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Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 12:29 pm PT (03:29 pm ET)

Apple again rumored to build 'iWatch' components with flexible, space-saving SIP designs

A Tuesday report from Taiwan reiterated previous assertions that Apple would employ a new system-in-package design for the components in its so-called "iWatch," with production said to have begun on the device in time for a launch in the second half of this year.

Source: QPI Group

Source: QPI Group


Apple is believed to have tested system-in-package, or SIP, designs in its WiFi and fingerprint recognition modules before electing to go all-in with the technology, according to the China Times. Taiwanese semiconductor firms Kinsus Interconnect Technology, Nan Ya PCB, and Advanced Semiconductor Engineering are said to have won orders from Apple for component production.

In broad terms, SIP designs integrate many discrete chips into a single package. Unlike SOC designs — such as Apple's A-series — the individual pieces of a SIP component can be sourced from different fabs and even be created using different semiconductor technologies. This also allows for the integration of "embedded passives," like RF components, which generally cannot be added to an SOC. The report was first highlighted on Tuesday by G for Games.

By placing components closer together and significantly reducing or eliminating their individual packages, SIP designs can be much smaller and lighter than if designers placed the same components individually on a PCB. They also offer power advantages over non-integrated designs, and can be quicker — though more expensive — to manufacture than SOCs.

The report matches up with predictions revealed earlier this month by well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. At the time, Kuo said that the iWatch would bring "massive adoption of SIP packaging technology to make the gadget slimmer and lighter."

Rumors of an Apple-branded wearable have circulated for years, picking up significant momentum in 2013. Apple is said to have tasked hundreds of employees with bringing such a product to market, and the company has snapped up industry experts in fashion, wearable devices, and fitness throughout the last 18 months.

The iWatch, if it does see a public release, is thought to carry a wide array of biometric sensors and feature a strong focus on health tracking. Many believe it will function as a stand-alone product, rather than be dependent on a more powerful device as Samsung has done with its Galaxy Gear.