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December 19, 2013

Just like in 2011 and 2012, 2013 was an exciting year for 9to5Mac in terms of leaks, exclusive stories, and breaking news. This year was interesting however because there was considerable doubt cast at many of the stories we’d broke which added some entertainment into the mix. Below, we break down our biggest stories of the year by product type:

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November 11, 2013

globalfoundries-logoA report from Times Union newspaper today claims Apple could be looking to GlobalFoundries to make chips for the iPhone and iPad at its “Fab 8″ plant in Malta, New York (via MacRumors). It’s unclear if the move would be to reduce its dependence on Samsung, its current manufacturing partner for the iPhone and iPad system-on-a-chip, but Times Union says Samsung will go to Fab 8 at least initially to assist GlobalFoundries in preparing to build the chips:

Samsung Electronics, which currently makes the logic microprocessors used in Apple’s popular iPhone and iPad devices at its Austin, Texas fab, will help with the start-up of the Apple program, ensuring that Apple will have a second U.S. source for chips for the popular smart phones and tablets. Logic chips are the workhorse chips that are essentially the brains of a smart phone… It’s unclear if  GlobalFoundries will be making the chips with Samsung as the customer on behalf of Apple, or if Apple will be the direct customer, with Samsung helping set up the operation to mirror what it does in Austin. Either way, Apple will be the ultimate customer.

There have been rumors for years that Apple is attempting to reduce is reliance on Samsung, one of its top supplier of parts for the iPhone and iPad but also its biggest competitor in the smartphone space. Most of those rumors have pointed to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., but reports back in July claimed Apple was in talks with TSMC competitor GlobalFoundries. expand full story

September 20, 2013

Images via Chipworks

Back in July, Mark reported that some code in iOS 7 showed that the 64-bit A7 would be made by Samsung.  If that weren’t enough, Anandtech reported that they also believe that Samsung made the A7 last week after their iPhone review.

The evidence was pretty strong but we now have what appears to be definitive evidence from iFixit/Chipworks.

There was mighty speculation among the internet as to the manufacturer of Apple’s new A7 processor. We uncovered it last night during the iPhone 5s teardown, but now Chipworks has taken it one step further. Through the magic of decapping an IC, their internal shots revealed the A7 to be made by Samsung. Die photos of the A7 are coming.

Chipworks goes further and identifies what Apple calls the M7. It actually is a non-descript chip called the LPC18A1 made by a company called NXP. That’s marketing!

Finally, Sony looks like it has another win on its hands with the improved 15% bigger pixel camera sensor, a feat it has had since it first got the iPhone 4S camera contract two years ago.

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September 19, 2013

The 64-bit A7 chip used in the iPhone 5s is ‘only’ dual-core, rather than the quad-core most had assumed, according to chip review site AnandTech – and it has the same 1GB RAM as the iPhone 5. But no need to feel short-changed: the review concludes that dual-core is the optimum solution at present, and that real-life performance is better than anything else on the market.

All the benchmarks we’ve seen point to the iPhone 5s being the fastest phone out there by some considerable margin.

In a phone interview with CNET, Anand said:

 The tools that count cores query the [operating system] and the OS returns the number of logical CPUs and they only returned two. The quad-core card was kind of forced. It’s definitely not the only way to arrive at the ideal performance-power for a phone …  expand full story

August 12, 2013

July 31, 2013

While Apple is using an A6 processor for this new iPad mini, developer Nick Frey has shared with us that Apple is also developing a new A7 processor. A reference to an s5l8960x (likely A7) processor, which is a leap over the s5l8950x (A6) and s5l8955x (A6X), was located inside of the iOS 7 filesystem. Based on recent chatter, it seems plausible that this will be the chip powering the new iPhone 5S.

Interestingly, it appears that Apple will again work with Samsung for this new chip. The main system-on-a-chip will include some Samsung components- at least to power the display, according to analysis of the above code by a person familiar with Apple’s chip design process. This contrasts with a rumor from earlier this year (like every year) claiming that Apple will switch to TSMC on the A7 processor.

This source also says that over the past couple of years, Apple has hit roadblocks (in relation to processing speed) with both the upcoming A7 and A8 chip, but it appears those that issues have been resolved.

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July 19, 2013

The Wall Street Journal summarizes information from court documents and various sources that points to Apple and Samsung being back at the bargaining table after the two companies spent much of 2012 in court proceedings regarding patent infringement claims. During the summer of 2012, Apple won a major lawsuit in California court against Samsung due to design patent infringement claims regarding the iPad and iPhone.

Today’s report shares that since that time, the Cupertino and South Korean tech firms have met multiple times in private to come to some sort of settlement. Since last summer, the two companies have still been filing lawsuits against each other. Notably, today’s report claims that a settlement was near this past February, but the talks dissolved. Even with the cool-down, the talks are reportedly still on-going. Samsung reportedly has made proposals for the potential settlement:

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July 14, 2013

July 12, 2013

According to a report today from SemiAccurate, a semi-accurate site that has been hit and miss on Apple rumors in the past, Apple has just bought into a chip fab plant, backing up recent rumors that the company could be moving to build its own CPUs.

Apple has just done something that SemiAccurate has been expecting for months and entered the fab industry. No we are not joking, Apple just bought into a fab, and not in a trivial way either.

The full report remains behind a paywall, so it’s unclear if the site mentions a specific company that Apple has bought into. The tags for the report, however, do list “UMC”, a hint that the company in question could be Taiwan-based chipmaker United Microelectronics Corporation…

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July 8, 2013

April 10, 2013

February 10, 2013

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Interesting quotes aplenty from the ‘Apple and Samsung, frenemies for life‘ Reuters article this weekend:

Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor as Apple chief executive, was opposed to suing Samsung in the first place, according to people with knowledge of the matter, largely because of that company’s critical role as a supplier of components for the iPhone and the iPad…

…Cook, worried about the critical supplier relationship, was opposed to suing Samsung. But Jobs had run out of patience, suspecting that Samsung was counting on the supplier relationship to shield it from retribution.

Apple filed suit in April 2011, and the conflagration soon spread to courts in Europe, Asia and Australia. When Apple won its blockbuster billion-dollar jury verdict against Samsung last August, it appeared that it might be able to achieve an outright ban on the offending products – which would have dramatically altered the smartphone competition.

But, as the Samsung vs. Apple trial runs down to an effective stalemate, Reuters’ opinion is that Apple is likely to settle. The fact that current CEO Tim Cook was never in favor of suing Samsung to begin with (and he has said on multiple occasions that he hates litigation) makes it even more likely that a settlement will take place.

Former CEO Steve Jobs was of course willing to go “thermonuclear” and spend every last cent of Apple’s money to drive Android phones out of business. He even called Android ‘stolen products,’ according to the Walter Issacson authorized biography of Jobs.

As the article pointed out, Apple has moved swiftly to reduce reliance on its one-time ally, but it still has a lot tied up in displays, memory, storage, and, maybe most importantly, Ax processor manufacture.

Perhaps the legal battles have been overblown, as one source suggested:

“People play this stuff up because it shows a kind of drama, but the business reality is that the temperature isn’t that high,” said one attorney who has observed executives from both companies.

Another interesting tidbit on the genesis of the Apple-Samsung relationship: expand full story

November 28, 2012

Things aren’t looking good for chipmaker AMD…Following another round of layoffs totaling about 15 percent of its employees last month, Reuters reported today that AMD is looking for an investor to sell its Texas campus in order to raise up to $200 million in cash in a multi-year lease back deal. AMD’s cash dropped from $279 million to $1.48 billion in the third quarter, and today the company sits at a market cap of $1.40 billion.

Despite not being the “main option,” with the restructuring and the company’s financial issues, Reuters’ sources claimed an outright sale of the company isn’t out of the question. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard chatter of an AMD takeover. However, with the company sitting at a market cap of $1.40 billion and rumors of Bob Mansfield’s new Technologies group possibly transitioning away from Intel processors, we can’t help but imagine a few things Apple would stand to gain from the purchase…

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October 15, 2012

Just before we heard Apple was not using an ARM-designed processor and instead its first custom CPU design for the new iPhone’s A6, we also heard reports that Apple was reducing component orders from Samsung due to the two companies’ ongoing patent disputes. While we knew Samsung was still—at the very least—manufacturing the new chip, a report from KoreaTimes gives more insight into the company’s involvement directly from a Samsung official. According to the report, the A6 is the first of Apple’s iPhone chips where Samsung did not contribute to development of the technology:

According to industry sources, Apple has not collaborated with Samsung in the process to develop its A6 microprocessor used in its latest iPhone 5. Samsung has handled the manufacturing of the processors used in previous iPhones and believed to have contributed in their design to some degree… It now appears that the structure of the deal has been dramatically adjusted…Apple is still relying on the Korean firm to manufacture its chips but has made it clear it will no longer use its rival’s technology.

We heard conflicting reports in September regarding Apple’s decision to reduce component orders from its biggest supplier, Samsung. Reuters claimed the reduction in orders was an attempt to simply “widen its supply chain,” while others reported Apple is actively reducing orders of displays, memory chips, and batteries specifically due to increasing tension between the companies. According to the report’s source, an unnamed senior Samsung official, Samsung is now only manufacturing the A6 chips on a “foundry basis”:

“There are three kinds of chip clients. Some want us to handle everything from chip design, architecture and manufacturing. Some want us to just design and manufacture. Some want us to just make the chips. Apple is now the third type,’’

Related to today’s report: Apple’s recent hiring of Samsung chip designer Jim Mergard. The report claimed the hiring of Mergard, who was working specifically on ARM chip designs at Samsung and prior, increases the “mutual tension”… expand full story

August 30, 2012

[nowhereelse.fr]

French website Nowhereelse [translated] posted more part leaks for the next-generation iPhone this morning, and while we get a new glimpse at the front screen, neither of the pictures show anything terribly new. The bronze piece pictured was originally thought to be an NFC chip, but more conventional wisdom suggests it is a speaker for the headset.

We also received an image of 4 iPhone motherboards before being chip loaded:

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…And, perhaps our most sketchy image:

Thanks, Sonny!

Adding to the slew of alleged leaks, a new image of a purported logic board for the next-generation iPhone has surfaced. The crisp picture shows the logical board without any protective EMI shielding for an internal look at the A6 chip that supposedly sits inside. We are a bit wary about the authenticity of this picture, as its originator, Sonny Dickson, said it needed to be “enhanced with Photoshop.”

It is speculated the A6, or a variant of the A5X chip, would appear in the next iPhone, and many thought Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s 28nm process would manufacturer the quad-core chip, but the latest reports claimed Apple is stuck with Samsung for at least CPU and/or baseband chip building after TSMC rebuffed an exclusive bid.

We also see another 9-pin dock cable from Sonny below:

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A gallery of new parts is below—including a video from Sinocent. expand full story

December 28, 2011

Following reports yesterday that Apple’s suppliers are prepping an HDTV in 32-inch and 37-inch variants for a summer 2012 launch, a new report from DigiTimes today suggested Apple will use its own custom chips, similar to the A5 chips found in iPhone 4S and iPad 2.

According to the report, three manufacturers are currently bidding to win contracts to provide components for Apple’s smart TV including: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Siliconware Precision Industries, and Advanced Semiconductor Engineering.

There were originally reports in July that TSMC signed a foundry agreement with Apple to begin testing next-generation A6 chips using its 28-nanometer process and 3D stacking technologies. That was followed by reports in October that Samsung began production of an A6 chip at its Texas factory. The A6 chip is expected to appear in next-gen iOS devices.

Apple’s longtime manufacturing partner Foxconn Electronics is expected to win contracts for the assembly of the Apple HDTV. The report also mentions that Apple plans to complete hardware standards for the device by Q2 in 2012. Apple will apparently deal directly with contract manufacturers to provide components, much the same as the iPhone and iPad.

Yesterday’s report claimed that Samsung would be providing chips for an Apple branded HDTV, along with Sharp supplying displays. Today’s report also confirmed a late 2012 launch.

Stern Agee’s Shaw Wu backs up the reports and claims Apple should pursue a “disruptive” internet streaming model to rival traditional cable providers and subscriptions, despite the licensing hurdles. He also wrote that Apple should continue its Apple TV set-top box product line, something that also backs up the DigiTimes report from yesterday:

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December 22, 2011

Pardon a Forstallism in the headline (“blow-away”), it’s actually a fitting description of AMD’s just announced Radeon HD 7970 graphic card powered by the Tahiti GPU. Traces of support for Tahiti-driven AMD GPUs have recently been found in a beta of OS X Lion 10.7.3, indicating Mac Pro users will probably be able to pop in this beauty inside their system for a pretty significant boost in the oomph department. According to HotHardware, the 7970 is between 1.2x and 1.6x faster overall than the previous-generation 6970. It also blows Nvidia’s reference GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB card out of the water with between 1.16x and 1.31x faster performance.

Gamers will especially love this card due to its increased memory bandwidth, compute performance, fillrate and tesselation (up to 25 percent faster compared to the custom EVGA GeForce GTX 580 3GB card). “To put it simply, the AMD Radeon HD 7970 is the fastest, single-GPU powered graphics card we have ever tested thus far”, the publication wrote.

Plus, the 7970 is the best-in-class performer in terms of power consumption (“idle power was the best, bar none”). Summing up, HotHardware’s Marco Chiappetta concluded that the powerful Radeon HD 7970 is “the fastest single-GPU powered graphics card money can buy”. So, when can you get your hands on one of these?

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December 15, 2011

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