Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Antenna Design Enables Multi-band iPhone 4

It is not often that RF technology is one of the leading features mentioned in the release of a new phone even though it is the the enabling technology for wireless devices, but one of the main features mentioned in the iPhone 4 announcement was the external antenna design. Apple cleverly uses the stainless steel band around the phone as a the antenna for GSM, UMTS, WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth (there are spaces separating the multiple antennas around the phone - photo via This is an amazing example of maximizing the antenna size (for better performance) and minimizing the space it occupies. The iPhone has been notorious for dropping calls so it was imperative that Apple did something about this issue and featured it in the announcement. This could be the future of the way antennas are designed into phones and should improve the performance of the phone especially at lower frequencies where larger antennas are typically provide better performance.

Antenna technology is really being pushed to its limits with all of the different frequencies they have to accommodate in smart phones as they need to connect via multiple cellular bands, WiFi, Bluetooth and receive GPS signals not to mention the coming of mobile TV and video which may require even more frequencies. Tunable antennas seem to be the upcoming technology as a single antenna might be used for all the frequencies by changing its impedance to optimize performance at various frequencies but this can lead to other issues. Most of these tunable antenna are still in development so using the space around the phone body of the phone is an ingenious way to free up board space that would be taken up by multiple antennas. Apparently, the iPad also uses a similar approach where the antenna is the LCD frame around the screen.

One draw back (which must have been considered in the design) is that touching the antenna body will change it characteristics significantly, so I would be curious how that affected the design. There will also be people who will question the radiation being directly in contact with the skin, but I don't think there is much difference in having the antenna touch your skin versus being a few millimeters away inside the phone (the phone is now only 9.3 mm thick).

The new antenna design in the iPhone 4 could revolutionize the way in which antennas are designed in future phones and has enabled Apple to reduce the size of the phone while improving performance to solve the problem of dropped calls and poor reception. Do you think this is the future of antenna design for phones?

On another note, I noticed in the iPhone teardown of the prototype on Gizmodo showed that the Skyworks FEM is again the winner for the RF section last the previous iPhone design. That is a big win for them (I could not make out if there were any additional FEMs on the board).


  1. Thanks for sharing your post and it was superb .I would like to hear more from you in future too.

  2. Thanks for sharing your post and it was superb .I would like to hear more from you in future too.