Wait: There’s an FM Chip in the Apple Watch?

You may have heard that a series of telcos in the US have agreed to turn on the FM chip inside mobile phones connected to their network, including iPhones.

That’s right: your smartphone is capable of receiving over-the-air FM broadcasts. The receiving chips have been there all along but almost no manufacturer or wireless provider has elected to turn it on. (Get caught up here.)

Now there’s this: word that the Apple Watch contains an FM chip, although it’s been disabled.  This comes from Broadcast Blog:

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.

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.)

Cool. This teardown view of the Apple Watch from ABI Research points to the Broadcom BCM43342 connectivity chip which contains an FM radio.

apple1

All right, but so what? What could it possible by used for and by whom? FM radio listening, certainly. But FM frequencies are also used by a variety of wireless headphones. Stay tuned–so to speak.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Wait: There’s an FM Chip in the Apple Watch?

  • August 24, 2015 at 12:04 pm
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    I kind of find it funny every time you refer to the FM chip in cell phones. (quite a lot recently)
    Most recent Blackberry have the chip and it was enabled a few months back.
    You need to have the headphones plugged-in since it’s the “antenna”.
    It works great ! The quality (providing you have a decent reception) is way better than the digital broadcast (let’s say from TuneIn) and it barely touches the battery.
    I’m not sure if all models have it, but I think that everything that run BB10 does.
    Here’s and old link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/blackberry-s-data-free-fm-radio-available-on-z30-q10-q5-1.2514133

    So yeah, I’ve been listening to the Ongoing history of new music, out in the boonies, without cell reception or wifi, using my cell phone.

    I really hope this becomes a standard on all cell phones !

    Reply

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