updated 08:25 am EDT, Wed April 16, 2008
UMC Making 3G iPhone Chip
The Taiwan-area Economic Daily News paper today appeared to confirm claims of a specific 3G chipset being used for the iPhone by naming the company assigned to manufacture it. Factories for United Microelectronics Corporation have reportedly been contracted to produce the PMB8878 Infineon chipset (incorrectly labeled as PMB878 in the article) at one of the former's more advanced, 65 nanometer process facilities. The move is described as a switch from Taiwan Semiconductor, which is known to manufacture an Infineon chip for the current model, according to the report.
The selection, while itself unconfirmed, doesn't provide a date for when production will begin but supports the initial discoveries made in the iPhone's latest beta firmware that revealed the new Infineon hardware. As the iPhone's baseband chip, the PMB8878 (referred to as SGOLD3 in Apple's code) would manage cellular functions for the handset and is known to support 3G Internet access over HSDPA, the format used by AT&T and Rogers in North America as well as sufficiently upgraded carriers in Europe and other parts of the world. This includes newer networks (including portions of Rogers' service) that support double-speed 7.2Mbps downloads, although AT&T doesn't currently support such speeds on its network.
However, the chipset also omits the full HSPA spec for 3G, which allows for faster upload speeds than download-oriented HSDPA services. AT&T has said it would introduce HSPA to the US on portions of its network over the course of 2008.
If accurate, the choice of chipset is nonetheless essential to the introduction of the iPhone to countries such as Japan and Korea, which often depend heavily on WCDMA (also included in the Infineon technology) for phone service and typically don't offer GSM phone service.
PMB8878 is also considered a general application processor and can support both higher resolution 5-megapixel cameras as well as two-way video calling and general media decoding, though it's not known if Apple can or will take advantage of these extra features in any future iPhone designs.