Apple made notable design changes on the Verizon iPhone

Wed, Feb 16, 2011


By all accounts, the Verizon iPhone is the exact same as the iPhone 4 millions of users have grown to know and love. But under the surface, Apple has made some notable changes to the fundamental design of the device.

First and foremost, Apple addressed the “death grip” problem associated with the original iPhone 4 by fitting the Verizon iPhone with a dual antenna, a decision made possible by the fact that the Verizon iPhone doesn’t require a SIM card which frees up more space.

iSuppli recently tore down the CDMA iPhone and observed:

The first version of the design featured an all-in-one approach combining global positioning system (GPS), Bluetooth and wireless local area network into one segment of the antenna superstructure that was integrated into the iPhone 4’s enclosure. The new version employs a separate Bluetooth/WLAN antenna.

“Apple has decided to isolate the Bluetooth/WLAN antenna from the enclosure/antenna assembly,” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst, competitive analysis at IHS. “This design change leaves the top enclosure antenna segment to serve primarily as the GPS antenna and probably also as a CDMA diversity receive antenna. The use of antenna diversity is significant because this scheme improves signal reception performance.”

Antenna diversity, or dual antennas, helps signal attenuation and reception by switching back and forth on the fly depending on how a user happens to be holding the device and how it affects signal reception.

Some less conspicuous design changes discovered by iSuppli include:

The new CDMA iPhone 4 design also shows increased integration of semiconductor components through its use of Qualcomm Inc.’s MDM6600 baseband/RF transceiver, replacing the Infineon PMB9801 baseband chip used in the original universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS)/global system for mobile communications (GSM) version of the smart phone. The Qualcomm part not only provides support for the CDMA air standard required to make the iPhone 4 compatible with Verizon Wireless’ 4G wireless network, it also integrates GPS control circuitry, which was supported by a separate chip—Broadcom Corp.’s BCM4750—in the previous version of the iPhone 4.

“By using the Qualcomm baseband chip that integrates GPS, Apple can go without the discrete Broadcom GPS device,” Rassweiler said.

In another example of optimization in the design, the CDMA iPhone 4 features a new revision of WLAN/Bluetooth module from Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The module integrates Broadcom’s BCM4329 WLAN/Bluetooth/frequency modulation chip, which was in Murata’s module for the last iPhone 4 iteration.

“The Murata Wi-Fi combo module features the same core functional chip from Broadcom but has shrunk in size. Murata has years of experience with low temperature co-fired ceramic substrates into which passive components can be embedded, helping to keep overall module size small, and now even smaller.”


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