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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  • solipsism - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    "Thus it seems highly likely that Apple will also move to this chemistry given maturity and the tangible benefits it provides to battery lifetime."

    What do you mean by maturity and tangible benefits? Why couldn't any of these vendors used 3.8V before?
    Reply
  • mfenn - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    You don't just call up the battery fairy and ask her to set your battery to a certain voltage. Instead, a battery's terminal voltage is largely determined by the different compounds that you use as the anode and cathode, hence chemistry. Reply
  • aguilpa1 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Well I called up the battery fair..., she put me on hold. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Is the Battery Fairy a meme yet?

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6230/the-anandtech-p...
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    Well Motorola used the 3.8 V nominal chemistry for over a year successfully. I guess what I mean is that for Apple to ship that (and now we see Samsung doing the same with SGS3, Nokia with PureView 808, etc) the cell chemistry and manufacturing needs to be mature enough that they're guaranteed volume sufficient for it to not be the limiting component in the supply chain.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Penti - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    If the Koreans and Japanese can build the cells then the Taiwanese firms / suppliers building Apples batteries can also utilize 3.8 V chemistry obviously. Hardly a technology that Apple would push much but it seems the 3.8V nominal tech is mature. As you say. Tooling and process would appear to work out if it's already out in tens of millions of devices. Really depends on requirements from Apple, it's not like they have set their mind on a particular cell supplier or battery assembly company. If they can source it successfully from the battery suppliers I doubt they care much about the details further back the supply chain so long that they or those companies can keep up and deliver. It's technology only a few companies in the world have mastered, we in the west can at best hope to assemble the components here pretty much.

    Samsung SDI Cells according to the shots here, I would think they have that technology and manufacturing process well developed. Normally Dynapack and Simplo who assembles the batteries for them. We'll have to wait and see, at least they are hardly expected to move to high-capacity batteries. Don't know if BYD, LG Chem, Panasonic, Sony and the rest etc is ready to ship this chemistry though. Samsung SDI and LG Chem should have most of the market and have moved quite far along there. Using the best Samsung cells when it becomes a commodity makes sense I guess.
    Reply
  • Azethoth - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    You really do want to not blaze new trails with the battery since a wrong move can leave you with an incendiary product which is not that good for sales. Maturity means its been proven out on other devices that are not in your pants all day long. Reply
  • Jingato - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    And people say Apple is Innovative. Reply
  • Nfarce - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Well they are certainly innovative at destroying competition. Reply
  • swb311 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Destroying THE competition? Reply

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