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Smartphone basics: NFC, humidity sensors

Posted: 15 Aug 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smartphone? Near Field Communications? NFC? barometric? humidity sensors?

This serves as a follow up to my article on essential smartphone sensors. This time, I will talk about what Near Field Communications (NFC) hardware and barometric and humidity sensors can be found in today's smart devices.

Since July 2012, has published 87 Deep Dive Teardown analyses in the mobile devices channel, which covers phones, tablets, and laptops. These devices represent a broad sample of manufacturers, price tiers, and markets.

Of this sampling of devices, the number of units and percentage of samples in which these functions were observed can be seen in table 1.

Table 1: Feature prevalence. (Source:

NFC hardware
The current players in NFC are NXP Semiconductor, Broadcom, Inside Secure, and STMicroelectronics. NXP's NFC radio chipsets are most often identified in our teardown analysis, with the PN544 and PN65 integrated circuits appearing 13 times each. The NXP parts have been observed since the third quarter of 2012. The PN65 was last seen in a device that shipped in June 2013. The PN544 was observed in a device launched in February 2014.

Broadcom's ICs showed up in nearly a third of our teardowns, with its BCM20793 and BCM20794 parts appearing six times each. Both Broadcom parts have been seen in recent teardowns. The number of occurrences and their share can be seen in table 2.

Table 2: NFC hardware. (Source:

Barometric sensors
Barometric sensors are only starting to gain traction in mobile devices. They first appeared in the Samsung Galaxy S III (GT-I9300), which launched in mid-2012. It carried the STMicroelectronics LPS331AP sensor, which appeared once more in the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Figure: detected nine design wins for the Bosch Sensortec BMP180 barometric sensor (Source:

The Bosch Sensortec BMP180 has the most occurrences, with nine design wins. Its apparent successor, the BMP280, was observed twice. The BMP180 has been seen throughout the data sample period, while the BMP280 showed up in November 2013. It is interesting to note that the STMicroelectronics IC costs about twice as much as the Bosch Sensortec parts based on our costing models. Table 3 shows their occurrence information.

Table 3: Barometric sensors. (Source:

Humidity sensors
Humidity sensors were introduced to the mobile device space by the Samsung Galaxy S4 (GT-I9505) in April 2013. Only one other device with this function has been observed so far in our Deep Dives, that being the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (SM-N900A). Both units use the Sensirion SHTC 1.

About the author
Joel Martin is senior vice president and general manager of, a part of TechInsights that has been doing design, integrated circuit analysis, and bill of material costing for 15 years.

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