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Apple Watch Packs Q’comm LTE
SiP packs more components in same space




Rick Merritt

10/5/2017 06:01 PM EDT
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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Qualcomm supplied the LTE modem in the Apple Watch Series 3 as well as a handful of other wireless chips, according to a teardown from TechInsights. The latest watch appears to continue to push the boundaries of system-in-package design, packing a dozen major chips and dozens of discretes.

The new watch uses the same size SiP as the existing device. However, the Series 3 clearly packs more components, TechInsights said.

TechInsights found the Qualcomm MDM9635M, a Snapdragon X7 LTE modem in the 42mm sport band model A1861 with GPS + cellular it opened up. The same LTE chip appeared in the iPhone 6S/6S Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and other handsets. The modem was mated in a package-on-package with a Samsung K4P1G324EH DRAM in the watch.

Initial reviews found problems using LTE on the device, Apple’s first watch with cellular connectivity. However, Apple issued an update of its WatchOS said to have eliminated the problems.

Apple and Qualcomm are embroiled in a handful of patent infringement disputes including investigations at the U.S. International Trade Commission, particularly around baseband modems. Nevertheless, Apple continues to use the Qualcomm parts both in handsets and watches despite threats of injunctions and Apple’s decision to discontinue paying Qualcomm royalties while court cases are in progress.

Among other wireless chips, TechInsights said the watch contains a Qualcomm PMD9645 PMIC and a WTR3925 RF transceiver. Several other chip vendors also won wireless sockets.

TechInsights preliminary report identified an Apple/Dialog PMIC, an Avago AFEM-8069 front-end module, and a Skyworks SKY 78198 power amplifier. At least one other power amp is believed to be in the design.




Qualcomm chips get a ride on the Apple Watch 3 SiP front (above) and back (below) Click to enlarge. (Images: TechInsights)
Toshiba scored a win supplying 16 GBytes of NAND flash in the watch with four die marked FPV7_32G. SK Hynix supplied a DRAM believed to be packaged with Apple’s latest application processor, a dual-core device.

The Apple-designed application processor in the new watch is slightly larger than the one in the existing device at 7.74mm x 6.25mm, compared to 7.29mm x 6.25mm. What TechInsights believes is the new W2 custom Bluetooth chip, however, measures 2.61mm x 2.50mm, significantly smaller than the W1 in the Series 2 at 3.23mm x 4.42mm.

TechInsights found a 32-bit STMicro ST33G1M2 MCU on the backside of the SiP near RF components. Analog Devices continued to supply two capacitive touch chips — a touch screen controller and a AD7149 sensor controller also used in the Series 2 watch.

Broadcom supplied a wireless charging chip, the same one found in a teardown of the iPhone 8. NXP continued to provide NFC support with the same PN80V NFC module used in the iPhone 8.

Separately, IHS Markit estimated the bill of materials on the iPhone 8 Plus with 64 GBytes memory at $288.08, higher than any previous versions of the company’s smartphones. The iPhone 8 BoM is $247.51, it said. The rising costs are due to a mix of new features, more memory and slower than normal declines in chip prices, particularly in memory, it added.
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