Most smartphone users today aren’t even aware of what the RF (radio frequency) front-end is, but it has remained one of the most critical aspects of mobile handset design since the product’s inception. IHS Technology’s Senior Analyst Brad Shaffer and Principal Analyst Wayne Lam says that without an adequate RF front-end, a device simply wouldn’t be able to connect to mobile networks and would be essentially useless to today’s mobile users.
A properly designed RF front-end is critical to the recent innovations occurring in regards to a phone’s performance, features, and industrial design. The RF front-end (RFFE) is the functional area of a mobile handset between the RF transceiver and the antenna, comprised mostly of components like power amplifiers (PAs), low noise amplifiers (LNAs), switches, duplexers, filters and other passive devices.
More than RF: slimmer bezels, bigger screens, better battery life RFFE components such as modem-assisted antenna tuning solutions have become common place in premium tier smartphones. Without these components innovative designs, such as the “Infinity” display on the Samsung Galaxy S8, would be nearly impossible to implement on a usable smartphone due to the challenging RF environment created by the placement of the antennae and their physical characteristics. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ were the first high-volume commercial smartphone to support Category 16 LTE or “Gigabit LTE”.