As part of our meanderings through the output from a debugger from a prototype of the next iPhone, we discovered some of the new chips that are going into these devices. Lots of them.

One such part that we have not talked about is the Broadcom BCM4334 that has been found in code dumps. The BCM4334 is a step up from the 65nm BCM4330 used on the “new” iPad and the iPhone 4S, and it is notably built on a smaller, more efficient 40nm process.

From AnandTech:

BCM4334 which is the follow-up part to BCM4330 that we’ve seen in a bunch of devices. BCM4334 changes from a 65nm process to 40nm LP, which itself offers a power profile reduction. The change isn’t a simple die shrink either, Broadcom says it has worked on and refined the existing BCM4330 design and reduced power a further 40-50% and dramatically reduced standby power by 3 orders of magnitude. I asked Broadcom to give me a realistic estimate of power consumption – BCM4330 in full Rx mode consumes around 68mA, BCM4334 consumes 36mA at the same voltage, just to give an example of the reduction. Air interfaces don’t change between BCM4330 and BCM4334.

So, we are looking at nearly half the power required for Wi-Fi. That should add some power savings to offset the bigger screen and LTE radios. The power savings will also help Apple to make a thinner phone with a thinner battery.

Along with now-standard stuff like Bluetooth 4.0 and FM radios, this chip also features dual-band Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi Direct. From Broadcom:

The Broadcom BCM4334 single-chip dual-band combo chip provides a complete wireless connectivity system with ultra-low power consumption for mass market smartphone devices. Using advanced design techniques and 40nm process technology to reduce active and idle power, the BCM4334 is designed to address the needs of highly mobile devices that require minimal power consumption and compact size while delivering dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity.

The chip includes IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n single-stream MAC/baseband/radio, Bluetooth 4.0 + HS, and an integrated FM radio receiver. It is designed to be used with external 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz front-end modules, which include power amplifiers, T/R switches and optional low noise amplifiers. The combo device also features advanced switching techniques that enable concurrent dual-band operation to simultaneously support network connectivity with one band while also allowing content streaming via technologies such as Wi-Fi Display and Wi-Fi Direct.

While Apple is not likely to use Wi-Fi Display over its own AirPlay protocol, Wi-Fi Direct/Adhoc on the second Wi-Fi connection would seem to be directed at something pretty interesting…

Apple requires dual-band Wi-Fi cards when deciding which Macs get to use AirDrop (any Mac or Hackintosh can be hacked to use AirDrop, even over Ethernet). However, Apple limits AirDrop to these models and newer:

  • MacBook Pro (late 2008 or newer)
    • The MacBook Pro (17-inch late 2008) and the white MacBook (Late 2008) do not support AirDrop.
  • MacBook Air (late 2010 or newer)
  • MacBook (late 2008 or newer)*
  • iMac (early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Mini (mid 2010 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (early 2009 with AirPort Extreme card, or mid 2010)

All of these Macs have the built-in Wi-Fi Direct on dual-band Wi-Fi cards. The new iPhone will be the first iOS device that meets Apple’s standard for AirDrop. Therefore, we could easily see the Lion adhoc file-sharing protocol added to iOS 6.

It certainly gives Apple a reason to bump up the Wi-Fi chip to this more expensive dual-mode version that was just announced in late February. Wi-Fi Direct is used in more and more printers as well, but its main purpose is to make wireless file-sharing extremely easy, just as Google does in its Galaxy Nexus devices.

With Apple’s easy-to-understand interface, an iOS AirDrop feature could make sharing between Macs and iOS devices (or dare we say to Android devices?) beyond simple.

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Seth Weintraub

Publisher and Editorial Director of the 9to5/Electrek sites.

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