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STMicroelectronics’ Near Infrared Camera Sensor in the Apple iPhone X

3 490 €

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Couv Apple iPhone X NIR Camera Sensor Truedepth System PlusThe first NIR camera sensor with multiple innovations based on imager-silicon-oninsulator substrate from SOITEC, supplied and produced by STMicroelectronics for the Apple True Depth Module.

Ahead of all its competitors, Apple has started using 3D sensing. For the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, it integrated this new functionality, under the name of ‘True Depth sensing’. Rather than scene sensing, like competitors such as Lenovo, the 3D Time of Flight system provided by STMicroelectronics and ams enables face recognition and targets security applications. Working along with a dot projector, the near infrared (NIR) camera sensor allows high-precision depth sensing. This NIR camera sensor is the first to feature Imager-Substrate On Insulator (SOI) technology provided by SOITEC, allowing higher quantum efficiency with very low noise.

Apple iPhone X NIR Camera Sensor Truedepth System Plus Consutling

Located in the iPhone X’s front, around the main speaker, the True Depth system is packaged in one metal enclosure. The system features a dot projector, a red/green/blue camera and a NIR camera sensor. The latter device, provided by STMicroelectronics, is a NIR camera sensor based on an Imager-SOI substrate, involving multiple innovations.

The SOI substrate allows high quantum efficiency and reduces noises from the substrate. Combined with STMicroelectronics’ knowledge of NIR sensing technology, the sensor die has very small pixels, less than 4 µm long, and high resolution of almost two megapixels, thanks to STMicroelectronics’ new technology node, reaching below 140 nm on SOI. This allows the sensor to precisely detect faces to unlock the smartphone in a very short response time. The use of deep trenches coupled with SOI substrates provides high dynamic range pixels. This camera assembly uses stud bumping to connect the sensor die in flip-chip configuration, along with an optical module comprising four lenses.

This report analyzes the complete NIR camera sensor, including a full analysis of the module and the sensor die, along with a cost analysis and a price estimate for the device. It also includes a physical and technical comparison with other NIR image sensors for 3D sensing, such as those from Infineon, pmd and Tower Semiconductor for consumer applications, Melexis for automotive, and Texas Instruments for industrial applications..

   Apple iPhone X NIR Camera Sensor Truedepth System Plus Consutling   Apple iPhone X NIR Camera Sensor Truedepth System Plus Consutling

Table of contents

Overview / Introduction

STMicroelectronics - Company Profile 

Apple iPhone X Plus - Teardown

Physical Analysis

> Physical Analysis Methodology

> Module

- Module disassembly

- Module cross-section: Overview, filter, substrate

> Sensor Die

- View and dimensions, and markings

- Pixels, pads

- Die process

- Cross-section: substrate, pads, photodiode, metal layers

> Physical Data Summary



Physical Comparison: Infineon/pmd, Tower Semiconductor, Melexis, Texas Instruments

> NIR Image Sensor View and Dimensions

> Estimated Pixel Performance

> Pixel Form


Manufacturing Process Flow

> Sensor - Die Process

> Sensor - Wafer Fabrication Unit

> Sensor Process Flow

Cost Analysis

> Cost Analysis Overview

> Main Steps Used in the Economic Analysis

> Yield Hypotheses

> Sensor Die Cost

- Front-end (FE) cost

- Microlens front-end cost

- Total front-end cost

- Back-end - tests and dicing

- Wafer and die cost

> Module Assembly Cost

> Lens Module Cost

> Final Assembly Cost

> Module Cost


Estimated Price Analysis













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.

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  • Detailed photos

  • Precise measurements

  • Materials analysis

  • Manufacturing process flow

  • Supply chain evaluation

  • Manufacturing cost analysis

  • Estimated sales price