Apple vs. Huawei: decoupled economies, tech & supply chains

By Junko Yoshida for EETIMES – An accelerated U.S. vs. China trade war has elevated “decoupling” into a trendy buzzword to describe the possibility of a breakup between two of the world’s most powerful economies. The question at hand, though, is if there really is a decoupling going on? Perhaps not on the macro-economic level, but more significantly in the supply chain of the global electronics industry?

World governments are prepared to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to reconfigure the global supply chain. The answer to the question will guide those efforts.

The latest “Smartphone Design Win Monitor” released by System Plus Consulting (Nantes, France) offers some illuminating data points. The System Plus Smartphone Design Win Monitor analyzes eight smartphones per quarter, and 32 phones a year, offering “a good representation of the market,” noted Romain Fraux, System Plus Consulting CEO.

The report breaks down smartphone component suppliers not only by company names, but also by the nationality of their headquarters. Further, the report identifies providers of most “semiconductor content” per phone (based on die size area), delves into silicon process nodes and wafer sizes, and reveals the technology choices (on processors, CMOS image sensors, NAND & DRAM, etc.) made by different smartphone vendors.

The latest Monitor is timely, arriving during a chip shortage that’s been dogging the electronics industry for months. System Plus’ report provides clues to how many wafers today’s smartphones would require and how much of those wafers are driven by leading edge technology. The analysis could add new perspective to the debate if the investment into new leading-edge fabs — currently proposed both in the United States and in Europe — is warranted.

Smartphones under the hood

The mix of the phones is based on smartphone shipment data. Fraux explained that if a smartphone vendor has a 20 percent market share, 20 percent of System Plus’ quarterly teardown will be based on its phones.

System Plus gets the shipment data from Lyon-based boutique market/technology research firm Yole Développement, of which System Plus is part.

The table below shows 32 smartphone models System Plus examined over the last 12 months.

Apple vs. Huawei

Fraux stressed that the Smartphone Design Win Monitor is not designed to sort out the U.S. vs. China trade war. But the report is valuable because it delves into the supply chain of smartphones and technology innovation trends.

Consider Apple and Huawei: the System Plus report reveals that the two smartphone giants rely on two very different component supplier ecosystems.

With its iPhone 12 5G model, Apple sourced more than 65 percent of components (in terms of the number of units) from companies based in the United States. In contrast, Huawei’s nova 7 SE 5G Youth model is 34 percent Chinese, 20 percent Japanese and 11 percent German… Full article