Where is Xtal and Oscillator content in iPhone?

CIOL Bureau
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SUNNYVALE, USA: It has been a month now since Apple released its much hyped and anticipated 3G iPhone. Demand is still strong for the new iPhone as there are still lines outside of Apple stores to buy the precious idle.


Teardowns of the iPhone started the day it came out, with revelations of who the key semiconductor suppliers were.  As is typical, the Xtal and oscillator content was overlooked in these teardowns, and CS&A is here to remedy that.

Fig. 1 shows the main board of the Apple iPhone with the Xtal and oscillator content identified.

Main board of the Apple iPhone with the Xtal and oscillator content identified. Source: CS&A

 Fig. 1


There are five xtal and oscillator components: (2) 32kHz Xtals, (1) MHz Xtal, and (2) TCXOs.  A quick calculation of market pricing shows close to $3 worth of Xtal and oscillator content.There are two TCXOs in the iPhone.  One TCXO is a cellular reference at 26MHz, and drives the Infineon RF transceiver. 

While in a GSM handset, a high-stability MHz Xtal is used as the RF reference, W-CDMA transceivers require the use of a TCXO; the same is

true of CDMA2000.  The cellular TCXO is supplied by TEW.The other TCXO is for GPS and drives the Infineon Hammerhead II chipset.  This TCXO has a tighter stability versus the cellular TCXO: 0.5ppm versus 2.5ppm.

As Rakon has been a leading supplier of GPS TCXOs, it had been speculated that Rakon had the GPS TCXO socket, and Rakon has done a great job of neither confirming nor denying its presence in the iPhone.  However, it is clear from the markings that it is Epson Toyocom who has taken the socket. 


CS&A has been predicting increased competition for GPS TCXO sockets as the leading Japanese suppliers now have offerings and the ASPs and margins are better versus cellular TCXOs.Epson Toyocom takes two more sockets with its miniature 32kHz Xtals.

A typical mobile handset has one 32kHz Xtal, and it is used for sleep mode timing and Real Time Clocking (RTC). However, the iPhone uses two 32kHz Xtals, one to drive the Infineon baseband processor for sleep mode timing, and one to drive the NXP power management IC.As mobile handsets become more complex, with multiple functionalities, clocking becomes even more critical.

There are now more and more use cases where the handset may not be in active cellular mode for voice and data transmit/receive. Instead, there are numerous smartphone activities that do not require the use of the cellular network. Therefore, there is not a need to use the higher power, cellular clock.


Typically, this cellular clock has been used to drive most other functions in the handset.  However, with the added features and functionality, it becomes even more critical to conserve power and save precious battery life.

For this reason CS&A predicts, more clocking via low power clocks, such as 32kHz  Xtals (or even oscillators), will become more prevalent, as in the iPhone.The last component to identify is the 24MHz Xtal used to drive the Samsung application processor.  24MHz is a common frequency used as a audio/video clock.

Hosonic is the winner of this socket. Hosonic is a Taiwanese supplier, who a few years back, had been little known as a supplier as a large portion of its business was selling components to other suppliers for resell.  In recent years, Hosonic has gone more direct to market with its own brand, and is proving to be a leading supplier.


The Xtal and oscillator content is not to be overlooked in the iPhone or any other mobile handset.  At $3 worth of content, it makes up its fair share of the Bill of Materials (BOM). Clearly, mobile handsets offer a solid ground for Xtals and oscillators, and as handsets continue to become more complex by adding features and functionality, the clocking requirements will also increase and become more complex.

CS&A is forecasting mobile handsets to be one of the strongest growth areas for the Xtal and oscillator market. More detail on the Xtal and oscillator market can be found in CS&A's report, "CY2007-2008 Crystal & Oscillator". The report provides a detailed look at the crystal and oscillator market providing forecasts for all major product categories, in addition to supplier market shares.

The author is Principal Associate, CEO, CS&A.