Does Samsung Make iPhone Parts?
By John Papiewski
Apple neither makes nor assembles the iPhone you use for your daily business needs. An iPhone has parts that come from several manufacturers, one of which is Samsung, a maker of integrated circuits as well as computer parts, televisions and other consumer electronics -- and a competitor in the smartphone market. Samsung has the chip factories necessary to make the custom circuits used in the iPhone; in addition, it can produce the large quantities of the parts Apple requires.
The iPhone's central processing unit is a specialty "system-on-a-chip" that combines a microprocessor and a graphics processor in a single package. The Apple-designed A4, found in the iPhone 4, incorporates an ARM Cortex-A8 microprocessor and a PowerVR SGX 535 GPU. Samsung manufactures this chip along with the A5 and A6 CPUs used in newer iPhone models.
A teardown of the iPhone 4 found Samsung flash memory; this is the same type of memory used in USB sticks and other portable devices. Flash is non-volatile, meaning it retains its data even when the power is turned off. The amount of flash memory used in an iPhone depends on the model; the 4S, for example has 16, 32 or 64 GB. The iPhone stores its apps, music, video and other data in flash memory.
Samsung also manufactures some of the random-access memory used in the iPhone 4S. An iFixit teardown of this model revealed Samsung RAM in one unit and Elpida memory in another; RAM is much more of a commodity than processors such as the A4, so it appears that Apple has multiple suppliers. The 4S has 512MB of RAM, which the iPhone uses to store temporary app data such as for intermediate results of calculations and video processing. RAM is volatile, so when you turn off the iPhone's power off, data stored in this memory becomes lost. The iPhone performs a system shutdown when you press the "Power" button, saving any needed information into flash.
The iPhone uses digital electronic components from Samsung; many other parts come from different sources. Broadcom makes the wireless chip responsible for cellular communications as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networking; it also makes the iPhone's GPS receiver. STMicro makes the iPhone's gyroscope and accelerometer devices used to determine "portrait" and "landscape" orientation. Texas Instruments provides the touch screen controller chip that runs the iPhone's interface.
Chicago native John Papiewski has a physics degree and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."