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STMicroelectronics Time of Flight Proximity Sensor in the Apple iPhone 7 Plus

3 490 €

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ST Time of Flight flyer

A look inside the Single Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) from STMicroelectronics entering the high-end Apple handset

Today, time-of-flight (ToF) systems are among the most profitable and innovative imaging technologies. Every major consumer product manufacturer wants to integrate such devices to provide 3D imaging, proximity sensing, ambient light sensing, gesture recognition, and more. STMicroelectronics has been investigating this technology in depth, and now provides several smartphone manufacturers ToF ranging sensors. Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus goes further with a custom proximity sensor, the smallest FlightSenseTM device in STMicroelectronics ToF portfolio.

Located in the front of the phone, above the main speaker, the FlightSenseTM proximity sensor uses optical land-grid array (LGA) packaging. The custom Apple device measures 2.80 mm x 2.40 mm, half the size of the rest of STMicroelectronics’s portfolio.

This report analyzes the complete microsystem, from the illumination device, which is a Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser (VCSEL), to the collector, which is based on STMicroelectronics’ Single Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD). It includes a complete cost analysis and price estimation of the device based on a detailed description of the package, the ToF detector and the VCSEL.

It also features a complete technology comparison with every product in STMicroelectronics’ ToF portfolio since the first generation, including the VL53L0X and VL6180X, especially looking at the SPAD’s evolution.


ST Microelectronics Time of Flight Apple iPhone 7 Plus System Plus Consulting    ST Microelectronics Time of Flight Apple iPhone 7 Plus System Plus Consulting 3





















Table of contents

Overview / Introduction 


STMicroelectronics Company Profile and Time of Flight technology


Apple iPhone 7 Plus Teardown 


Physical Analysis

> Physical Analysis Methodology
> Package
View and dimensions
Package opening and wire bonding process
Package cross-section: adhesives, PCB, filters, FOV
- View and dimensions
- Wire bonding, cavity
- Cross-section
- Process characteristics
> ASIC Die
- View, dimensions and marking
- Die overview: active area, SPAD technology
- Die delayering, main block IDs and process
- Cross-section: metal layers, SPADs
- Process characteristics



















Physical Comparison with VL53L0X and VL6180X

> Package, Functions, FOV, Optical Blocking Package, ASIC and VCSEL, SPADs



Manufacturing Process Flow

> Overview
> ASIC Front-End Process
> VCSEL Front-End Process
> ASIC Wafer Fabrication Unit
> VCSEL Wafer Fabrication Unit
> Packaging Process Flow
> Final Assembly Unit



Cost Analysis

> Cost Analysis Overview
> Main Steps Used in the Economic Analysis
> Yield Hypotheses
> ASIC and VCSEL Die Cost
- Front-end cost
- Back-end: Tests and dicing
- Wafer and die cost
> Component
- Front-end cost
- Back-end: Tests and dicing
- Wafer and die cost



Estimated Price Analysis

> Estimation of the Manufacturing Price




















About the authors


System Plus Consulting specializes in the cost analysis of electronics, from semiconductor devices to electronic systems.


Created more than 20 years ago, System Plus Consulting has developed a complete range of services, costing tools and reports to deliver in-depth production cost studies and estimate the objective selling price of a product.


System Plus Consulting engineers are experts in:

  • Integrated Circuits 
  • Power Devices & Modules 
  • MEMS & Sensors
  • Photonics 
  • LED 
  • Imaging 
  • Display 
  • Packaging 
  • Electronic Boards & Systems.

Through hundreds of analyses performed each year, System Plus Consulting offers deep added-value reports to help its customers understand their production processes and determine production costs. Based on System Plus Consulting’s results, manufacturers are able to compare their production costs to those of competitors.

System Plus Consulting is a sister company of Yole Développement.


More info at 



















































  • Detailed photos

  • Material analysis

  • Precise measurements

  • Manufacturing process flow

  • Supply chain evaluation

  • Manufacturing cost analysis

  • Estimated sales price

  • Comparison within STMicroelectronics’ time-of-flight portfolio:
      - Previous generations: VL6180X and VL53L0X
      - Functions and SPAD evolution