|Gregory A. Quirk and
Jeff Brown, TechInsights
Mar 03, 2008
It is interesting to look at
the different ways that HTC and Nokia, two companies that have
very competitive and successful smart-phone offerings, arrived
at their latest products. HTC used its background as a
PDA manufacturer to create the TyTN 2, essentially
incorporating phone functionality into a PDA. Nokia came into
the smart-phone market from cell phones, so it needed to find
ways to increase functionality without substantially increasing
the size of its latest phone, the N95.
Unlike the low-cost cell phone market, where products boast few
bells and whistles beyond the ability to make and receive calls,
smart phones are all about features. The HTC TyTN 2 and Nokia
N95 are fairly comparable from a features standpoint. Both offer
Bluetooth, HSDPA, Wi-Fi and GPS. HTC has an edge in terms of
display size, battery and user interface, while Nokia offers
a better weight, camera resolution and user storage capacity.
Both companies have succeeded in increasing functionality,
but they have come about it from completely different
directions. When HTC first began designing smart phones, its
heritage in PDAs resulted in larger models, and required the
company to look at ways to increase functionality and decrease
the number of components in order to meet users' size and weight
expectations. HTC has consistently reduced the number of
packaged devices used, while increasing the number of dice per
package. This enables a very efficient design with little
duplication in on-chip functionality.
Nokia, meanwhile, has been increasing the number of chips per
phone, delivering a very effective design. Nokia can leverage
economies of scale, so that while the number of chips rises, the
company is still able to reduce the bill-of-materials cost,
engaging in a strategy of incrementalism to maintain common
devices across many platforms and adding new functions through
bolt-on features and devices.
One interesting aspect demonstrated by both companies has
been an overall loyalty to chip vendors. For example, the three
generations of HTC phones analyzed all had basebands from
Qualcomm, Bluetooth support from Texas Instruments and NAND
flash from Samsung. For Nokia, TI provided the applications
processors and Samsung the memory. The only substantial company
change came when TI got displaced by Cambridge Silicon Radio for
Bluetooth functionality, which is interesting given the
strong relationship Nokia and TI have developed over the years,
including creating devices together
Not only have the phones evolved over time, but so have the
flash memory used by HTC demonstrates this evolution. While
the die size has remained relatively consistent, at about 140 mm2,
the density has increased considerably.
memory used in the company's Universal product had a
256-Mbit capacity and was designed into a 160-nanometer process
lithography for a 1.8-Mbit/mm2 rating. The TyTN used a 120-nm,
1-Gbit Samsung flash with a 7.6-Mbit/mm2 rating. The
latest HTC phone, the TyTN 2, again used Samsung memory, but
this time it was created with a 90-nm process and offered a
2-Gbit capacity, resulting in a 14.2-Mbit/mm2 rating.
This evolution is a stark example of how semiconductor
manufacturers are helping advance capability without affecting
Another chip development over the years has come from
Qualcomm. As that company has integrated more functionality into
its baseband processors, more associated chips can be removed
from the board, freeing up space, reducing the bill of materials
and creating a more-efficient design. The Qualcomm MSM6250, used
in the Universal, had limited functionality for supporting
anything beyond the
baseband features. To make up for this, HTC designed in the
Intel (now Marvell) PXA270 for applications processing.
In the TyTN, Qualcomm's MSM6275 had more functionality, but
there were also more requirements for
multimedia applications, so two additional processors--the
Samsung SC32442 and AMD Imageon 2282--were included. The result
was a duplication of some functions, such as image processing,
which all three components offered.
The new TyTN 2 uses the Qualcomm MSM7200, which is part of
the company's convergence platform family. The device enables
all of the functionality required without the need for any
additional applications processors.
While HTC looked to Qualcomm for baseband and applications
support, Nokia turned to TI. For the baseband, Nokia and TI
worked together to develop Nokia-packaged, TI-die-marked
solutions. For the applications processors, Nokia used the TI
Omap family, migrating from the Omap1710 in the N90 to the
Omap2420 in the N93 and new N95.
While both Omap devices were designed in a 90-nm process, the
2420 offered a significant functionality im- provement. Its ARM
core was upgraded from an ARM9 to an ARM11, and power-management
practices were put in place to shut down inactive sections of
the die and conserve battery life.
Future smart phones must, of course, take cost and weight
into consideration, despite bulking up on features. We expect
much of the future market to be addressed by devices that weigh
less than 150 grams, are less than 15 mm thick and bear a
sub-$200 manufacturing cost.
Gregory A. Quirk
is technical marketing manager at IC analysis company
Semiconductor Insights, a CMP company.
Jeff Brown is a
principal analyst at Portelligent, a CMP company. The
group produces teardown reports and related industry
research on wireless, mobile and personal electronics (www.teardown.com).