Apple Watch’s 28nm application processor is fabbed by Samsung, S1 chip is full of surprises

By , May 7, 2015

Apple Watch S1 teardown Chipworks 002

At the heart of the Apple Watch is Apple’s in-house designed ‘S1’ component that literally puts an entire computer architecture onto a single chip — an industry term you’re looking for is system-in-package (SiP) design.

A recent teardown analysis by ABI Research has managed to identify 512MB of RAM, an ARM-based CPU, a Broadcom Wi-Fi module, an accelerometer and gyroscope, along with a few other components, packed inside the S1.

Today, semiconductor experts over at Chipworks have updated their teardown of the S1 package with a few interesting tidbits related to the type of process technology used while revealing some rather unique design solutions making such small yet powerful package possible.

The S1 contains as many as thirty individual components combined in some unique ways and sealed inside the tiny package that measures just 26mm x 28mm.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Chipworks noted.

As it turns out, Apple has once again turned to Samsung’s component-making arm to fabricate the application processor (AP) for the Apple Watch. Application processors are usually CPUs capable of running code in a mobile operating system environment.

The AP inside the S1 bears the marking ‘APL0778’. It combines the central processing unit (CPU) with an integrated PowerVR SGX543 graphics processing unit (GPU) from Imagination Technologies.

It’s fabbed on Samsung’s low-power 28-nanometer (nm) process technology.

By comparison, Motorola’s Moto 360 smartwatch uses a Texas Instruments OMAP 3630 processor built on an older 45nm process that Apple’s A5 chip inside the iPhone 4s used. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus use 20-nanometer application processors marketed under the ‘A8’ moniker.

28nm is also the same process technology used to fabricate Apple’s A7 chip found inside the iPhone 5s and iPad Air. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 801-805 chips were built on the 28nm process up until a few months ago, as were Nvidia’s K1 processors.

Samsung is now moving to a 14-nanometer process and Apple is rumored to use it for an upcoming ‘A9’ chip that should power 2015 iPads and iPhones. That said, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the next Apple Watch is likely to contain an even more compact ‘S2’ chip.

If built on a smaller-than-28nm process technology, it would permit faster performance, lower power consumption and a smaller die size, potentially freeing up room for some of the health sensors that reportedly didn’t make it into the current version of the Watch.

Seen below: the sealed S1 package.

Apple Watch S1 chip

Remarkably, the new application processor measures just 5.2mm x 6.2mm.

In a manner similar to earlier versions of Apple’s mobile processors that power older iPhones and iPads, the S1 takes advantage of the package-on-package (PoP) assembly, an integrated circuit packaging method that combines vertically discrete logic and memory packages.

Inside the S1, the package-on-package assembly contains the aforesaid Apple-designed application processor and its dynamic RAM (DRAM) die, installed atop each other with a standard interface to route signals between them. This allows higher component density in such a tiny wearable device.

The same PoP process is used to combine the NXP-supplied NFC circuitry for Apple Pay (controller and radio) with its secure element (Secure Enclave in Apple’s parlance), tasked with storing tokenized payment information and isolating it from other subsystems.

The S1 package is pretty unique in term of manufacturing, too. “The two key words here are system and package,” notes the teardown analysis.

Apple S1 image 002

Again, Apple’s suppliers had to cram over thirty remarkable tiny individual pieces of silicon into a 26mm x 28mm package.

All these components are soldered to a common motherboard which is then overmolded with a packaging compound containing silica or alumina spheres suspended in a resin to protect the electronics.

Here’s an overview of the many different component inside the S1 package, as depicted in the promotional Apple Watch video.

Apple S1 image 003

“We see this same type of material in conventional IC packaging, but we have never observed this being used over a 26mm x 28mm motherboard,” said Chipworks.

The teardown analysis identifies a few interesting wins in terms of suppliers. For example, the power management integrated circuit socket is provided by Dialog, while the codec and amplifier sockets are supplied by Maxim.

This is different than several iPhone and iPad models, which used to run a Cirrus-branded power management chip. Texas Instruments has six wins in the S1 ranging from battery management to opp amps. The image below clearly shows the Texas Instruments’ OPA2376 Precision oop amp chip inside the S1.

Apple Watch S1 teardown Chipworks 003

STMicroelectronics got to provide the six-axis sensor for acceleration and roll, pitch and yaw (gyroscope), as well as the ST32 MCU Flash memory micro controller (based on the ARM Cortex‑M processor) and the optical emitter/sensor encoder die located under the shaft of the Watch’s Digital Crown.

Even the aforementioned six-axis sensor is unique in that it marks the first time an Apple product has used an integrated sensor which doesn’t require an external accelerometer. By comparison, both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus pack in a six-axis sensor from Invensense and an additional three-axis accelerometer by Bosch.

Apple Watch S1 Chipworks 002

Interestingly enough, the Watch’s six-axis accelerometer and the second touch controller are not contained within the S1 package.

I’m really impressed by Apple’s work here.

Not only are these engineering achievements commendable given the Watch’s compact design, but most other vendors don’t really bother with expensive semiconductor R&D anymore and instead buy whatever off-the-shelf components are available on the market.

But Apple’s been charting its own silicon future for years now.

Tapping its internal team of more than a thousand silicon engineers, the company actually conceives and designs how these micro components fit together and then produces blueprints for chip foundries like Samsung to fabricate the S1 in volume.

I’m really excited to learn even more about the S1 as Chipworks and other teardown wizards delve deeper into this remarkable piece of silicon, that I don’t have any doubts rivals will have a really hard time replicating this time around.

Source: Chipworks

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  • Mark Tesch

    Samsung should stop making phones and just offer services as a chipbuilder for companies that obviously can turn a proper overall smartphone product, i.e. Apple, XiaoMi, Sony, etc. #iknownothing

    • xSeriouSx

      “companies that obviously can turn a proper overall smartphone produc”

      Yeah, proper like this flexible “quality” phone…

      • N&LH

        You can bend S6 and S6 edge. Samsung made fun of Apple because of the bendgate and now you can bend their new phones…I am not surprised because Samsung as usual stupid

      • xSeriouSx

        No you can’t you old CUNTry boy, especially not in your front pocket where you store it everyday.

        youtube. com/watch?v=J7-lhmW34CI

      • N&LH

        Search YouTube ShameSung fanboy

      • xSeriouSx

        Use that grey matter between your ears you numbskull.

      • N&LH

        Shut up idiot. We all know anyone can bend S6 and S6 edge. Typical Shamesung fanboy…As usual Stupid Samsung has stupid fans

      • xSeriouSx

        Stupid mindless zombie doesn’t bother seeing the bend test video I linked to, just believes whatever herd master Crapple feeds it like a sheep. You truly are a numbskull and ludicrous hypocrite like MrElectrifyer described you.

      • AppleRelatedNewsiDBSkips

        Here’s the link again (http://bit. ly/1zKJ19U), as iDB proudly deleted your post containing it.

      • Mark Tesch

        Oh, good, you agree then:)

      • Kr00

        He obviously missed the whole S6 bendgate saga. How embarrassing. Samescum did such a great job copying Apple, they even copied the bend.

      • xSeriouSx

        iDiot, that was done with a machine, and it was done at the centre of the device, which isn’t the weakest point on the iPhone, neither is that where it gets bent when in your front pocket, neither is that where bend test showed it bending easily. That all happened at the volume buttons.

      • Slifur

        Woah! Someone still stuck in that bent gate era?

      • xSeriouSx

        Oh, someone swept the problem under the rug and became iGnoramus about it?

      • Chindavon

        You mean the problem, that was never a problem in the first place? lol

      • AppleRelatedNewsiDBSkips

        Yeah, it never was a problem, just many people experiencing it (http://bit. ly/1sQlf29) like antenna gate (http://wrd. cm/1H6ShrJ), battery gate (http://zd. net/1cw72Y6), scuff gate (http://bit. ly/1zKJ19U), rusty lightning connectors (http://bit. ly/1Kr0g0b), etc. Plus, even your herd master is looking to solve the “none-issue” problem with a next-gen device (http://bit. ly/1OEvbr9). iSheeps just can’t be bothered to think, and Apple proudly takes advantage of such fools…what a surprise.

      • Chindavon

        Give me numbers with the ratio of what’s out in the wild. Minus those kids that walk into the Apple Store and bend them for fun.

      • Slifur

        How that bentgate issue related to this article? I smell someone who’s mad as F to apple here and trying to hide to other acc. cough “MrElectr..” cough. But that’s none of my business anyways.. Lol

      • xSeriouSx

        Why don’t you ask the OP implying Apple’s devices are “quality” and Samsung’s are not. And sure, I am MrElectrifyer, you’re the second to call me that guy, funny enough, also on iDB.

      • Slifur

        Because every longtime iDB readers can identify how MrElectrifyer trolls here. Everyone knows he’s a samsung fanboy who’s trolling in every apple related articles, just to say how crap apple is and how stupid everyone who’s using an apple product. If you insist that you’re not that guy, then good for you. But i for myself know the truth though..

      • Chindavon

        Throw that pic away. S6 and S6 E bend easier.

  • George

    Hahahah and yet people keep calling Samsung cheap when you’re literally using something powered by Samsung.

    • Their phone hardware is cheap, not necessarily the components.
      And their advertising is cheap too 🙂

    • N&LH

      Apple design and engineer the chip.

      • John Kar

        No, they don’t. They buy other companies’ technologies and puts them in the appropriate sockets. It’s not hard, nor should it be praised. It’s like saying you “designed” your PC by using an Intel-designed CPU and an NVIDIA-designed GPU.

        Apple is just assembling them in one package. Not difficult at all.

      • N&LH

        really. You are amazing man!. They design and engineer the chip and other main parts of the devices. If you think no they don’t then I want to to prove that?

      • John Kar

        ” They design and engineer the chip and other main parts of the devices”

        No, they don’t. They design the layout of the SoC, meaning they get to control where each of the components go and which components they want, but they don’t actually engineer or design the components themselves aside from the CPU cores.

        The iPhone 6 SoC, for example, uses a SONY sensor, SONY image processor, Qualcomm modem, LG display, hynix RAM, toshiba nand and flash, etc.
        Apple had nothing to do with the development of any of these components.

      • N&LH

        “No, they don’t”…Prove that by providing references ?..Apple design and engineer the main parts believe it or not.

      • John Kar

        In a formal debate, the person making the assertion (You) has to prove his arguments first. You can’t prove a negative. Prove to me that Apple designs the components of their SoC aside from the CPU cores.

        Apple is a marketing company before a tech company. If Apple really did design most of the components of their SoC, they would have rebranded them so they can get people like you to think they’re getting something special. Look at the picture of the SoC above and tell me how many Apple-branded components there are.

    • Alberto Espinal

      What are you 12 years old?

      • Kr00

        His body is 40, his brain is 12.

    • L J

      Apple gave Samsung the blueprint and said “here, make this shit for me” Samsung engineers are too dumb to make their own chips, so when Apple tells them what to make then shamesung copies the designs. Hence the Galaxy s6 was born

      • John Kar

        Huh? Did you even see the S6 teardowns? Almost all the chips in the S6 are Samsung’s own technology like the camera sensors, image processors, RAM, FLASH, storage, etc.
        Apple doesn’t “design” the components on their SoC. They may design the layout of the SoC, but anyone can do that. The components of their SoC, however, come from other companies.

        Apple is just an assembler, not a designer.

    • Kr00

      Apple designed the chip moron. Samescum just put it together. Don’t cream yourself over nothing fanboy.

      • John Kar

        There are different levels of designing chips. The hardest and intellectual part comes from designing the components of the SoC, which Apple doesn’t do. That’s what Samsung, TI and other suppliers with smarter engineers do.

        Apple designs the layout of the SoC, but that is really easy and doesn’t take much intelligence. Anyone can do that. Essentially, all Apple is doing is deciding whose technology to use like how PC enthusiasts decide whether to use an NVIDIA-designed GPU or an AMD-designed GPU.

        Apple is just an assembler. I wouldn’t even call them a designer.

  • Dante Arellano

    Dont like samesung shitte in my apple stuff fuckk samesung

    • xSeriouSx

      Then throw away all your shitty Crapple stuff, ’cause they all contain Samsung components.

      • Dante Arellano

        Fuckk samesung and treir followers fuckk them

  • Jailbreak Guru

    Samsung will never learn

    • 12345678

      about what

      • Jailbreak Guru

        I feel like they know how to copy well

      • 12345678

        Don’t deny that Apple never copied other companies too.

      • Jailbreak Guru

        I am not denying anything. All I said is that Samsung knows how to copy best 😉

  • AppleRelatedNewsiDBSkips

    Very old saddening news (for closed-minded iSheeps) that iDB would proudly skip: the versatile, flexible and consequentially complex Android Lollipop that has to run on a wide variety of device configurations (from different organizations), is more stable than the limited and so-claimed “polished” iOS that’s tailored to a minuscule set of devices who’s every aspect (both hardware and software) are controlled by 1 organization.

    phonearena. com/news/Android-5.0-Lollipop-crashes-less-than-iOS-8-report-says_id65968

    • Alberto Espinal

      What are you 12 years old?

      • AppleRelatedNewsiDBSkips

        What are you, stupid, butthurt, or both?

      • Alberto Espinal

        Are you 10?

      • mobilemann

        i love how people like you and alberto have only used one platform, but feel confident to trash the other one without really using it.

        You’re all three, and so is he. fanboys.

      • George

        So your go to thing is to call people 12, real mature there.

      • Alberto Espinal

        No you are 10, i just realized!

    • Kr00

      Its called fragmentation you little girl. So if your android shit is so wonderful, what unhappiness brings you here then? Jealousy is a curse, but we understand your fascination with Apple products and the need to come to Apple blogs. They’re everything you’re not, happy. You coming here is a clear sign of your intelligence, or lack there of. Enjoy your envy of all things Apple, and keep coming back. We love to eat brain dead trolls for breakfast.

      • AppleRelatedNewsiDBSkips

        Oh look, another butthurt iSheep crying in ignorance when it’s got nothing to defend it’s herd master…poor thing, go suck on your herd master’s d*ck, they’ll be so delighted to have you doing it.

      • Kr00

        I’ll call you FOS from now on. Full. Of. Shit. And thats just your head. Fandroid cry baby, your mommy’s calling, time for a diaper change.

    • techfreak23

      First of all, how are they even getting these results? There is nothing that states their testing procedures for this. Even if these results are accurate, you’re looking at a .2% difference, which is pretty damn marginal if you ask anyone. Also, the article was written back in February. Talk about breaking news there guy. iOS 8.3 has been out for over 3 weeks now and has fixed the majority of the issues with the earlier versions of 8. 8.2 was also more stable than the initial release of 8.

      You’re also calling people “iSheep” on an Apple blog… Do you realize how stupid you and others sound when you make comments like that? Of course everyone here loves Apple. Find something better to do with your time, honestly.

      • AppleRelatedNewsiDBSkips

        Only the ones that get butthurt and all they can reply with is cries are what I consider iSheep. News was out in February, yet iDB, a so-claimed “Apple Related news Blog”, refused to post about it, yet you’ll see them posting about every minuscule victory of Apple’s no mater what. I post all other news they miss for those open-minded to be better informed.
        The fact that Android is still marginally stable than an OS that’s meant to work on a mere selection of devices is what is somewhat disappoint. You still hear lots of naïve idiots on here caling Android unstable and what not, yet study keeps proving that to be fanboy garbage.

  • mike smith

    Lol, Apple fan hate Samsung. And it looks like all Iphone has something from Samsung. Samsung and Apple are getting richest everyday and we always talking crap about them

    • N&LH

      So Samsung fans don’t hate Apple ?

    • Kr00

      Apple designed and engineered the chip fanboy. Samescum just put a stamp on it. Apple out innovating samescum, again!!

      • John Kar

        There are different levels of designing chips. The hardest and
        intellectual part comes from designing the components of the SoC, which Apple doesn’t do. That’s what Samsung, TI and other suppliers with smarter engineers do.

        Apple designs the layout of the SoC, but that is really easy and doesn’t take much intelligence. Anyone can do
        that. Essentially, all Apple is doing is deciding whose technology to use like how PC enthusiasts decide whether to use an NVIDIA-designed GPU or an AMD-designed GPU.

        Apple is just an assembly-designer.

  • mp

    A very informative article on the ‘guts’ of the watch. Good one Christian. 🙂

  • singhay559

    Apple obviously trust samsung to do the job rite the first time. Why else would they turn to them. Plus its samsung who came out with the smart watch first. So Apple knows sammy has experience in this field. In a way apple is copying samsung by allowing them to manufacture the s1 chip. Thats using sammy building skills. If Apple was so innovative why dont they make the chip themselves. They should be one company n call it sapple.

  • n0ahcruz3

    that concludes the iFans and Android Fans flamewar… and the winner is.. The investors and executives of both companies lmfao.

  • John Kar

    lol… Let’s not go overboard.

    All Apple did was repackage other company’s technology and put them in their appropriate SoC sockets. Apple engineers aren’t smart enough to engineer their own technology. They gotta outsource.

  • SoylentGreen

    This is techno babble, an effort to make the consumers and the desperate to be fooled, actually believe this plastic watch it’s worth the same money as a non-quartz omega.
    Hashtag PimpedByApple