Cellular Connectivity: LTE Expected

The iPhone has always used separate applications and baseband processors. The next model is not expected to be any different. The big addition with the upcoming iPhone will be a massive and much needed improvement in cellular connectivity. Put simply, the addition of both support for LTE in the Americas and perhaps a few other international markets, and TD-SCDMA support for China. Support for LTE is simply requisite for a high end smartphone at this point, and inclusion of TD-SCDMA is likewise requisite for any further growth in China.

The commercial availability of Qualcomm's second generation Gobi modems and transceivers will make this possible without the design caveats posed by the previous generation of LTE basebands. Specifically, caveats such the lack of a built in codec for voice, requiring the so-called Qualcomm SoC fusion scenario that required MDM9x00 to ship in conjunction with a Qualcomm SoC to enable voice (whereas MDM9x15 is natively voice enabled). That's to say nothing of power draw which improved over time for MDM9x00 with software improvements (such as inclusion of more DRX features), but still precluded inclusion in an iPhone without a battery penalty. There's a reason you see MDM9x00 in the iPad 3 with WiFi but not in the iPhone 4S, even though it was available for that product's release.

The part we've fingered for baseband in the next iPhone is Qualcomm's MDM9x15 platform, which is a 28nm TSMC device that includes support for Category 3 LTE TDD and FDD, up to Release 8 42 Mbps DC-HSPA+, GSM/EDGE, TD-SCDMA, and CDMA2000 1x, 1xAdvanced, and EVDO on the MDM9615 variant. This is the same IP block as what is already inside shipping MSM8960 SoCs and devices today, where we've seen great battery life and LTE performance. There's one further improvement as well which MDM9615 hopefully will have over the current MSM8960 implementation, and that's the inclusion of a new 28nm RF (as opposed to logic) transceiver named WTR1605, instead of the 65nm RTR8600. This new transceiver also includes even more ports (7 instead of 5 on RTR8600) which means we will see likely more 3G or 4G LTE bands supported in this upcoming device. Even without that improvement we'll see inclusion of LTE without any caveats.

Because 2x2 MIMO is mandatory for LTE Category 2 and above (and 2 receive diversity mandatory for all LTE categories), you can see how that top bottom RF window and antenna split we touched on earlier makes even more sense. Again, this isn't a big leap from the iPhone 4S which already features both receive and transmit diversity split between top and bottom antennas, but just further fits into the LTE iPhone puzzle.

A small note under the cellular category is that this will also likely continue to be where GNSS (GPS and GLONASS) resides, something the CDMA iPhone 4 and 4S both already have courtesy the MDM66x0 baseband inside. MDM9x15 bumps this slightly, from Qualcomm's GPSone with GLONASS generation 8 to 8A, though I'm not certain what all improvements come from that change in version.

The SoC NFC, Unlikely
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  • alxx - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    but do ordinary consumers really care about whats under the hood(unlike us) ?

    A phone that works and with good battery life.
    And whats on special at the carriers with a decent plan wins over the phone choice most of the time.
    Reply
  • swb311 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    False, iOS is a thrifty OS that uses resources far better and efficiently than an off-the-shelf component thanks to Apple's custom designed silicon. So it may not look the same on paper, but the processor will feel just as fast. No one needs a quad core phone yet (apps are not prepared) so why take the battery hit? I'd rather have an upclocked dual core honestly. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    "The iPhone is the new dumbphone"

    Considering that the iOS app selection is the best and largest of any mobile ecosystem, I'd say no, pretty much the opposite
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    "they mgiht go for dual A9 (they certainly won't go quad) but that's so far behind the top phones"

    Even most PC applications don't use quad-cores, forget smartphones. No smartphone multitasks applications enough where quads would really matter. We're a few years away from where quad core SoCs are needed in cellphones. Until then it is marketing for neckbeards who look at spec pages without regard to practical usage scenarios or performance.
    Reply
  • iampivot - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    What about a fingerprint scanner?

    It seems obvious that one could be included in the home button, which would facilitate instantaneous verification of the user when doing NFC purchases.
    Reply
  • 8steve8 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    no a15? Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Won't be ready and it wouldn't fit Apple's supply chain model to take a risk like that on the CPU. The article lays out the reasoning pretty clearly. Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Not a faster SoC really annoys me, Krait from Qualcomm and Tegra etc... Quad Core ARM A9,
    a simple die shrinks? Or may be they bump the Frequency to 1.5Ghz or higher?
    Reply
  • Dekker - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Even in the PC world the benefit of quad core is limited for many types of usage (email, web and office hardly benefit at all). I'm not convinced that absent a proper multitasking model in Android/iOS there is much benefit to going quad core (particularly if it reduces battery life). At this stage a slightly faster clock or more memory seems to be a more viable approach. Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    On PC we have Dual Thread from Single Core which accounts for 4 Threads with Dual Core. Mobile Dual Core we are still stuck at 2 threads. For the usage on mobile 4 threads will properly bring less benefits then on Desktop, but still large enough to warrant it. Having more then 2 threads for running the OS and Apps would help. Although we may wait big.LITTLE for that. Dual Core Cortex A7 + Dual Core Cortex A15.

    The Samsung GS3 has 4 Core 1.4Ghz SoC, I will have to see how Apple will pull its marketing and convince me to buy a Phone that is MUCH less powerful, and possibly even more expensive.
    Reply

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