Apple + Anobit + Passif = ??
Yesterday I put a few words down about the possible ICs in the iWatch. For sure there may be a smattering of discrete die from the usual suppliers. That said I think power management considerations will be paramount for the iWatch and could dictate some interesting integration.
The functionality proposed by the iWatch suggests a CPU, GPU (or at least graphics capabilities); non-volatile and random access memory, communications and sensor I/O. The big question is; how much of this will Apple put on the APU, which I will assume they are designing?
It is time to move deeper in speculation and have some fun. Anobit and Passif are two of Apple’s more recent semiconductor acquisitions. Both of these present technologies for which it is not immediately apparent they are part of the A-series APU efforts. But, are they part of an iWatch APU?
Anobit develops Flash controllers and the error correction circuitry therein. The Flash memory supplier routinely supplies this functionality as a standalone IC. If you wanted to reduce part count to reduce the physical footprint and the power use, this may be a place to integrate functionality onto the APU. At some point Apple may get fancy and integrate the memory itself on the die. For now though that seems a bit of a long shot.
Passif was acquired in the summer of 2013. As noted at the time they develop communications circuits with a goal of low power. Again, to date it is unclear where the designs are used. Also again, the iWatch seems to be an interesting socket. A small, power efficient “radio” to communicate with one’s iPhone is what is needed. It does not need to be a full baseband.
I would be remiss to not mention the foundry. While all of this speculation is fun Apple would have to find a foundry i.e. process that can produce the required logic, memory and passive circuits. This would not necessarily be straightforward.
We will get a better picture of these points once the iWatch gets into the hands of the teardown and reverse engineering folk. Whatever is found you can be certain that Apple is learning from and building upon their design experience. The goal, of course, would be to bring more expertise in house, reducing the alliance on outside suppliers and further differentiate their products.