From our most recent teardown of Samsung’s Phones, we know that Qualcomm is now part of the Thin Film (TF) Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) filter High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) segment along with Murata.
Since 2017, Murata had several design wins for its Incredible High Performance SAW (IHP SAW) filter. Starting with mid-range phones made by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like Sony or Asus, Murata has also increased its footprint with its historical partner Apple’s phones, reaching up to three IHP SAW filters per phone in the iPhone 12 series.
Today, Murata is no longer alone in this segment. With availability announced for Q4 2020, Qualcomm started to produce and integrate its UltraSAW filter technology. The structure should be similar to the IHP SAW filter with a piezoelectric lithium tantalate or lithium niobate thin film on insulator on silicon substrate. This substrate is known to be supplied by Soitec. In our teardown, the component featuring this type of filter is implemented in two Galaxy phones from Qualcomm’s historical partner, Samsung, the S20 Fan-Edition and S21 5G, US version. Only one TF-SAW filter is integrated in each phone, but higher volumes could be reached rapidly thanks to the various potential OEMs where Qualcomm has several designs win each year. The most important fact from SystemPlus’ analysis is the resonator density. UltraSAW technology appears to offer 10% more resonators per square millimeter than IHP SAW filter technology. Yet both reach a density close to the one offered by Bulk Acoustic Wave (BAW) filters from Broadcom, Skyworks and Qorvo.
In the acoustic filter segment, two levels are offered: high performance filtering with BAW technology and low-end filtering. Performance and cost were the respective criteria of choice. TF SAW filters now offer high performance, with the main benefit in signal integrity, at lower cost than BAW filters. Beside the increased density, how does Qualcomm offer such technology, at what cost? In term of manufacturing, what are the main differences between these two technologies?
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