Apple Watch Includes an FM Chip

Teardown analysis of the Apple Watch by ABI Research shows that—like most smartphones—the device includes a connectivity chip that incorporates WiFi, Bluetooth and FM radio capabilities. As in the iPhone, however, the FM capabilities of the connectivity chip are not implemented on the device.

apple fm chip

Teardown view of the Apple S1 chip from the 38mm version of the Apple Watch, showing Broadcom BCM43342 connectivity chip (red box), which provides WiFi (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0 and FM radio receiver. (Courtesy ABI Research).

Contrary to some early reports, the connectivity chip on the Apple Watch does not also include NFC (Near-Field Communication) capability. NFC connectivity on the Apple Watch is handled by a separate chip, as shown in the photo below. (Chipmaker Broadcom has released a single chip that does include WiFi, Bluetooth, FM and NFC, but this is not the model used in the current Apple Watch.)

The inclusion of an FM receiver in a smartwatch gives rise to the possibility that future products could activate the FM capability and send its output to an associated smartphone via Bluetooth audio. The watch could also send the received FM audio directly to a paired Bluetooth headset, or to nearby Bluetooth speakers. Perhaps the most promising element of this possibility is the potential to couple the FM receiver to the watch-wearer’s body for use as an antenna (as was done in the Seiko Messagewatch and Microsoft SPOT watch over a decade ago), eliminating the need for plugging in wired headphones, which are commonly used for FM reception in smartphones today.