Samsung Galaxy Appeal Indicates Shift from GaAS to CMOS Power Amplifiers for 3G Handset

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The Samsung Galaxy Appeal is one of the first mass produced phones to ship with a high performance 3G CMOS PA. Despite an historical presence from CMOs in the 2G handset market concerns over performance have severely limited its progress in the 3G domain.

The GaAs based PA incumbents such as, Avago, TriQuint, RFMD, Skyworks, and Anadigics have not felt any real impact to date 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, VP of engineering at ABI Research, states, "Even though the CMOS PA is over 3X the die area of a typical GaAs PA (3.3sq mm vs. 1 sq mm in the Appeal example), 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."

Product Testing of the Galaxy Appeal and the Javelin J5501 BI provided some conclusions that may be central to this evolving market:

  • CMOS PAs match GaAs efficiency across all power levels up to 22.5dBm
  • CMOS PAs have an efficiency advantage at low power levels (up to 20% low current)
  • GaAs PA die are significantly smaller then CMOS equivalents 1sq mm vs. 3.3sq mm
  • Both GaAs and CMOS Pas can be manufactured for under $.40

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