Japan’s parts makers play big role in new iPhones 6S

A teardown of Apple’s iPhone 6s models reveals that Japanese electronic parts makers contribute much to bringing the new features of the latest iPhones to reality.

The U.S. consumer electronics giant continues to rely on Japanese makers for key components of the iPhone, such as cameras, liquid crystal display panels, sensors and lithium-ion batteries.

One of iPhone 6s’ prominent features is the so-called 3D Touch. It enables the new models — the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus — to sense three different levels of pressure the user applies to the screen. What’s more, the new models are equipped with the Taptic Engine that gives the user a more precise level of Taptic, which is Apple’s feedback vibrator.

Consumer electronics makers often face a host of technical challenges when they bring new features to their products. To avoid such a problem, it seems that Apple relies on Japanese electronic parts makers for their ability to deliver technological solutions. “Once again, I have realized how much Apple depends on Japanese makers,” said Minatake Kashio, director of Fomalhaut Techno Solutions, a Tokyo-based mobile equipment teardown company.

Kashio believes Japanese makers, such as Nippon Mektron, Nippon Steel & Sumikin Chemical and JX Nippon Mining & Metals, are involved in the supply of pressure-sensitive sensors used to enable the 3D Touch function. According to his analysis, the Taptic Engine is supplied by Kyoto-based motor maker Nidec and Chinese micro-component provider AAC Technologies.

Meanwhile, a teardown by the Nikkei Electronics editorial department of Nikkei Business Publications has shown that a total of 96 pressure-sensitive sensor’s electrodes have been laid out in 12 rows and 8 columns inside the new iPhones. It seems that the volume of static electricity between these electrodes and fingers helps determine the level of force applied to the screen.

Fewer parts

In addition, various features of iPhone 6s models are consolidated into their large-scale integration chips. This means the new models use a smaller number of components, which in turn helps cut production costs.

For instance, the M9 coprocessor, used to process sensor data and other tasks, has been integrated into the A9 application processor. Apple is believed to use Samsung Electronics’ 14-nanometer processors or Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing’s 16-nanometer processors, according to the teardown results.

The new iPhones have about 200 fewer passive components, such as multilayer ceramic capacitors on a printed circuit board, said Kashio. Yet, it is hard to believe that the number of passive components has significantly declined as the iPhones need a certain number of them to respond to a wide band of frequencies around the world. Many of those passive parts are suspected to have been built into the communication module.

Kashio has also noticed that iPhone 6s models use geomagnetic sensors supplied by Alps Electric, instead of the ones made by Asahi Kasei Microdevices.

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