As another set of Apple mobile devices waits to be injected into the main artery of global consumer technology, a handful of other companies stand to benefit. I’m talking about the firms that make the components that operate within the tech giant’s new toys. Once the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch hit customers and are stripped of their innards, we will know exactly who made what’s inside them.
One company that investors have speculated will eventually see Apple business is Invensense, a California-based computer chip maker that designs and holds patents for mobile chip products called MEMS that many semiconductor industry watchers say are smaller and more efficient than their competitors’. In a Forbes profile on Invensense last October, one analyst went as far as to say flat out, “their device is superior.” Still, the company gets nudged out by its larger competitor, the French-Italian multinational STMicroelectronics .
But will the company finally show up in an Apple teardown this time? Some of the reasons analysts ponder Invensense as a possible chipmaker for Apple is that their designs – the brainchild of founder and chip genius Steve Nasiri – allow them to be smaller and more energy efficient. This summer the company announced a .75 millimeters thick chip that operates on under six milliwatts of power. That type of performance is desirable in a mobile space that seeks to make devices ever smaller while boosting battery life.
When we last spoke with Invensense CEO Behrooz Abdi, the company had just doubled capacity and added 42 new engineers. Earlier this year the company announced its production would be ramped up to produce 1 billion units per year. This doesn’t necessarily suggest its won contracts to provide chips for Apple devices—it could just be planning for the future. The types of mobile device sensor chips that Invensense deals in are expected to make up half of the projected $12 billion MEMS chips market by 2017. The company already places its products in a majority of the world’s multi-motion-sensor Android phones and 80% of sensing tablets. It’s also won contracts with Samsung, Motorola, BlackBerry, HTC , Acer , LG and the Nintendo Wii.
Invensense insiders have unloaded some stock in the past 12 months, as both automatic sales and other. Most recently, on September 15, Tim Wilson – an Invensense board member since 2004 – unloaded 38,808 shares of stock as an automatic sell at an average price of $23.07, for a total transaction of $895,300.56. Could this mean nothing? Sure. Insiders liquidate shares all the time. But if an Apple teardown reveals Invensense chips inside the new devices, that stock could be worth a tad more than Wilson sold it for.
So will the company have an Apple win this year? Investors who’ve bet yes on previous devices have been burned before. But as then, many are crossing their fingers this time around.
Other chip-makers analysts are zeroing in on as having potentially won Apple contracts include Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors and the Singaporean Avago Technologies.