Favorite Teardown Toys of 2014 – Part 1

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One of the perks of working at Teardown.com is that we get to try out and teardown everything from Apple’s devices to BMW’s Harman car radios.

And the best part? We don’t worry about how easy they are to repair or put them back together again. When a device arrives in our labs, our job is to tear-it-down, and oh what fun we have doing it!

That said, the Teardown team does have its favorites! There is not one analyst who hasn’t coveted one particular device or another over the past year. From pleading for us to assign them some phone or camera, to smiles and raised arms of joy when we hand them the box, it is obvious we all like electronic gadgets, some gadgets more than others.

So, this year we asked our analysts to share their favorite teardown of 2014. Since we had so many to choose from, we had to break this blog into two parts. Spoiler alert, the most common theme in their responses: the more challenging the device, the more they liked it.

Chad Davis
Chad David - Apple iPhone 6  

"When Apple finally introduced NFC to their lineup of iPhones in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, they implemented a completely different and much smaller type of NFC antenna compared to what we see in most smartphones and phablets. AMS' NFC Active Load Modulator / Booster (#AS3923), which Apple utilized allows for up to 100 times smaller NFC antenna design as claimed by AMS."

Figure 1 Apple iPhone 6
Figure 1 Apple iPhone 6

Mikulski
Krzysztof Mikulski - Apple iPhone 6 Plus  

“My favorite device for 2014 is the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Its intelligent design incorporated many high-end ICs, most marked with “Apple”. Apple’s use of the high-end display had great specifications allowed the images to really jump off the screen. The hardware designers also hid the antennas within the aluminum back enclosure, and used a new design for the NFC antenna – making it one of the most talked about mysteries for 2014. Overall, the iPhone 6 Plus has good quality and a solid construction making it my favorite device for 2014.”

Figure 2 Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Figure 1 Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Artur Szkopek
Artur Szkopek - Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

“For me, the most interesting device of 2014 is Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. It is the first smartphone with a fixed curved display manufactured using P-OLED technology. The unique feature gives the user a main display and also a second, side display for reading notifications independently from the main screen. The Note Edge also uses fast charging which can charge the device from 0 to 50% in just 30 minutes.”

Figure 3 Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
Figure 3 Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Mariusz Derlecki
Mariusz Derlecki - Samsung Galaxy K Zoom – half phone, half camera

“In July 2014, I analyzed Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, my favorite device for 2014. The first challenge for me was how to classify it. Is it a smartphone with great camera, or great camera with just a smartphone? Even today, I still wonder. The thing that distinguishes it as a great camera is the fact it has a 10x optical zoom and xenon flash – allowing the device to take some pretty amazing photos. Moreover, the Galaxy K Zoom is a full-featured, high end smartphone with a super AMOLED display – the better to view those awesome photos.”

Figure 4 Samsung Galaxy K Zoom
Figure 4 Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

Nathan Taylor
Nathan Taylor - Google Glass

“The Google Glass is another step towards seamlessly connecting humans to technology. The "Private Eye P4 Head-Mounted Display" was one of the first I can remember. Crude as the P4 was, the Google Glass has taken a much larger step from this early 1990's heads up display. The Glass is certainly a novelty at this time, but in every technological advancement it's necessary to crawl before you walk. Years from now the Glass will be looked on as a device that launched the imagination and boundless limits for integrating electronics into the human body.”

Figure 5 Google Glass
Figure 5 Google Glass

Next week we will wrap up the year of our favorite teardown toys and clear our plates for 2015.

Cruising in the New Connected Car

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The world loves the automobile.

In the U.S. it is estimated that there is a car for every 1.3 people and globally there are an estimated 1.1 billion cars on the road, track and paved paths that connect our people and our civilization. This is far more than Henry Ford imagined when the Model T took cars into mass production and these cars are getting more sophisticated every day. Leading that sophistication is the imbedded technology found in our daily vehicle.

Our car is a symbol of our way of life and often embodiment of our personal taste and lifestyle. In fact, I argue that this symbol has only be usurped by the mass adoption and personalization of the smart phone as a personal statement of who we are (or want to be). Thus, it is not hard to expect that these two devices would become an interlinked part of our personal make-up and perchance even out identity.

But enough about ‘smart phones’ let’s talk smart cars! Admit it, when peeking inside a new car, the center console is high on the list of things we check out first. Aside from actually driving a car, drivers increasingly seek a connected experience with their car, their peers, their family and their surroundings. The car’s infotainment systems (stock or add-on) is the ‘center piece’ of a well-designed room.

It contextualizes our travel. It feeds out emotions. It links family members in epic Christmas sing-a-longs that leaves the family dog howling ta the moon for hours after the trip is done. Now cars are even more connected, bringing real-time traffic, weather, email, entertainment, and more to the driver and occupants. Cars do this by connecting to our phone, satellites, and mobile routers. Ensuring that they and us cannot escape (err miss) all that funky weirdness that happens. And being in Austin we know weird. All the while these connected features extend beyond the infotainment systems and connect all the engine and safety modules making our cars more efficient, reliable and safe for us and our passengers.

But let’s get back to the car…or truck…or SUV….or hybrid… and its entertainment, because Route 66 is all about the music man.

Fortunately, the modern center console is no longer limited to just AM/FM radio stations and cassette tapes. (For those who don’t know what a cassette deck is, just think of the slim box of black string constantly trying to tie a knot around misplaced medal box between two rubber wheels). Center consoles today provide so many different options and features they are no longer referred to as just radios, but instead have an almost omniscient title - infotainment systems or for the really automotive verbose, head units.

At Teardown.com we like electronics, almost as much as we love our cars. And as such, we could not not teardown a modern head unit to see how far removed we now are from those pecky cassettes. In our most recent report, the Harman NBT infotainment system used in the BMW 3 Series, 5 Series, and some 7 Series models we found a bucket load of cool technologies. In fact this is a similar Harman system that is available in the BMW i3. (Spoiler alert: THAT WE ARE ALSO TEARING APART!!!)

Figure 1 BMW i3
Figure 1 BMW i3

BMW is a crafty lot. They have been building these fancy infotainment units into cars and updating them regularly. They are now in the 3 iteration of their head unit and like all company’s like cool new monikers that make them feel special. As such their branding for the current infotainment brain is called the NBT, which stands for Next Big Thing. Wow, wish I was that creative!

But we aren’t here to talk about head unit names, no matter how clever. Rather we wanted to know what makes this baby tick, tock, and even Rock. So we sent this off to our lab to meet it inevitable doom.

Inside, we found six separate antenna ports, several processors, a 200 GB hard drive for enough storage for the entire family’s playlist, and 9.8 GB of total system memory.

Figure 2 Autonet Cellular and WiFi Router
Figure 2 Autonet Cellular and WiFi Router

This Harman system also has WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity to link to other wireless devices. Bluetooth connectivity has been popular for some years now, but car manufacturers have started to include WiFi connectivity options more recently. However you don’t need to buy a BMW to have WiFi - automotive WiFi routers such as the Autonet Cellular WiFi Router are also available as aftermarket options and have been since 2009.

Most of the Harman NBT unit‘s enclosure is made of AZ91DT – a magnesium alloy. Magnesium has several advantages. It is lighter than aluminum, less-expensive, and requires less energy to recycle. With the upcoming CAFÉ and EU Emissions standards requiring cars to be more fuel efficient, cars need to be lighter and automakers are understanding magnesium alloys like AZ91DT can help achieve shedding that weight and reduce costs.

The component arrangement in Figure 3 shows the exploded component view of the Harman – a stout looking infotainment unit indeed, but since the majority of the enclosures were made from the lighter magnesium, the total unit weighed only 2.16 kg.

Figure 3 Harman NBT Infotainment in the BMW 3 Series
Figure 3 Harman NBT Infotainment in the BMW 3 Series

This unit appears to be part of Harman Kardon’s low-energy GreenEdge™ product line. Harman announced back in December 2011 a long-term partnership with BMW to provide the German automaker with audio systems developed on green innovations. So not only does this infotainment unit have features galore, it entertains using less energy while keeping the environment in mind.

Judging by the selfies our analysts sent to us from the 2014 International CES event in Las Vegas, there are many cool technologies coming to the market in the electric and driverless vehicles. And be assured, we will gladly get into a car that drives and parks itself just as long as that same car lets us play drums on our steering wheel to our favorite songs… when safely stopped, of course.

Want more auto? Check out the partnership between Teardown.com and Munro as we teardown the BMW i3 all-electric car.

Where will Wearables Take Us?

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At Teardown.com we have been very busy analyzing nearly 400 devices over the past year. Our work allows us firsthand knowledge of evolving technology trends; the growing sophistication in design requirements and techniques; and deriving the bill of materials costs for everything from a Withings Activity Tracker to the electronics used in a 2014 electronic vehicle, the BMW i3. Like many, we have been fascinated by the emergence of wearable devices and their ability to be integrated into our daily lives, improving health, collaboration, and further quantifying ourselves. As a result our labs have been very busy comparing devices we analyzed nearly two decades ago with the current tide of wearable devices as part of the Internet of Everything.

Defining what is a wearable, while not an enigma, does create a very broad segment of products serving a myriad of different needs. For example, if you glance over at Wearables.com, it is interesting to see just what is considered a Wearable! There are devices that span a range of products from Bluetooth necklaces, fitness bands, golf gloves, shirts, and even a camera yielding drone bracelet called a Nixie. (Full-disclosure: I WANT ONE!) Wearable applications range from consumer, to medical, to even military use. While there are challenges depending on a particular target market, most Wearable devices will have the similar challenges. First and foremost is how to power and charge the device. Second has to deal with matching the desired features to the multitude of sensors, imaging devices, and input devices available to choose from.

Features – Who Was First

At Teardown.com we have kept every device we have torn down over the past 15 years. This allows us to dust off a few boxes in our ‘device morgue’ to determine which wearable device really started the feature race. One of our early candidates that may just be the grandpappy of today’s wearable phenomenon is the Casio WQV-2 wrist watch with a built-in camera we tore down…way, way back in the 2000!


Figure 1 Casio WQV-2 Wrist Watch Camera

Notably, this watch (and its sister device the Casio Wrist MP3 Player) have physical designs tailored for the fitness and exercise market. In 2004, a non-fitness watch, the Fossil FX-3002, (a.k.a the “Dick Tracy Watch”), came to the market with a few “firsts” in its features arsenal. It was one of the first wearables to have inductive charging; one of the first Microsoft based devices with up-to-the-minute stock, sports, weather, and news updates using a FM sub-carrier radio. It was also one of the first Wearables to design an antenna into the watchband.

In 2009, OEMs started getting more aggressive in what could be designed into a Wearable with devices like the limited release of the LG GD910 Watch Phone. The LG GD910 was not the first cell phone wrist watch, but it was first to bring so many functions into only 90grams - voice calling, 3G data, a touchscreen display supported by Synaptics, a Broadcom BCM2046 for Bluetooth, and yes, a camera for photos and video calls. Its RF cellular design was squarely designed on an Infineon (now Intel) platform, with some support from Murata and Avago. Our research showed it required multiple antennas that were designed and assembled using techniques similar to many cell phones.


Figure 2 LG GD910 Watch Phone

Today’s Wearable Device

Limited release devices like the LG GD910 usually have high price tags, but they also push designs forward. Today, Teardown.com has over 100 wearable and wellness devices that we have analyzed over the past couple years in our library. And we have seen that these devices have quite a few things in common.

First, most have better rechargeable batteries than the Casio watches in the early 2000s. While not a surprise there, it is fascinating to see the PMIC (power management integrated circuit) evolution of the past decade! Second, new wearables are jam packed with more sensors from heart rate and pulse oximeters to accelerometers like the 3-axis accelerometer BMA250 from Bosch Sensortec or combination sensors like the 9-axis LSM9DS0 from STMicroelectronics. And no matter how few or many sensors are designed into a wearable device, they are required to connect to a RISC microcontroller or processor, such an Atmel AVR ATmega168PA or an ARM based controller.

Being part of the Internet of Everything means a device must be connected. As such, most Wearables have Bluetooth connectivity, with no noticeable dominant player. Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, Nordic, CSR, Qualcomm, and of course, Broadcom have all appeared in Bluetooth spots for multiple devices. Some of the wearable devices are using WiFi and Bluetooth combination ICs like the BCM4334, although some devices only used WiFi for software updates and rely on Bluetooth for main connectivity.

Packaging design also plays a large part in wearable design. At Teardown.com our x-ray machine sees lots of duty capturing 3D imagery of how the micro-electronics and often wafer level packaging have been cast into plastic, metal, and rubberized materials. Ultra-thin ribbons are seen connecting various components and subsystems to deliver advanced features to the user.

Wearables in 2015 and Beyond

Smart design choices in the all areas from battery to mechanical fabrication will be the goal in order to be competitive in the Wearable market. Take for example two similar devices, the Jawbone UP24 and the Xiaomi Mi Band. Overall, they have the same types of components, yet the Jawbone UP24 had an estimated 58% higher total manufacturing cost than the Xiaomi Mi Band.

 


 
Figure 3 Jawbone UP24 and the Xiaomi Mi Band

 

In 2015, Teardown.com will continue to analyze fitness bands and smartwatches as well as other interesting devices such as the Nymi cardiac signature security band, the Myo Gesture Control Armband, and the Mimo Smart Baby Monitor garment to just name a few. Of course, our list also includes the Apple Watch due out spring of 2015.

We already have our bags packed for the upcoming annual International CES event in Las Vegas, Nevada and are anxious to see what next year’s Wearables market has in store for us. We will be tweeting and blogging away while we immerse ourselves into the new season of tech gadgets. Will we see another Watch Phone or maybe a Wearable Valet band for a driverless BMW car?

September 2014: Apple Announcement

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We've seen a lot of Apple devices, but Apple's announcement today actually has us wondering - which is the more exciting product: the new 4.7" iPhone 6, the 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus, or the Apple Watch? Apple's normal behavior of releasing a new flagship phone powered by a new Apple processor is exactly what Teardown.com expected to see today with the iPhone 6 models and A8 processor. The rumors have been mounting for some time now that Apple would finally include NFC as well. This one turns out to be true, but it was delivered Apple's way - requiring their fingerprint TouchID and a built in Secure Element chip which resides on the new iPhones to make all NFC transactions. Market indicators lead us to believe that NXP’s PN547 has the NFC design win. TechInsights has already procured the chip and have started a detailed analysis. Also noteworthy - both phones will work using VoLTE, a new way of using 4G LTE networks to make voice calls over the internet. Currently, Verizon looks to be ahead of competitors Sprint and AT&T for delivery of VoLTE networks in the US. If VoLTE is too much to digest, the iPhone 6 will also allow for voice calling over WiFi, an expansion on their iMessage text application which alternates between a cellular network and a WiFi network depending on signal strength.

Teardown.com will post its quick turn analysis of the iPhone 6 Plus on September 19, 2014. The other benefit to Apple finally releasing a 5.5" phablet phone is we can now compare it to its number 1 rival product - the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

For quick turn teardowns on devices from Apple, Samsung, and more, please click here.

If you would like to be notified when the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Teardowns are complete, please click here.

Apple's event was one of the longest events seen in quite a while, running almost two full hours, but it was well worth the watch...literally. Apple announced they have entered the smartwatch market, and by the features and capabilities showcased today - the Apple Watch really is gearing up to be a true smartwatch. It too, will have a Sapphire Glass display covering a flexible, retina display, touch interactions, a control knob, NFC, a speaker, haptic sensors, heart rate monitor, gyroscope, accelerometer, inductive charging using Apple's Magsafe, and can be housed in a variety of propriety strap designs to fit the user's needs or mood. Unfortunately, there was no actual release date for the Apple Watch, just an “early next year", but when it does hit the stores, it will compete with the new LG Watch R, the Moto 360, and Apple's largest rival, the Samsung Gear Live S.

For more on Apple's investment in Sapphire Glass click here

Meanwhile - We Compare Apples to Fire Phones

Apple iPhone 6

Figure 1: Amazon Fire Phone vs. Apple iPhone 5S

Until the iPhone 6 arrives, Apple's current flagship phone is still officially the iPhone 5S, and since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo declared the Fire Phone a better product than the iPhone 5S, we will compare the two devices while we await the opportunity to analyze the iPhone 6 Plus later this month.

Product Cost Comparisons

Teardown.com has published reports for both the Amazon Fire phone and the Apple iPhone 5S, and estimates both devices' COGs to be almost the same.

Apple iPhone 6

Figure 2: Cost of Goods

The cost differences between the phones were in different areas such as a $35 USD delta for Integrated Circuit costs and about $11 for Modules. When all of the differences were taken into account, the end result was less than a dollar between the two phones.

Product Design

Looking at the summarized product specifications below, the devices are somewhat unequal from a hardware perspective. The Fire Phone has a total of six cameras, a larger display, more RAM, and even NFC. Yet even with these seemingly superior advantages, the sales numbers of the Fire Phone are rumored to be less than stellar, while the iPhone 5S remains to be a popular product even after a year of its release.

Apple iPhone 6

Figure 3: Amazon Fire Phone vs. Apple iPhone 5S

Ignoring COGs, sales numbers, and software applications, both phones are at their cores mobile devices. Looking at each of their functional blocks several notes can be made in regards to the phones' RF designs.

First, Amazon uses the Snapdragon 800 Baseband / Applications processor, while the iPhone 5S uses a separate Qualcomm MDM9615M modem and their own A7 processor to run their iOS. A second note, the Fire Phone has four main RF antennas, an RF transceiver, and an additional RF receiver versus the iPhone 5S having only two main RF antennas total and one RF transceiver. Also missing from the iPhone 5S was any type of envelope tracking technique for its RF power amplifiers. Teardown.com has noticed envelope tracking becoming more common for devices such as the Amazon Fire Phone with multiple LTE bands.

Apple iPhone 6

Figure 4: Package Marking Image of Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Baseband/Applications Processor

Apple iPhone 6

Figure 5: Amazon Fire Phone - General RF Block Design

Apple iPhone 6

Figure 6: Apple iPhone 5S - General RF Block Design

The Fire Phone also had Qualcomm's recently introduced QFE2320 - a single-die CMOS, multi-mode, multi-band RF power amplifier and antenna switch IC. This allows Amazon to use only one other RF semiconductor manufacturer for its RF power amplifiers where Apple designed its RF power amplifiers using four different manufacturers.

To be fair, the QFE2320 was not available last year to be utilized in the iPhone 5S so it will be interesting to see if either it or its Qualcomm companion QFE2340 will make it into the new iPhone 6 phones. Since Apple announced their new phones will work with over 200 LTE carriers worldwide, we have our suspicions of what we will find when we open up the case on September 19 and we will let you know just as soon as we know.

Apple's Investment in Sapphire Glass

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From their new plant in Arizona, GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) is providing the new sapphire lenses for Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones. Apple provided approximately $578 million of seed money to get the facility up and running for the sapphire production. This investment will be repaid over five years, starting in 2015.

GTAT expected their 2014 revenue guidance to be between $600 and $800 million with its sapphire segment comprising up to 80% of the year’s total revenue. This has since been updated to yearly revenues of $600 to $700 million.

Using this data as a guide, GTAT’s sapphire segment should generate a 2014 revenue between $480 to $560 million. In 4Q13 GTAT'S sapphire segment had a revenue of $18.8 million. However, their 2014 first quarter sapphire segment revenue dropped to only $5.6 million but then increased to $44.1 million in 2Q14. This increase probably includes the initial orders from Apple. If we use $24.4 million (the combined 4Q13 and 1Q14 revenues) as a baseline for GTAT's sapphire segment performance in the first half of 2014 (the actual will be different), Apple’s order revenue for 2014 is expected to be between $455 and $535 Million which is approximately 94% of GTAT’s sapphire segment revenue.

In July 2014, the Wall Street Journal reports Apple has placed orders for 70 to 80 million iPhone 6 and 6 plus units. At 70 million units, using Apple’s order revenue above, the estimated sapphire unit cost will be between $6.50 and $7.75. If the number of placed orders is closer to 80 million units, this range should drop to $5.70 to $6.70. While the yearly performance of both companies (and iPhone 6 volumes) remains to be seen, we are expecting the average sapphire lens unit cost to be between $6 and $8.

 

Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 - GPS Edition Teardown

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Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are no longer confined to the battlefield as hobbyists and commercial uses are on the rise. The FAA struggles to take an official stance on the use of drones as the proliferation of the unmanned aircraft has resulted in some near-collision occurrences and safety concerns. With Amazon and other companies testing delivery by drone options, one thing is clear: commercial interest in drones is a new market waiting to explode.

AR Drone Teardown

Teardown.com analysts have recently performed a teardown of the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – GPS Edition and found that the $349.99 has a BOM cost of $137, including the GPS Flight recorder. Upon opening the drone, we found 2 main circuit boards, one for processing and communication, and one for motion control.

Figure 1 below shows Parrot’s use of Micron DDR2 256MB memory in a POP package over Texas Instrument’s OMAP3630 Applications Processor. Other major IC’s are Micron’s 128MB flash memory, Texas Instruments Power Management + USB solution, and Atheros Low-Power 802.11 b/g/n WiFi controller.

AR Drone TeardownFigure 1: IC Identification

Also interfacing with the main board is the Motion Control Board shown in Figure 2 below. The Drone uses the combination of Bosch BMA150 Accelerometer and BMP180 Barometric Pressure Sensor, Invensense IMU-3000 Gyro & Motion Processor, and Microchip PIC24HJ Microcontroller for Ultrasonic Sonar Control. Controlling the drone using Parrot’s free app is certainly aided by the addition of the gyroscope and accelerometer. Flight stability provided by counter measures to the outputs of these sensors helps the drone to respond on its own to light bumps or windy conditions.

AR Drone TeardownFirgure 2: Motion Control Board

Two Kobitone ultrasonic transducers seen in Figure 3, one 400SR (receiver) and one 400 ST (transmitter) work with the PIC24 Sonar Controller to monitor the AR 2.0 drone’s flight altitude. There is also an AKM Semiconductor 3-Axis Compass on the Sonar board shown below in Figure 4.

AR Drone TeardownFigure 3: Sonar Board - Ultrasonic Transducers

AR Drone TeardownFigure 4: Sonar Board

The included GPS Flight Recorder Module contains a Telit Wireless Solutions GPS receiver and also 4GB of user-accessible NAND flash for storing video and picture captures. The GPS module plugs into the AR.Drone’s USB port. See Figures 5 and 6 below.

AR Drone TeardownFigure 5: GPS Flight Recorder Module

AR Drone TeardownFigure 6: IC Identification

A Look Inside the Samsung Gear Live Smartwatch

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A quick peek inside the teardown of the Samsung Gear Live revealed a design win for Cypress Semiconductor's TrueTouch® Gen5 touchscreen controllers.

Samsung Galaxy Live

Teardown.com's Product Analyst, Stacy Wegner confirmed that the “Cypress CYTMA545-44LQI33ABA capacitive controller replaced the previous design win of the Melfas touch controllers in Samsung's last two smartwatches, the Samsung Gear and Samsung Gear 2 Neo.”

Samsung Galaxy Live

The Gear Live implements the Cypress CYTMA545's water rejection feature, wake-on-touch mode, and uses only a portion of the CYTMA545's available 33 sense lines which helps Samsung conserve power for their latest smartwatch.

The design win adds to Cypress's April announcement of their TrueTouch® Gen4 design wins in five of Huawei's Ascend and Honor smartphones.

 

Automotive Tech Trends: The BMW 3-Series Camera

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At Teardown.com we analyze more than 400 devices a year searching for technology and market advancements that engineers and product teams can use when planning their business strategy. Our research clearly shows the automobile industry is entering a period of significant change. As vehicles move toward full autonomy, technology is being implemented in driver assistance, connectivity, and safety features in order to make it all possible.

What started as the simple seatbelt and collapsible steering columns, has developed into what AutomotiveWorld.com recently published as a comprehensive list of seventy-nine key safety, security and advanced-technology features that have been included on 2015 Chrysler Group vehicles. All this tech content has attracted the attention of some of the biggest names in the semiconductor industry. Companies such as Qualcomm, Broadcom and Intel are looking to gain an early dominance in the race to capture the automotive market.

Governments are also taking an increased interest in this space. Safety has always been a concern, at least since the early 1960’s and the precedent was set when seat belts were originally required in all new vehicles as a result of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 209. Since then research has shown that when used, lap/shoulder seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent.

Fast forward to 2014 where, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are 210 fatalities and 15,000 back-over injuries per year with children under 5 years and adults over 70 years of age being the victims in a whopping 57 percent of the fatalities. Recently, in an effort to reduce injury and death resulting from these types of accidents, the NHTSA issued a mandate that requires rear visibility equipment on all new vehicles manufactured on or after May 1, 2018 and weighing less than 10,000 pounds. Considering an annual production of 60+ million passenger cars, the NHTSA mandate will have an immediate impact on the electronics industry, creating a boon for developers and manufacturers of camera and related integrated circuit technologies.

With that in mind, the analyst team at Teardown.com is dissecting the Rear View Camera module found in the current BMW 3 Series. To understand the technology and design choices inside, we procured this $400 device and proceeded with the TEARDOWN.

Below, you will see several images that were taken before we actually put a knife to the module. These images exhibit external details for engineers to examine and compare with their own designs and technology choices. In the first image (see Figure 1) the outer camera lens is clearly visible and is approximately 1 cm2 in diameter. You can also see that the part measures roughly 20cm2 and includes a high temperature, polycarbonate (PC-ASA) cover.

Figure 1: BMW 3-Series PN 66.53 924.351-01 rear view camera

Figure 1: BMW 3-Series PN 66.53 924.351-01 rear view camera

The second image (see Figure 2) is an x-ray which shows the arrangement of the image sensor and lensing.

Figure 2: X-ray image of BMW 3-Series PN 66.53 924.351-01 rear view camera

Figure 2: X-ray image of BMW 3-Series PN 66.53 924.351-01 rear view camera

Once the module was disassembled we see (as expected) that the PCB board is relatively simple. In Figure 3 we can see components from Infineon and NXP Semiconductor and, after removal and inspection, a CMOS image sensor from OmniVision. Given our familiarty with these vendors and the processes used, our estimates for the cost of the device are between $50 and $75 USD. Given the imprtance of the technology, that isn’t a bad margin when the cost we paid was nearly $400 USD.

Figure 3: BMW 3-Series PN 66.53 924.351-01 rear view camera board

Figure 3: BMW 3-Series PN 66.53 924.351-01 rear view camera board

The value of a teardown report is in the detailed cost analysis which is permanently documented in a database common to all of the other devices which have been evaluated at Teardown.com over the years. Each Deep Dive report includes a complete bill-of-materials (BOM) along with cost breakdown information and photographs detailing the various subassemblies. Once completed, Deep Dive reports, or abbreviated Survey reports, can be downloaded by subscribers to our service or, for a fee, by the general public visiting our website. Reports are used by companies for reconnaissance of intellectual property (IP) violations, discovery of a product's true cost to manufacture, examinations of specific design aspects, and any number of different ways determined by their background, culture and capabilities.

Comparing Apples to Amazons

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The Apple TV (3rd generation) model A1427, was released in March 2012 and torn down and a Bill of Materials was generated in June 2012. At the time, the BOM was estimated by TechInsights™ Teardown.com at $70.30. Roughly 2 years later, in April 2014, Amazon released their Fire TV, which was torn down in May 2014 with a cost estimate landing at $92.99. The cost comparison below compares costs at the time of their respective teardowns. Be advised that in the two years since Apple released their TV, the BOM for that unit is likely to have dropped since our initial analysis.

Both units have a retail price of $99. From a cost at launch standpoint as shown in Figure 1, Apple appears to be making a better profit at nearly $30 compared to Amazon at $6. This ignores and channel margin, which is likely ~20%. An advantage of Amazon is that it sells the lion™s share of its product so it limits payments additional reseller margins. But make no mistake, neither company is looking for unit profits, both are seeking to continually unleash the profits of streaming media services to the growing number of connected consoles worldwide.

Being a 2014 product, it is not surprising to find that the Fire TV comes with a faster processor, more SDRAM memory, MIMO dual-band WiFi, 5.1 surround sound and a Bluetooth driven remote for non-line-of-sight control. The device also comes with a very interesting new IC from SiTime, more about them in a coming blog.


Key Design Wins Include:

Processor:
Qualcomm gets the processor socket with a 1.7GHz Quad-core Snapdragon S4 incorporating an Adreno 320 graphics processor along with the associated Qualcomm PMM8920 power management IC.

WiFi/Bluetooth:
Qualcomm also wins with the Qualcomm Atheros QCA6234 dual-band 2x2 MIMO WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n & Bluetooth 4.0 part.

SDRAM Memory:
Micron provides the 2 Gigabytes of DDR2 SDRAM memory onboard that is stacked on top of the Qualcomm APQ8064T processor.

NAND Flash Memory:
For non-volatile memory, Toshiba provides an 8 Gigabyte multi-chip memory part.

Bluetooth Remote:
The Bluetooth connected remote is powered by a Texas Instruments M430F5435A mixed signal microcontroller. Also found on the remote is a Texas Instruments CC2560 single chip Bluetooth IC, an Audience eS305 voice processor and a Bosch Sensortec BMA150 3-axis accelerometer.

Figure 1: Cost stackup between Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV v. Apple TV

Connectivity

At the time of launch, Apple TV™s connectivity, which included WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI and 10/100 Ethernet, and had a higher initial cost than the Fire TV. But leveraging new technology from the past 24 months, the Fire TV incorporates a much faster and more expensive Qualcomm Atheros QCA6234 MIMO WiFi solution.

MIMO is important because it allows the simultaneous use of two or more transmit/receive channels to boost throughout data rates. The QCA6234 is a 2 x 2 (2 transmit/2 receive) MIMO part.

While Apple TV contained a Broadcom BCM4330 based Universal Scientific Industries (USI) WiFi/Bluetooth module that did not contain MIMO, Broadcom has not been sitting still. Their BCM4354 WiFi/Bluetooth/FM radio part is 2 x 2 MIMO capable and now in production. It is likely that the BCM4354 or a module containing it will be found in the next generation of Apple TV.

Non-Volatile Memory (NAND)

Both units come with 8 GB of MLC NAND Flash. While Teardown.com priced the Apple TV memory at $1.60 (higher than Fire TV) current costing for the same memory is less expensive. Both Apple and Amazon source their NAND flash from Toshiba, which, barring any volume pricing implications, should have them at cost parity at a given point in time.

Volatile Memory (SDRAM)

The Apple TV comes with 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM while the Fire TV came equipped with 2GB DDR2 SDRAM. The cost, which again is at time of teardown, has the Apple TV™s cost approximately $1.50 higher than Fire TV at $4.54. In 2014, we expect Apple to be paying closer to $2.40 for this memory part. This would make it $2.00 cheaper than Fire TV™s memory.

It is notable to remark that be going from 512 MB to 2 GB that Amazon will have faster response time to new apps as well as receive a boost to streaming and playing the latest HD content. This jump further amplifies the readily available memory IC choice by product vendors today.

Processor

The applications processor in the Apple TV is a 1GHz, dual-core (one core is disabled) is a 2nd generation A5 processor. Analysis on this chip was done by TechInsights and can be found here. It is a die shrink version of the processor first seen in the Apple iPhone 4S. The Fire TV runs on a Qualcomm 1.7 GHz quad-core Krait 300 processor with an Adreno 320 graphics processor. The Fire TV provides more horsepower with an approximate $7.50 premium. However, if we assume Apple has been able to shave off cost from their A5 over the past two years, the premium would increase to about $10.00.

Figure 2: Apple A5

Apple A5 Processor

Figure 3: Qualcomm APQ8064T

Qualcomm APQ8064T Processor


Power Management and Audio

Apple™s 338S1040 (made by Dialog) power management and audio IC is significantly cheaper than Fire TV™s Qualcomm PMM8920 IC. Apple™s $1.47 power management IC is a single die part with smaller area compared to Qualcomm™s $4.20 two die IC.

Non-Electric Parts

Based on inputs from our customers and industry expertise, the costing methodology we used to estimate the Apple TV has significantly changed since we costed it. At first glance, it appears that Apple has a more cost efficient design, but when employing the new model to those parts, Apple™s non-electric parts increases to $8.29, compared to $9.70 for the Fire TV. A description of the costing methodology change is at the end of the article.

Other Parts

At the time of launch, Apple™s other parts came in at about $10. We expect that the Apple TV would have dropped into the $9.50 range by this point due to manufacturing efficiencies and a decline in the cost of these parts by various suppliers. Fire TV currently has $13.29 worth of other parts. The 10 layer main circuit board is approximately $3.50 more expensive than its Apple counterpart and accounts for the bulk of the cost difference.

Supporting Materials

Without the remote controls, Apple TV™s supporting materials comes out to $2.80 while Fire TV™s supporting materials comes out to $3.12. So, there are no major differences here. However, Apple™s IR remote is costed at $4.15 while the Fire TV™s Bluetooth remote comes in at $13.19. The Fire TV™s remote has a $1.55 Texas Instruments mixed signal microcontroller, a $0.92 Bluetooth solution, a $0.81 3-Axis accelerometer, a $0.59 voice processor, two microphones and more. All told, it is a more costly, more capable remote.

Fire TV Bluetooth Remote

The Bluetooth remote is powered by a Texas Instruments M430F5435A microcontroller. It contains a Texas Instruments CC2560 Bluetooth IC, a Bosch Sensortec eS305 3-axis accelerometer, Audience eS305 voice processor and two MEMS microphones.

The Voice processer is a very interesting innovation from Amazon because it moves the interaction with the console into the growingly popular voice control world of SIRI. Further from a bundled services perspective Amazon is using voice to drive people to its search engine, thus allowing it to further present and promote its products and services.

The accelerometer does not appear to have a documented usable functionality associated with it at the present time. It may be usable for certain games, but this has yet to be verified.

Final Test and Assembly

Along with better capability come higher assembly and test costs. The Fire TV, with its Bluetooth based remote, MIMO WiFi and more, requires an additional $0.65 in this area.

Other Observations

Both units are small boxes of comparable size. When you open them up, Apple chose to embed a 2.5 Watt power supply in the box while Amazon used a whopping 16 Watt external power supply. Amazon™s power supply is so large that it blocks access to an adjacent wall outlet.

In order to fit the power supply inside the Apple TV, Apple had to increase the component density on their circuit board. They also managed to do so with an 8 layer board that was estimated at $3.12. Amazon on the other hand, used a larger, more expensive 10 layer board that cost $6.53 resulting in a cost difference of $3.41 for the board. It is worth noting that the Fire TV board in figures 4 and 5 have a significant amount of green space. Had they packed their electronics more densely, they would have had a smaller, cheaper board.

Figure 4: Amazon Fire TV Boards Side 1

Fire TV Board

Figure 5: Amazon Fire TV Boards Side 2

Fire TV Board 2

Figure 6: Apple TV Board Side 1

Apple TV Board

Figure 7: Apple TV Board Side 2

Apple TV Board 2

Apple TV & Amazon Fire TV Closing Thoughts:

While the Apple TV had an estimated bill of materials cost of $70 in July 2012, supply chain efficiencies and other cost reductions should have reduced that number significantly by now. Combine this with a constant retail price of $99, and you get a business case that improves over time.

The Amazon Fire TV outperforms the Apple TV in features and speed, but that is hardly a surprise given it launched just over two years after the Apple TV. Apple has not been standing still and there are rumors of a new Apple TV with Kinect type remote-free UI support.

Cost Methodology Change:

After receiving consistent feedback from our customer base, we brought in someone with knowledge on mechanical costing to make recommended changes to our mechanical cost model. Up to this point, our model calculated cost based on weight and material composition, and then multipliers were used for various types of processing (fabrication techniques, coatings, processes, processing operations, etc.). While our new model calculates base cost from weight and material composition, multipliers are only used for formation techniques (moldings, extrusions, stampings, etc.). For coatings, our new model uses a base coating cost and takes into account the part area to be coated along with a process yield. Likewise, for processing operations (inserts, drilled holes, heat staking, printings, etc.) are calculated based off a base cost, quantity of occurrence and yield factor. The results are now much closer to feedback received.


 

Connectivity and Sensors Blog Post Part 2

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Today’s blog will discuss the Near Field Communications (NFC) hardware, as well as barometric and humidity sensors found in today’s smart devices.

Since July 2012, Teardown.com published 87 Deep Dive Teardown analyses in the Mobile Devices channel that covers phones, tablets, laptops and other devices. These devices represent a broad sample across manufacturers, price tiers and markets

Of this sampling of devices, the number of units and percent of sample in which these functions were observed can be seen in Table 1.


Table 1. Feature Prevalence

Connectivity

NFC Hardware

The current players in NFC are NXP Semiconductor, Broadcom, Inside Secure and STMicroelectronics. NXP’s NFC radio chipsets are most often identified in our teardown analysis with both the PN544 and PN65 integrated circuits appearing 13 times each. The NXP parts have been observed since the 3rd quarter of 2012. The PN65 was last seen in a device that shipped in June 2013. The PN544 was observed in a device launched in February 2014.

Broadcom’s ICs showed up in nearly a third of our teardowns with their BCM20793 and BCM20794 parts, appearing 6 times each. Both Broadcom parts have been seen in recent teardowns. The number of occurrences and their share can be seen in Table 2.

Table 2. NFC Hardware

Connectivity

Barometric Sensors

Barometric sensors are only starting to gain traction in mobile devices. They first appeared in the Samsung Galaxy S III (GT-I9300), which launched in mid-2012. It carried the STMicroelectronics LPS331AP sensor, which appeared once more in the Nokia Lumia 1020. The Bosch Sensortec BMP180 has the most occurrences with 9 design wins and its apparent successor, the BMP280, was observed twice. The BMP180 has been seen throughout the data sample period, while the BMP280 showed up in November, 2013. It is interesting to note that the STMicroelectronics IC is approximately 2x the cost of the Bosch Sensortec parts based on our costing models. Table 3 shows their occurrence information.

Table 3. Barometric Sensors

Connectivity

Humidity Sensors

Humidity sensors were introduced to the mobile device space by the Samsung Galaxy S4 (GT-I9505) in April 2013. Only one other device with this function has so far been observed in our Deep Dives, that being the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (SM-N900A). Both units use the Sensirion SHTC 1.

 

Finally Inside the Google Glass

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Back in December 2011, the first hints appeared that Google was developing wearable glasses. By April 2012, Google Glass made their first appearance when Sergey Brin wore a prototype to the Foundation Fighting Blindness event in San Francisco. Finally, in April 2014, Google made a version available to customers for wider testing.

At the heart of Google Glass is an OMAP 4430 processor by Texas Instruments. It is supported by 2 gigabytes of SDRAM and 16 gigabytes of NAND Flash, a WiFi/Bluetooth module and a 5 Megapixel camera. Powering it all is a 570 mAh Li-Polymer battery.

Teardown Blog Google Glass

Teardown Blog Google Glass

The OMAP 4430 architecture observed in our teardown is presently and end of life/obsolete solution from Texas Instruments. This hints at a long development time and suggests that either Google or Foxconn made a large parts purchase or they are planning a limited product run of this generation. If Google is planning a second generation Glass product it will likely be based on a processor by Intel, NVidia or Qualcomm.

With a ‘special Tuesday’ price of $1500 and a Bill of Materials of less than $100, it appears that Google is making a fortune from each sale, but given the long development cycle and its associated costs, Google is likely to be much closer to a small profit or loss or break-even.

To view the entire teardown of Google Glass and an estimated bill of materials, visit the Google Glass Quick Turn Teardown

15 Years of Smartwatch Evolution

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At Teardown.com we have done nearly 2,000 teardowns over the past 15 years, infact some of our earliest were Smartwatches. As we recently expanded our medical device teardown program to include the rapidly growing wearable “Internet of Things” space – once again smartwatches are of particular interest.

The smartwatch is not a new trend, we were tearing them down in early 2000 when Casio ruled the "smartwatch" category (see Image 1), with its trio of watches the WMP1, WPV1 and BIZX HBX-100. At the time these showed extreme promise as the devices of the future and promised to untether us from our desktop computers, as such Teardown.com tore down two out of three of these devices in our research.

Image 1: Casio’s WMP1, WPV1 and the BIZX HBX-100

Teardown Blog Smartwatches

With this trio of smartwatches Casio offered early adopters access to features like PDA, pc connectivity, built in camera technology, and music right on your wrist. Specifications for these devices included things like 32MB of memory for up to 30 minutes of music or a 28,000-pixel monochrome CMOS image sensor. While far from the technology seen on hips, wrists or ears today these were truly groundbreaking devices in the 20th Century. Yet, the demand and sales volumes for the devices originally priced between $150-350 never really materialized. It is worth noting that the watches above now sell for $200-1,000 on eBay as collectors’ items.

So why if this market kicked off over 15 years ago, why will it last now? We believe vendors and start-ups have access to chipsets and tools to design and manufacture truly innovative devices that provide a return (and value) when used. From a social aspect, in 2013, the terms Internet of Things and Quantified Self became mainstream in the technology industry and the products being produced under these monikers have quickly found a foothold in mainstream society. Innovation in this segment has also been boosted by Kickstarter campaigns which provide unprecedented crowd funding (see Pebble’s story). From a technology Teardown perspective, our Wearable and Wellness research focuses on key IoT developments in Health and Connectivity.

Our vantage point for these devices comes specifically from the aspect of the incorporation of technology, and a healthy mix of cutting edge and proven is required to both product dependable results, but also at price points that will attract a potentially broad user base. With that in mind we will compare four teardowns we’ve done over the past year. This blog discloses some of the key technology design wins and technologies we have documented in our wearable teardowns of four leading smartwatches, these include the Basis Science (now part of Intel) Carbon Steel Ed. B1, Pebble’s PebbleWatch, Qualcomm’s Toq, and the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It is interesting to note all four smartwatches use the STMicroelectronics ARM 32-Bit Cortex Microcontroller and have standardized on a Lithium Polymer battery module.

Figure 1 compares the four devices with the STMicrodevices M3 or M4 MCU, Frequency, Built in Flash, Built in SRAM, Package Pin count, cost of IC, Model MCU and Package size.

Figure 1: STMicroelectronics ARM 32-Bit Cortex MCU M3 or M4

Teardown Smartwatches Chart

At Teardown.com we see a bright future for wearables. In our research and discussions with technology research firms and the analyst community there is consensus that the value these devices bring to our connected lifestyles is unmistakable. Moreover the benefits of monitoring our personal data in a real time way to improve our lifestyle, health, and relationships, provide real value to the user. Something an APP just can’t do as easily. We’ll continue to teardown innovative product that reach the market and look at the evolving technologies and systems that are being used. You can follow our progress at http://www.techinsights.com/teardown.com/teardown-wearable-wellness-tech/  

Our Teardowns: A Quick Comparison

The Basis Carbon Steel (release date 1/3/2014), it has the most features, including recording heart rate, skin temperature, ambient temperature, walking/running movements and sweat levels. The sensors for the Basis are located on the bottom, they include optical blood (heart rate), 3-Axis Accelerometer (body movements), Perspiration Monitor (workout intensity) and Skin Temperature (exertion levels). Collected data can be transferred using Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR or USB port to a computer or laptop for uploading to the Basis server.

Image 2: Basis Science Carbon Steel B1

Teardown Blog Smartwatches

The Qualcomm Toq Smartwatch (release date 12/02/2013) is an interesting wearable and is a showcase for Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology. The Toq pairs to an Android or IOS smartphone via a Bluetooth, receiving notifications and applet content. The Toq’s touchscreen offers to save power by utilizing front-light illumination display technology. Other features include vibrational alerts, airplane mode, and stereo bluetooth audio. Recharging is done via Qualcomm's Wipower LE wireless inductive charger.

Image 3: Qualcomm TOQ

Teardown Blog Smartwatches

The Samsung Galaxy Gear (release date 9/15/2014) uses an AMOLED display and touchscreen. This technology is also preferred in Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone products. The phone was the first to be introduced with Google’s Android 4.1.2 "Jelly Bean" operating system on an 800 MHz single-core Samsung Exynos 3 processor with 512MB RAM. Other features include two microphones, speaker, and a 1.9MP BSI CMOS camera with 720p HD video recording capability.

Sensors include a 6-axis MEMS gyroscope and accelerometer. Connectivity is provided by Bluetooth Smart 4.0 and NFC. Featured apps include Atooma, which enables the connection of software and hardware sensors on the Galaxy Gear with hardware sensors on other smart devices to create context-specific operating instructions; Banjo, a social discovery app; Evernote, for capturing images, taking notes, and syncing files across devices; and Glympse, a real-time location app.

Image 4: Samsung Galaxy Gear

Teardown Blog Smartwatches

The PebbleWatch(release date 1/23/2013) originated from a Kickstarter Campaign. It can be argued that the Pebble reignited this nascent market and the interest of billions. It communicates via Bluetooth 4.0 low Energy with most iOS or Android-based devices. The display is made from e-Ink imaging film to deliver ultra-low-power performance. The Pebble will notify you of messages such as incoming caller ID, email, SMS (text messages), iMessage (IOS only), calendar alerts, Facebook/Twitter messages, and weather alerts. Sensors include a 3-axis MEMS accelerometer with gesture detection, 3-axis digital magnetometer, and ambient light sensor.

Image 5: Pebble PebbleWatch

Teardown Blog Smartwatches

From a design win perspective Suppliers that offer greater chip integration of connectivity as well as low power computing solutions will be best positioned as key suppliers to the Smart Watch market. These include Qualcomm, STMicroelectronics, and TI all of which have a stake in these products. Emergent technologies such as flexible substrates and displays will undoubtedly find a home in this market for obvious reasons.”

Samsung Galaxy S5 Teardown

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Announced at Mobile World Congress the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the latest evolution of the Korean electronics manufacturer’s market leading Android-based device. TechInsights’ Teardown.com got our hands on one of the ‘early’ release versions and were excited when we found ours contained Samsung’s latest version of its Exynos processor, the Exynos 5422 with its 1.6 Ghz 8-core architecture. This processor replaces the Exynos 5410 we found in our teardown of the Galaxy S4 and has 4 ARM Cortex A15 cores and 4 ARM Cortex A7 cores.

The phone also shows off Samsung’s SuperAMOLED display architecture, increasing from 5” to 5.1” with resolution remaining at 1920x1080. The phone also comes with a bevy of new sensors and we were excited to discover Maxim’s new Heart Rate Biosensor OS21A in our device. In addition to the Maxim socket win we found leading parts from Invensense (MPU-6500 6-Axis integrated gyroscope and accelerometer), Silicon Image’s Sil8240 MHL 2.0 Transmitter with HDMI input, the NXP PN547 NFC controller, and two wins by Intel with the X-Gold 636/PMB-9820 Baseband Processor & Power Management and the SMARTi UE3/PMB 5745 GSM/WCDMA RF transceiver.

The Galaxy S5 is so loaded with sensors that it lists a class best functionality by cramming all the following into its tiny chassis. This included WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, WiFi direct, Bluetooth V4.0, NFC, GPS, USB V3.0, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, barometric sensor, humidity sensor, Infrared, Proximity/Gesture, Heart rate, and (take a breath) a Fingerprint Sensor.

Even with all these sensors, a bigger battery (2800 mAh versus the S4’s 2600 mAh), and the slightly bigger screen Teardown.com’s costing estimate is only $207.00. Please note this is the Exynos version with GSM not LTE. With over 14 variants of the phone expected to hit the market we expect to teardown several other versions in the coming weeks. Nonetheless, based on announcements and our costing database of current Qualcomm LTE (Snapdragon parts) we expect the cost of that device to only increase by about $10 to the US$215 range.

Other design wins included chips in our Galaxy S5 SMG900H model included the Skyworks SKY77615 GSM power Amp, the Wolfson WM5110E Audio Hub codec, Maxim’s MAX77804K Power SoC, STMicroelectronics LPS25H Pressure Sensor, Yamaha’s YAS532B 3-axis electronic compass, and Broadcom’s BCM47531 GPS receiver. Click here to for design wins, teardown sequence photos, board shots, component identifications, an estimated bill of materials and cost comparison to previous Galaxy models

Bluetooth Smart at Teardown.com

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Low energy compliant Bluetooth (Bluetooth LE) technology was originally introduced by Nokia under the name Wibree in 2006. In June, 2010, it was adopted into the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s specification 4.0, enabling the expanded use of Bluetooth technology in the areas where optimizing power consumption of portable devices is key. The focus initially on the role of this technology in benefiting mobile phone battery life. In 2011 we began seeing BLE being more commonly referred to as Bluetooth Smart.

Beyond mobile phones Bluetooth Smart is really empowering designers and architects of the Internet of Things phenomenon. At TechInsights’ Teardown.com we teardown nearly 400 devices a year and over the past three years we have seen Bluetooth Smart go from obscurity to mainstream in mobile devices and become a standard in Wearable and Wellness technology research.

Given this, Teardown.com decided to take a quick look at the Bluetooth Smart adoption rate in the consumer electronic devices we have analyzed. Since January, 2011, Teardown.com collected data on 547 Bluetooth enabled devices ranging from cellular handsets, tablets, computers, gaming machines, set top boxes and more. Bluetooth ICs were identified and categorized by Bluetooth specification 4.0 compliance.

Bluetooth Smart as seen in Adidas MiCoach Smart Run G76792


Teardown Blog Adidas MiCoach


Our findings illustrate the fast adoption of this technology. In early 2011, the application of Bluetooth Smart was captured in approximately 10% of the devices we analyzed. This increased by during the following 12 months to 56% of devices. For the entire year, the adoption rate was 34%. This adoption continued to accelerate, 2012 saw the usage grow from 53% to just over 80% with a yearly adoption rate of 68%. In 2013, the trend became a standard with the yearly average at >85% of phones, tablets, wearables and more using radios built on the Bluetooth Smart standard developed by Nokia


Teardown Blog Bluetooth Smart Devices


Drawing conclusions from this data, we expect to see full or nearly full adoption rate in 2014 and beyond as both Wellness and Wearables continues to expand. From a market leadership standpoint, three vendors have quickly broken from the pack in the Bluetooth Smart race. In products released in 2013 we found Qualcomm, Broadcom, and MediaTek as the providers of this technology in nearly 90% of devices we analyzed. Where Qualcomm and Broadcom are primarily seen in the Global who’s who of mobile devices, MediaTek has ramped quickly and is seen in the leading Chinese devices. Our data also shows Broadcom aggressively pursuing this market in China as well, especially with what we consider the high end Chinese Smart Phones.

Teardown Blog ZTE Nubia Z5S

Teardown Blog Gionee Elife E3

December 2013 also ushered in the new Bluetooth 4.1 specification, which is intended to improve usability, empower developer innovation, and enable the Internet of Things.

Radio Chipset Trends at Teardown.com

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Since July 2012, TechInsights’ Teardown.com has performed nearly 400 teardowns on mobile handsets and tablets, roughly 100 of these included full bill of materials analysis and costing analysis. Of these devices, 10% were WiFi only tablets, the remaining 90% were units that contained a cellular chipset (from 3G to LTE) of some kind inside. Based on our on-going research, the following provides a quick overview of our observations of major players in the area of cellular modem ICs, cellular RF transceiver ICs, separate applications processors, and WiFi/Bluetooth enabling ICs/modules.


Teardown Blog Cellular Tranceivers


Of the ~80 units we analyzed, Qualcomm was present in 70% of the devices making them the undisputed leader in our sample. This is also reflective of the vendor’s market share and their own claims as the leader in this space. While Qualcomm is the leader, however, this doesn’t mean they don’t have competition. In our teardowns, we also documented ICs from Intel (15%), MediaTek (10%) and 4 units were powered by other chipset vendors.

For RF Transceivers, we again documented Qualcomm appearing 76% of the time (some units had more than one part), followed by Intel (13%), MediaTek (9%) and Broadcom with the rest.

Qualcomm Intel Die Images

For separate processors, not integrated into the cellular modem IC, we see roughly half with separate applications processors. The bulk of these, 18 units, are of the Qualcomm APQ80xx family. Samsung Exynos processors account for ICs in 7 devices, Apple for 6, Nvidia for 5, Intel for 4 (tablets) and Texas Instruments for 3 (2012 vintage units). At that rate it isn’t surprising why TI exited the mobile application processor market in 2012.

90% of the teardown candidates came with WiFi, Bluetooth or both functions incorporated into the IC. The dominant player for these combo radio ICs was Broadcom (33% units) followed by Qualcomm (25%), Murata (10%) and a few others. It should be noted that Broadcom was the dominant IC that was integrated into our decap analysts of the modules made by Murata and others, having their WiFi/Bluetooth die embedded in the suppliers package.

Teardown WiFi Bluetooth

Teardown Broadcom Qualcomm Die Images

Clearly, Qualcomm is a dominant player, but they are not the only player. Samsung has been keen to marry up their high end Exynos processors with relatively inexpensive HSPA/HSPA+ cellular modems in some HSPA devices or use Exynos in their WiFi tablets. Qualcomm has yet to win the WiFi/Bluetooth space, but they are catching up to leader Broadcom.

For our next blog entry, we will go over other connectivity and sensors observed.

Automotive WiFi Security in the News (Again…)

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Recently, the team here at Teardown.com engaged in a discussion regarding a Forbes.com article which argues that a connected car can be easily hacked by a small hardware device.


This iPhone-Sized Device Can Hack A Car, Researchers Plan To Demonstrate

AutoBlogImage

Auto makers have long downplayed the threat of hacker attacks on their cars and trucks, arguing that their vehicles' increasingly-networked systems are protected from rogue wireless intrusion. Now two researchers plan to show that a few minutes alone …

Full article found here


Articles such as this have created an atmosphere of concern about the digital security of a "connected" car. Given that we have over 14 years’ of teardown experience with a wide variety of devices ranging from cameras to cars, I sought input from one of our analysts concerning this subject. Based on our discussion, we determined that while security with wireless strategies is an issue going forward, the implied simplicity of hacking is overstated.

Clearly, the issues raised in this article have been around for some time (the article quotes a wireless attempt from 2011). The original CAN bus (Controller Area Network) was developed by Robert Bosch GmBH in 1983 and, as a low level protocol, does not employ security measures but leaves that up to the application developer to implement. Based on our analysts’ knowledge, and a fact that was admitted to in the article, hacking into a vehicle's CAN bus first requires physical access. This contradicts the hacker's standard operating procedure of REMOTE access which, by its nature, leaves them relatively free from discovery by law enforcement. So, ignoring the major obstacle of physical access, it's pretty safe to say that most vehicles with a networked communications bus would present a potential target for hackers.

It should be pointed out that we do NOT want to downplay the importance of this potential security issue. Opportunities to hack into a vehicle's communications network do exist, but as we progress toward autonomous vehicles of the future, wireless technologies are becoming tightly integrated into critical safety systems, and security issues will be resolved out of necessity.

We at Teardown.com believe the reason this issue has garnered so much media attention recently is due to a heightened awareness of the lack of security for personal information, as well the proliferation of wireless vehicular communications via WiFi, Bluetooth and cellular connectivity. Possibly exacerbating this concern is the upcoming, overdue decision by the NHTSA on whether to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V) in all new vehicles, the technology of which is partially derived from the popular WiFi 802.11 standard (802.11p).

At Teardown.com we're focused on increasing our involvement in automotive teardowns. To date we have complete analysis of the Chevy Volt (from battery subsystems to infotainment ICs) as well as numerous other ECM, BNCM and GPS systems. We are excited to see what the future will bring and look forward to delivering the latest developments from worldwide leaders in automotive technology.

Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11p

http://www.safercar.gov/ConnectedVehicles/index.html

http://itsworldcongress.org/

http://www.sae.org/standardsdev/dsrc/

http://www.traffictechnologytoday.com/features.php?BlogID=464

Our First Blog Post

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I must say it is tough being the one tasked with writing our first official blog post, but I know once I break the ice, I soon will be accompanied by some of Teardown.com’s best. It is our intention to have key staff contributing to this blog on an on-going basis.

While I will be blogging about our company, what we are working on, recently completed teardowns, and industry trends, our Engineers and Product Analysts will be sharing their interesting discoveries made while performing teardowns on the latest devices that the internet of things, wearable technology, mobile devices and digital home industries have to offer. Oh, and we can’t forget about “Throw back Thursdays.” With our 15 years’ experience analyzing high tech devices and systems, our library is quite extensive and dates back to the late 90’s – this should make for some great vintage content.

Our plan is to create some great customer interaction on the blog. If you have any thoughts, questions, or feedback, please comment on our posts. We would love for you to join the conversation.

I am really looking forward to building this community.

Thomas Gallant
Product Marketing

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