The new Apple Watch is out. In a way that is.
John Gruber wrote his Initial Thoughts and Observations about the Apple Watch. A great, long and thorough piece. A must read.
Gruber touches on two important topics.
1) The Apple Watch is not a smartwatch. It’s a computer.
2) What’s inside the Apple Watch is a game changer. WatchKit too.
Gruber is right. The Apple Watch is not a smartwatch. It’s not a watch. It’s a computer in a scaled down form factor. A curvy one. A beautiful one.
Apple Watch Is A Steve Jobs Product In Its DNA
During All Things Digital D5 Conference, Steve Jobs said to Walt Mossberg:
“We’re getting to the point where everything’s a computer in a different form factor. So what, right? So what if it’s built with a computer inside it? It doesn’t matter. It’s, what is it? How do you use it? You know, how does the consumer approach it? And so who cares what’s inside it anymore?” (emphasis mine)
That’s exactly what the Apple Watch is. A computer. A very interesting computer. A product announced in 2007 but shipping in early 2015.
Gruber mentions that Apple called the chip inside the Apple Watch, the S1, a “computer on a chip”. Not a SoC (System on a Chip).
It makes sense. The Apple Watch has everything in a chip. An Apple chip. No separate radio or modems from a third party company. Apple Watch might be Apple’s best computer ever made. The purest one too.
Because Apple already announced it. During the iPhone 6 announcement. The new Apple A8 SoC comes with 2 billion transistors. Made in 20nm.
That’s not big news by itself. Others build 20nm chips already. Here’s where it gets interesting.
Apple Watch Is Apple’s First New Generation Computer
Think of the Apple Watch. Small screen compared to the iPhone. Not so many pixels to move around. GPU shrinks. Buffers and cache too. There is no 3G / LTE radios. More space for WiFi and Bluetooth but those work together already. CPU needs to be less powerful as well.
Put everything together in a 20nm manufacturing process and you have Apple’s first computer on a chip. On your wrist. For now.
The technology is there. Minus a few hundreds of millions of transistors. Apple Watch is just the first of the next generation of Apple computers. Not computer. That’s why Tim Cook bets the company on it.
The iPhone 6 teardown is out today. Here’s the chips list inside an iPhone 6:
Front side of the iPhone 6 logic board:
1) Apple A8 APL1011 SoC + SK Hynix RAM
2) Qualcomm MDM9625M LTE Modem
3) Skyworks 77802-23 Low Band LTE PAD
4) Avago A8020 High Band PAD
5) Avago A8010 Ultra High Band PA + FBARs
6) SkyWorks 77803-20 Mid Band LTE PAD
7) InvenSense MP67B 6-axis Gyroscope and Accelerometer Combo
8) Qualcomm QFE1000 Envelope Tracking IC
9) RF Micro Devices RF5159 Antenna Switch Module
10) SkyWorks 77356-8 Mid Band PAD
Back side of the iPhone 6 logic board:
1) SanDisk SDMFLBCB2 128 Gb (16 GB) NAND Flash
2) Murata 339S0228 Wi-Fi Module
3) Apple/Dialog 338S1251-AZ Power Management IC
4) Broadcom BCM5976 Touchscreen Controller
5) NXP LPC18B1UK ARM Cortex-M3 Microcontroller (also known as the M8 motion coprocessor)
6) NXP 65V10 NFC module + Secure Element
7) Qualcomm WTR1625L RF Transceiver
Now take out all the stuff Apple Watch doesn’t need. Like radio chips and modem.
That leaves the Apple A8 SoC, the RAM, the gyroscope and the accelerometer in front. Storage, WiFi, power management IC, touchscreen controller, the M8 and NFC at the back panel.
WiFi, Bluetooth can at some point be 100% Apple designs and chips. Like the licensed tech Apple used on Apple A8 from ARM. M8 is an Apple chip already.
Apple Watch could be Apple’s first, pure Apple Computer ever made.