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A new report suggests that Apple is playing A9 chip makers Samsung and TSMC against one another in the lead up to the launch of new iPhones, attempting to extract last-minute price reductions for its next-generation processors. According to the report from Digitimes, which has a mixed track record regarding upcoming Apple products, Apple is requesting lower prices from both companies. Though TSMC is “inclined to refuse,” Samsung has agreed to discount the chips, offering Apple “almost-free backend services” in an effort to “grab the majority of A9 chip orders.”

The report suggests that Apple is leveraging the novelty of the FinFET chip manufacturing process to extract concessions from TSMC, which has relatively few FinFET chip orders from other customers. A claimed reduction in Apple’s demand from 30,000 wafers per month to under 20,000 wafers would leave TSMC to make up a significant difference between Apple’s original order and the Taiwanese company’s FinFET production capacity. The impact on Apple’s upcoming A9X, which was believed to be handled by TSMC, is unclear…

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January 15

September 23, 2014


A product teardown of both the new 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus devices last week confirmed earlier reports that Apple is indeed opting for TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) to produce the 20nm, second generation 64-bit A8 chip that drives the new iPhones. Research firm IHS, however, has shared a teardown analysis report with Re/code that claims Samsung is still responsible for a fraction of Apple’s A8 chips produced.

Rassweiler said the processor he saw during the teardown was manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the massive chip-factory-for-hire based in Taipei. […] Rassweiler says TSMC is manufacturing about 60 percent of the chips for Apple, while Samsung is still turning about about 40 percent.

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September 19, 2014

Chipworks A8 TSMC iPhone 6

As the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus hits retail and reaches customers today, the teardown process to find out exactly what’s inside of the new iPhones this year has already begun with iFixit kicking off their live stream of the process this morning and comparing the new battery sizes for the new devices. In addition to the usual list of internals you would expect to find in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, though, and a more nuanced detail iFixit notes as discovered Chipworks.

The second-generation 64-bit chip powering the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that Apple calls the A8 is confirmed by Chipworks to have been fabricated by TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) as we told you The Wall Street Journal reported in July. expand full story

August 25, 2014

We’re still just over two weeks away from the anticipated iPhone 6 event reportedly scheduled for September 9th where Apple is expected to debut the next generation of iPhone hardware including a more powerful, efficient A8 system-on-a-chip.

Worry not, though, about the next, next generation iPhone rumors, Apple watchers, as a report from Chinese publication Economic Daily News (via Digitimes) shares that TSMC, or Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, plans to “advance volume production on its 16nm process” during the beginning of 2015 “with monthly output of 50,000 wafers” to deliver Apple’s A9 system-on-a-chip. expand full story

August 5, 2014


Samsung has been having some issues lately, reporting falling profits in the most recent quarter. Although most of this is due to shrinking growth in phone sales, where Apple continues to dominate in terms of profit share, Apple has also affected Samsung’s income from its microprocessor production business. With TSMC having exclusivity over Apple’s A8 production, to be used in the upcoming iPhone 6, Samsung’s outlook for ‘logic chips’ is also gloomy, as The Wall Street Journal highlights in a new report.

Samsung executives admitted on a recent conference call that the outlook isn’t so bright for this business.

“Sales and profitability from System LSI (logic chip business) worsened as demand from main customers continued to decline,” Robert Yi, Samsung’s head of investor relations said last week. His comments confirmed, albeit indirectly, how Apple’s gradual shift away from Samsung as a customer of microprocessors was eating into its profits.

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July 10, 2014


Up to this year, all of Apple’s SoC’s have been manufactured by Samsung.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple has finally escaped Samsung’s grasp of iOS device CPU production. Although Samsung lost exclusivity last year, there was still doubts that TSMC would be able to follow through with their contract. According to this report, the manufacturer has succeeded and started shipping next-generation microprocessors for Apple’s devices (likely adorned with the ‘A8’ nomenclature) in the second quarter.

This marks a significant point in the production of the iPhone, finally allowing Apple to distance itself from Samsung in such a key area of its devices. The A8 chips use 20-nanometer production processes, according to the report. This compares favorably to the 28-nanometer process used for the A7, which should give better power efficiency and performance per watt. 9to5Mac previously reported that the A8 would focus on significant efficiency enhancements, rather than raw compute performance.

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May 7, 2014

September 30, 2013

June 28, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 5.27.25 PM

Corroborating a Digitimes report from earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has finally struck a deal with chip producer TSMC for future iOS devices. The report says that the two firms inked the deal earlier this month, but the collaboration will only likely come into affect in 2014. With Apple’s development of new iPads and iPhones for late 2013 well under-way, TSMC-built chips will only likely be found in Apple’s iPhones and iPads to follow the upcoming iPhone 5S, new low-cost iPhone, and new iPads.

While this deal will not push Samsung’s chip production completely out of Apple’s field-of-view, it will let the Cupertino Mac and iPhone maker reduce its reliance on the business of its fiercest competitor. The WSJ also corroborates numerous reports by saying that Apple has moved, in recent years, away from Samsung for the screens that are fit on the front-faces of iOS devices and NAND chips that store files. The WSJ shares that Apple and TSMC have been working on partnership possibilities for a number of years:

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June 24, 2013

tsmc-560x369-560x300A report out of DigiTimes this morning claims that TSMC has reached a deal with Apple to supply 20nm, 16nm and 10nm chips for future Apple devices. However, as is often the case with DigiTimes, there are a few causes for concern surrounding the report. Leaving the site’s track record on other rumors aside, we must point out that rumors of TSMC supplying chips for Apple’s device are nothing new. In fact, DigiTimes itself reported back in 2011 that Apple would tap the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company in a move away from its long-time supplier and biggest rival Samsung. Needless to say, it hasn’t happened yet, and there’s no proof as of yet to back up follow up reports from last year claiming Apple entered an agreement with the company. DigiTimes isn’t even the first to report it this year: expand full story

January 2, 2013


Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has been contracted by Apple to soon manufacture A6X chips, according to a report from Taiwan-based Commercial Times (via France24). The move, which has been speculated by media in the recent months, is said to reduce Apple’s reliance on South Korean-based Samsung, who has been responsible for many of Apple’s chips in recent years. The folks in Cupertino introduced the A6X chip in the fourth-generation iPad in October, and it is expected to go into TSMC’s hands, rather than Samsung’s, during the first quarter of this year for trial production.

For those unfamiliar, TSMC is the world’s largest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry. The trial that will be underway during the first quarter will presumably be in-place to see if the company can keep with Apple’s high demand that must be appeased with devices in stock. Past the powerful A6X chip, Apple has been rumored to make the switch to TSMC’s 20nm process for quad-core processors over the next couple of years in the iPad, “iTV” (Apple TV?), and MacBook, while iPhone’s will remain with duo-core chips.

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October 12, 2012

August 29, 2012


Apple and Qualcomm were denied, according to Bloombergwhen they tried to obtain exclusive chip production rights from Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

Both put forward more than $1 billion in investments so TSMC would pledge production capacity to them, but the manufacturer rebuffed the bid to keep versatile in chip yielding.

Bloomberg explained:

The two companies are trying to satisfy booming demand for smartphones, a market estimated by to be worth $219.1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Industries. Any deal would give Apple an alternate supplier to Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), which builds the main chip used in the iPhone and iPad and is also its biggest rival in smartphones. Qualcomm needs to boost supply, since shortages are starting to limit earnings.

As a supplier to Qualcomm, Broadcom Corp. (BRCM), Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) and other companies that no longer operate their own factories, TSMC wants to keep the flexibility to switch its production between customers and products. TSMC ChairmanMorris Chang told investors last month that he was willing to devote one or even two factories to a single customer.

One read of the story is that Apple wants to bail on Samsung and its new Texas foundry for CPU production. Qualcomm, on the other hand, is experiencing an insufficient ability to produce chips, which is starting to affect its earnings. TSMC forewarned that its 28nm mill for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 would not meet demand until 2013, and NVidia’s 23nm Keplar graphic chip, also manufactured by TSMC, has suffered much the same as Qualcomm.

There have been false CPU rumors regarding Apple and TSMC in the past. The Qualcomm and Apple rumor here might actually be for baseband chips, which Qualcomm makes for Apple. With the new iPhone, Apple is probably trying to ramp up those Qualcomm baseband chips in epic numbers (not the A5 processor, as implied by the story).  expand full story

September 15, 2011

The rumors have been going on for months, but Digitimes is today saying Apple’s new processor foundry is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). The move by Apple is believed to be precipitated by Apple’s ongoing legal battles with Samsung, who has provided Apple with processors since the original iPhone was released in 2007 through Apple’s release of “its own” A4 processor and A5 iPad processor earlier this year.

Apple has recently signed a foundry partnership agreement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), industry sources have claimed. Under the terms of the agreement, TSMC will apply its 28nm and 20nm process technologies to produce Apple’s next-generation CPUs, according to the sources.

The contract appears to be long and lucrative for TSMC..

TSMC is believed to have quietly secured Apple’s contract, and even succeeded in extending the deal to cover the manufacture for the A6’s successor, the sources said.

In addition, the agreed contract quotes are favorable to bring little impact on TSMC’s profitability, the sources revealed. TSMC managed to negotiate a good price, allowing gross margins yielded by Apple’s orders to be similar to its overall gross margin performance at present, the sources indicated. TSMC’s gross margin for the second quarter of 2011 arrived at 46%.

The details weren’t released publicly and as can be expected, neither company is commenting on the move.

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Broadcom is a major Apple supplier, providing both WiFi+Bluetooth and GPS chips for iPhone 4, pictured above. Image courtesy of iFixit

DigiTimes reported yesterday that TSMC’s expected third-quarter revenues will exceed July guidance, thanks to some “rush” orders from their customers which count such fabless chip makers as Qualcomm, Broadcom, MediaTek and MStar Semiconductor. Bloomberg’s supply chain analyst Richard Davenport is convinced TSMC’s revenue boost is linked to Broadcom:

Broadcom is the largest link between Apple and Taiwan Semiconductor. Broadcom appears to be a likely candidate for Taiwan Semiconductor’s rush orders.

How can he tell Apple is behind this supposed Broadcom order? First of all, all the other semiconductor makers – with the exception of Broadcom – have reduced their estimates amid weakening economy. Add on top of that TSMC’s larger-than-expected revenue estimate and you get a positive anomaly amid the current semiconductor slump. At this moment, Apple may be the sole company that could have placed such a materially impacting order, most likely for iPhone/iPad parts.

The notion is shared by William Blair & Co. chip analyst Anil Doradla. He said the last-minute order could be the result of a new Apple deal for iPhone chips with Broadcom. After all, Apple is Qualcom’s largest customer, accounting for an estimated eleven percent of sales. Broadcom supplies Apple with the WiFi+Bluetooth silicon and the GPS chip  for iPad and iPhone and has been a supplier since the original iPhone. However, this “rushed” order may not be related to iPhone 5, Davenport warns:

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September 8, 2011

We heard back in March that Apple might have been considering giving its chip making contract to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Reuters and Taiwan Economic News later followed-up, claiming TSMC had already begun test runs of Apple’s A6 processor. Per both stories, the A6 chip will be manufactured on TSMC’s 28-nanometer process and is coming in the second quarter of 2012, conveniently matching the expected iPad 3 arrival.

DigiTimes this morning quoted TSMC’s head or research and development Shang-yi Chiang who confirms his company is gearing up for mass manufacturing of 28-nanometer chips:

Chiang claimed that TSMC has received enough orders to fully utilize its 28nm production capacity. Its 28nm process technology will be available for mass production in early 2012, Chiang said.

He also said TSMC will begin research on the 14-nanometer process next year and expects to begin volume production on the node in 2015. They’ll be using 18-inch wafers to process 14-nanometer chips because it helps bring production costs down, which should be music to Apple’s ears. The report doesn’t mention Apple directly, mind you, but it is no secret that the Samsung-Apple relationship is deteriorating at record rates. Consider this…

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August 12, 2011

Taiwan Economic News is reporting that local Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd (TSMC), the company slated to supply Apple with the A6 processor after a shift from Samsung, has begun trials of the new chip made with the company’s “newest 28-nanometer process and 3D stacking technologies”. However, dont expect to see the A6 in a new iteration of the iPad anytime soon, as the report suggests the processor wont be officially unveiled until Q2 of next year, at the earliest.

Included in the report:

TSMC has applied its newest 28-nanometer process and 3D stacking technologies to produce the next-generation processor A6, which is based on the ARM architecture and will undergo TSMC’s cutting-edge silicon interposer and bump on trace (BOT) methodologies. Industry insiders said that the manufacturing will help to pump considerable momentum into TSMC’s business growth starting next year, though the company has yet to comment on the deal for the moment.

This contradicts an earlier report thru Reuters which stated that test production had already begun in July.  Both reports agreed that the final A6 processors would be complete and ready for iPad 3 in early 2012.  EETimes had reported the move back in March which was said to involve Apple’s current A5 chip but that never materialized.

An Apple switch to TSMC would obviously be a huge blow to ‘frenemy’ Samsung who currently makes the iPad CPU, DRAM and supplies Flash storage as well.

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July 14, 2011

According to Reuters, Apple and Taiwan-based manufacturer TSMC have begun a test production run of A6 processors for future Apple devices. TSMC is yet to be confirmed as the producer of Apple’s A6 chip when it ships sometime in the future, but the decision is said to be “authorized.” The only thing holding back the deal is the potential yield rate of the manufacturing.

Besides Apple already testing production of their next-generation processor, the most interesting part is that Apple will apparently move their custom chip production away from Samsung. Samsung is the company behind the manufacturing of the A5 dual-core processor that is found in the iPad 2. This A5 chip will also likely power the fifth-generation iPhone that is due in September of this year.

Apple’s A6 processor will likely debut in 2012 alongside a 3rd generation iPad. Apple’s past history has shown that the iPad is the first device to feature a new-generation of custom processors. The iPhone and iPod touch typically follow up months later with the same chip, usually custom designed for the smaller, more mobile form factor. Another possibility is that Apple will beef up the processor in the iPad, with the rumored ‘iPad HD’ in September.

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