireless charging receiver chip last year.
TechInsights also found that long-time Apple image sensor supplier Sony is providing the image sensors for all three of the iPhone 11 Pro's rear cameras, as well as its standard front camera. With the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 each having one more rear camera than the iPhone XS and XR, respectively, and with Apple having upped the resolution for the front camera on its latest phones to 12 megapixels from 7 megapixels, it looks as if the Japanese conglomerate will see a boost in its revenue per iPhone shipment.
Sony's iPhone content gains come as the company rejects calls from activist Dan Loeb to spin off its image sensor unit. While Loeb argues that spinning off the unit would unlock shareholder value, Sony insists that holding onto it "is the best strategy for enhancing Sony's corporate value over the long term."
Meanwhile, in addition to Apple's A13 Bionic system-on-chip (SoC), TechInsights found a pair of Apple PMICs and a module that it believes contains Apple's U1 radio chip. Notably, whereas Germany's Dialog Semiconductor was still supplying the primary PMIC for some iPhone XS units last year, Apple, which has been growing its chip design work with each passing year, appears to be handling the job by itself with its 2019 iPhones, following a $600 million 2018 deal to buy a part of Dialog's business.
The U1 chip allows Apple's 2019 iPhones to communicate via ultra-wideband (UWB), a new short-range radio technology that -- thanks to how it gauges the locations of nearby UWB devices -- is seen as more secure than Bluetooth. NXP Semiconductors (NXPI) , which continues supplying NFC controller and display port multiplexor chips for iPhones, has emerged as an early leader in the merchant UWB chip market. However, there hasn't been any indication yet that it's involved with the U1.
In addition to STMicro, Sony and NXP, a number of other historical Apple suppliers made appearances in TechInsights' latest iPhone teardown, as well as in an iPhone 11 Pro Max teardown from repair parts/tool provider iFixit. Notable names include:
- Broadcom. Although having apparently lost the wireless charging slot, Broadcom is still supplying an RF power amplifier module and a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo chip. With Apple's latest iPhones being the first ones to support the Wi-Fi 6 standard, the Broadcom combo chip inside of this year's iPhones might be a little more costly than the one inside of last year's models. As an aside, Broadcom might also be poised to see large RF content gains with next year's iPhones, thanks to 5G RF design wins.
- Skyworks (SWKS) . It's supplying multiple power amplifier modules, along with other RF chips.
- Texas Instruments (TXN) . It's supplying a battery charging chip and a power converter chip.
- Cirrus Logic (CRUS) . It's supplying an audio codec chip and audio amplifiers.
- Intel (INTC) . For now, Intel, which recently agreed to sell the majority of its smartphone modem business to Apple, is still supplying 4G modems and some complementary chips to Apple. However, Qualcomm (QCOM) is expected to take the modem slot next year, as 5G iPhones arrive.
It's worth noting here that (against a backdrop of low expectations) early demand for Apple's latest flagship iPhones continues to look a little stronger than expected. While delivery times for many (though not all) versions of the standard iPhone 11 are now below one week on Apple's U.S. website, delivery times for the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max still generally stand at three to four weeks in the U.S., and two to three weeks in China. Aside from their camera improvements, the large battery life gains provided by Apple's latest flagships appears to be a key selling point.Of course, regardless of which features lead a consumer to buy a new flagship iPhone, stronger-than-expected shipments of them would be music to the ears of chip suppliers, many of whom have been feeling the effects of Huawei export restrictions, soft smartphone demand and a broader chip industry downturn.