Wireless earbuds were all the rage at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, but this particular trend was jumpstarted by Apple’s AirPods (Fig. 1). TechInsights just did a teardown of the AirPods to find out what’s inside these tiny marvels. The W1 chip in the AirPods is marked 343S00130, while the one in the Beats Studio wireless headphones is 343S00131, but the die size (4.42-mm by 3.23-mm) is the same.
The chip is designed to handle Bluetooth 4.2 or better. Whether or not this means support for Bluetooth 5 is up for speculation, since Apple is not making any claims yet.
The 14.3 mm2 W1 is on par with the other Bluetooth 4.2 chips on the market (Fig. 2). Dialog Semiconductor’s DA14680 comes in at 10.36 mm2. For comparison’s sake, the DA14680 is built around an ARM Cortex-M0. It has 128 Kbytes of RAM, 1 Mbyte of flash memory, 64 Kbytes of OTP memory, and a 128-Kbyte ROM.
TechInsights plans on doing a more detailed drilldown in the W1 chip (Fig. 3). This will identify the process node and foundry used to build the W1.
Inside each AirPod is a single-sided and a double-sided PCB linked via a flexible tail, which extends down to the lower end of the AirPod where there is a Goertek MEMS microphone. The single-sided PCB contains the W1 SoC, a Cypress Semiconductor SoC, and an STMicroelectronics low-dropout regulator.
The double-sided PCB contains a Maxim audio codec and a Bosch BMA280 accelerometer on one side and an STMicroelectronics ultra-low-power 3-axis accelerometer and low dropout regulator (LDO) on the other. The second side also has an unidentified light sensor as well as some passives.
TechInsights also disassembled the charging container. This includes a 1.52 Wh rechargeable, lithium-ion battery and a collection of power chips from Texas Instruments, Fairchild, and STMicroelectronics on the circuit board (Fig. 4).
Apple packs quite a bit into its AirPods, but it has a lot of competition. These devices essentially function as your own personal Internet of Things (IoT), and the technology employed is applicable to other personal IoT devices—not just wireless earphones.
For more details and a complete list of identified components, check out TechInsights’ teardown.