Posted: September 18, 2014

Contributed by Dick James, Senior Fellow/Senior Technology Analyst

On September 9th, Jony Ive, Senior VP of Design at Apple, narrated the video introduction of the Apple Watch. The ten minute video was broadcast during Apple’s event and beautifully covers what the watch looks like, how it works and what it can do.

Apple shows us delayering of the S1

Around the 4:30 mark, Jony goes into the watches' linear activator that provides haptic feedback to complement user interactions. He then moves on to what Apple is calling the “heart” of the watch, the S1, a custom designed "chip" which integrates many subsystems packed into one compact module. During the course of this explanation, Apple shows viewers a delayering of the S1 board used in the device. Below are some of the board layouts, showing the chips and their contacts to the circuit board.  Taking screen captures was challenging, but we managed to get the following images:

Our guess is that the large chip in the center is the Apple S1 application processor. To its right is likely a flash chip, in the top left (next to the RF connector) is an RF part and on the left, surrounded by resistors and capacitors, is a power management IC.

This looks like a WiFi chip layout

What really caught my eye is the part located in the centre at the top. The pattern of contacts beneath it shows that it is a wafer-scale package flip-bonded directly to the board. To me, that pattern looks like a WiFi chip layout. To quote our website, “Chipworks proactively analyzes the broadest range of high-volume consumer electronic products using the most advanced in-house technology analysis capabilities and processes around the world. Over the years, this has allowed us to build the broadest and deepest database of information in the industry.” So we then compared the pattern on the board to the most likely Broadcom WiFi chips. The pattern of contacts matches a BCM4334 single-chip dual-band combo device.

Just to show what we mean, here’s a close-up of the board contacts on the left and the BCM4334 die photo on the right:

The big array of bond pads at the top right is the first confirmation, but if you drive around the chip then you’ll see that the other pads match up pretty well. Of course, the Watch shown is clearly a prototype,  so we shouldn’t extrapolate to say it will be in next year’s product, but this chip has been a winner for Broadcom for the last couple of years.

Chipworks analyzes over 300 phones and tablets every year from around the world - across many different manufacturers. Over the past couple of years, we have seen this Broadcom device in multiple consumer products that have gone through our teardown labs. Design Win Tracker, our annual customizable subscription service, gives you access to all of our teardown reports as well as a weekly spreadsheet with full genealogy of those devices. We first observed the BMC4334 in the HTC One model S728e in October of 2012. Since that time, Chipworks has observed over 30 unique design wins for the BCM4334. The BCM4334 has been the WiFi SoC of choice for Apple iPhone, iPads, iPad minis, Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, and the Huawei Honor, to name a few.

According to Broadcom, “The BCM4334 is a single-chip dual-band combo device supporting 802.11n, bluetooth 4.0+HS & FM receiver. It provides a complete wireless connectivity system with ultra-low power consumption for mass market smartphone devices. Using advanced design techniques and 40nm process technology to reduce active and idle power, the BCM4334 is designed to address the needs of highly mobile devices that require minimal power consumption and compact size while delivering dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity.”

It’s not often that we can ID a chip before the product’s even on the shelves, but a bit of persistent digging let us find this one. I guess we’ll have to wait until next year for the others.

Multiple reports, including circuit analysis are available on the full analog or on individual blocks of the BCM4334. Please contact us for additional details or view the list of reports and images on our store.

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