People who had ordered Apple Watches—smartwatches, also known as “connected watches” and “wearables”—a few weeks ago began to receive them today. This type of watch is the highest profile wearable technology used to link wirelessly to phones. What’s more interesting, however, is how other companies will react, and the effect on Apple’s supply chain.
For instance, Samsung Electronics made news today as well, making an announcement about a new version of its Gear smartwatch. The company’s official blog post showed images of a smartwatch with a round face, which would be a new development for Samsung. The post also announced that Samsung is working with Baidu, Yelp and CNN developing apps. Samsung also said it would release a wearable software development kit for third-party developers ahead of the eventual launch.
Nonetheless, Apple’s smartwatch is still expected to sell much better than any rival products. Research firm IHS expects shipments of more than 19 million Apple Watches this year, more than five times the number of all smartwatches shipped globally in 2014. IHS estimates that Samsung accounted for nearly 1 million of the 3.6 million smartwatches shipped globally last year.
What I found most interesting, however, is that anybody interested in finding out which components are inside an Apple Watch—and who the components came from—is in for a surprise. For instance, Apple encases its chips in a tough resin and also uses uncommon screws to fasten the watch together, which makes the watch more difficult for people to disassemble.
Gadget repair firm iFixit, which has carried out “teardowns” on Apple products ranging from iPhones to MacBooks, sent a team from San Luis Obispo to Australia to get one of the first Apple Watch deliveries, a Reuters story reports. The team began a teardown by using a heat gun to get the Apple Watch’s screen off. That’s when they discovered what the Reuters’ story describes as “a nest of cables” covering the “S1” core computing module encased in resin that even a pen knife couldn’t shift. Furthermore, the team told Reuters Apple appears to be promoting its brand on the watch’s inner workings, which hinders a detailed analysis of the parts’ origins.
“We have definitely not seen this before,” says iFixit teardown engineer Andrew Goldberg in the Reuters report.
iFixit had anticipated that the resin module, which Apple has said is to protect the electronics from the elements, would have a lid that could be opened rather than be a solid block.
“In the past, they have identified the component parts, but now instead of identifying all the processors and chips, they’re marketing it as the S1,” says Sam Lionheart, a technical writer at iFixit, in the Reuters story.
Apple in the past has relied on numerous companies to supply its memory chips for storing music and photos. The company, however, also imposes strict rules forbidding those suppliers from discussing Apple-related business with investors and the media. Previous suppliers have included SK Hynix, Qualcomm, Skyworks Solutions, Avago Technologies, ARM Holdings, NXP Semiconductors NV and Samsung Electronics.
Whether the strategy is to protect electronics from the elements, to protect the electronics from prying eyes, or both, I like it. And if that in turn makes identifying both components and members of Apple’s supply chain more difficult, well, good for Apple.