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Has Broadcom Won Back the iPhone GNSS Socket

Sept. 26, 2014, 8:50 a.m.
ABI Research

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Maybe its just to get people like me to putting 2 and 2 together, but Broadcom has very coincidentally chosen to announce its new BCM 4773 GNSS IC at the same time as Apple announced its new iPhone and Watch devices. broadcom has a tradition of this and rarely announces a new GNSS IC before it has won a major socket. Even it I am wrong, it gives me a good opportunity to look at the new IC and how it might fit into the Apple system. 

The IC is pretty much state of the art in terms of being able to support always-on ubiquitous location, something others are still only talking about. Through dedicated processing, the new IC brings as much as 80% more power saving on standard host-based GNSS ICs, enabling to support, true always-on capabilities. In terms of indoor/ubiquitous location,  the BCM4773 support Wi-Fi (including omnitrack and its own proprietary technology), BLE, NextNav as well as a strong sensor fusion element. 

 

What might be a little confusing is that the new iPhone 6 range features the M8 coprocessor which has it own sensor fusion capabilities. But this would not be a case of doing the same job twice, rather two heads are better than one. Apple fusing at the sensor level, with Broadcom combining these output with GNSS and other location technologies at the location level, should make for a better overall solution.

 

Assuming that I am correct and Apple has chosen this IC, it still remains to be seen if it is in the iPhone or the Watch device. The BCM4771, which was launched earlier this year, is designed more specifically for the fitness/health market (and may actually be designed in here too), it would seem to be a better fit. Although it should be pointed out that the BCM4773 is very well suited architecturally to high power/memory devices, such as a high-end smartwatch. My guess is that the BCM4773 is in the iPhone 6 and would represent a big win for Broadcom having previously lost the iPhone GNSS socket to Qualcomm. We will just have to wait for my colleagues in the teardown group to find out for definite.