Despite strong presence of CMOS-based power amplifiers in 2G handsets, concerns over performance have severely limited its progress in the 3G domain. But, with advances in technology and circuit design, CMOS PAs are slowly migrating to the 3G space. That shift is being touted by the Samsung Galaxy Appeal.
A recent teardown of the Samsung Galaxy Appeal handset by ABI Reasearch shows that it is one of the first mass produced 3G phones to ship with a high-performance 3G CMOS PA.
Until now, according to ABI Research, the gallium arsenide (GaAs)-based PA incumbents such as Avago, TriQuint, RFMicro Devices, Skyworks and Anadigics have not felt any real impact of CMOS. But, new products such as the Javelin J5501 BI PA found in the Galaxy Appeal indicate that this performance gap has been narrowed significantly.
Jim Mielke, vice president of engineering at ABI Research, stated, “Even though the CMOS PA is over 3x the die area of a typical GaAs PA (3.3 sq. mm vs. 1 sq. mm in the Appeal), the lower CMOS wafer cost, simple packaging and the added digital content that reduces test times allow the CMOS PAs - such as the ones produced by Black Sand and Javelin - to compete competitively on cost as well as performance.”
Mielke went on to add that the market should “expect single digit market share numbers for CMOS PAs in 2013. The CMOS PA market volumes could be even higher if Qualcomm is successful with their penta-band CMOS PA they are actively presenting now.”
Per ABI Research’s teardown analysis, the product testing of the Galaxy Appeal and the Javelin J5501 BI provided some key information that is central to this evolving market. The teardown analysis shows that CMOS PAs match GaAs efficiency across all power levels up to 22.5 dBm with an efficiency advantage at low power levels--up to 20 percent low current. In addition, though GaAs PA die are significantly smaller then CMOS equivalents, both GaAs and CMOS PAs can be manufactured for under $40.