updated 03:10 pm EST, Mon February 6, 2012
EarSmart built directly into A5 processor
Siri's exclusivity to the iPhone 4S may be connected to the use of Audience's EarSmart noise cancellation technology, suggests Linley Group analyst Linley Gwennap. While teardowns have shown the presence of a dedicated Audience chip in the iPhone 4, Gwennap points to a January S-1 filing, indicating that EarSmart is built directly into the 4S' A5 processor. "Even after accounting for the dual Cortex-A9 CPUs and the large GPU that provides the A5 with industry-leading 3D graphics performance, the remaining die area seems too large for the usual mundane housekeeping logic," the analyst explains. "To reduce system cost and eliminate the extra package required for the Audience chip, Apple cut a deal to integrate the noise-reduction technology directly into its A5 processor, which appears in the iPhone 4S."
The S-1 filing remarks that Audience is now receiving royalties from Apple that will be less than the payments it was getting for dedicated chips. It has also licensed next-generation technology to Apple, although the latter party isn't required to implement it. In assessing risk, Audience warns that Apple and its contract manufacturers Foxconn and Protek account for about 80 percent of its revenue, which could cause serious problems if new customers aren't found and/or Apple switches to an original or other alternate noise cancellation technology.
The 4S' implementation of EarSmart is thought to allow for much better noise cancellation, which may be crucial for interpreting voice commands under different conditions. At the same time, hackers have managed to get Siri working on non-4S devices, superficially leaving little reason for exclusivity.