TSMC expected to begin 16nm volume production for Apple’s A9 chip in early 2015

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. Read more

Samsung’s SoC profits down as Apple chooses TSMC for A8, although rumor says it will produce processors for iPhone 7

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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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TSMC shipping Apple’s SoC’s for the first time with iPhone 6 says report, will use 20nm process

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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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Despite court battles, Apple switches back to Samsung as main iPad display supplier

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The court battles between the two companies doesn’t seem to have harmed Samsung’s position as a key supplier of components to Apple. DisplaySearch figures show that Apple switched from LG to Samsung as the primary supplier of its display panels for iPad Air and iPad with Retina display last quarter, reports CNET.

Samsung Display reclaimed its position as the top iPad display panel supplier, shipping 5.2 million units of 9.7-inch panels with a resolution of 2,048×1,536, accounting for 62 percent of total shipments of that display size and resolution [...]

LG Display [...] saw its share of that display size/resolution plunge to 38 percent in the first quarter from about 61 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 …

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Reports: A8 won’t feature integrated LTE yet, low yield rates pushing Samsung out of the process?

Image via iFixit

Two new reports out today are offering a bit of early insight into what to expect from Apple’s next A-series SoC, or system on a chip, that powers its iPhone and iPad devices.

The first tidbit from Fudzilla says Apple will once again rely on Qualcomm for LTE chips in the next round of iOS devices rather than an A8 chip with LTE integrated. So what does this mean? It’s probably safe to assume Apple will save a SoC which includes the LTE modem in a future iteration.

Generally, the fewer chips required in a mobile device, the better optimized for battery life the device is. Apple, of course, must strive to engineer battery life parity, if not improvements, as our devices get more powerful each generation.

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Apple reportedly partners into chip fab to bring processor manufacturing in-house

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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Three years later, DigiTimes still insists Apple will ditch Samsung for TSMC

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: Read more

Apple releases iOS 6.1.4 for iPhone 5 with updated speakerphone profile

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Apple has just released a new iOS .1.4 software update for the iPhone 5 that includes an updated speakerphone profile. That’s really it as far as public updates but Apple often updates some stuff behind the scenes including some bug fixes and security updates. The 11.5MB update (kinda big for just a profile, no?) is for iPhone 5 only and can be downloaded directly at the following links:

iPhone5,1 (iPhone5,1) 6.1.4 (10B350) 05/02/2013 13:07:01
iPhone5,2 (iPhone5,2) 6.1.4 (10B350) 05/02/2013 13:07:01

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Apple A6 X processor production reportedly goes from Samsung to TSMC, trial set to begin this quarter

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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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Wild Speculation: Why a $2B AMD purchase would be a puzzle piece fit for Apple

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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Apple moves supplier relationship status with Samsung from ‘frenemies’ to ‘enemies’

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”… Read more

Samsung looks to make Apple parts beyond 2012 and into 2013-2014


Samsung manufactures the Apple-designed A5 chip found inside iPhone 4S and provides 512MB DDR2 RAM for the processor.

Samsung and Apple are working towards a resolution to the differences that have been plaguing their long-standing relationship, which culminated with some twenty patent infringement claims filed before courts in a dozen countries around the world. Quoting industry sources, Korea Times, asserted Monday that Samsung might provide Apple with custom-built A6 chips for upcoming new iPhone and iPad models.

Today, Yonhap News reports that Samsung COO Lee Jae-yong said his company would continue to supply the Cupertino, California client with crucial components, including Apple’s in-house designed A-family of chips powering their iOS devices. The supply chain ties with Apple, he told reporters upon arriving at a Seoul airport, continue to be long-term. The executive sat down the previous day with Apple CEO Tim Cook following a private memorial service for Steve Jobs, to which he had been invited. His two-hour meeting with Apple’s boss touched on parts for the 2013-2014 period, he told journalists:

For the 2013-2014 period, we discussed how best to supply even better parts.

The executive, pictured below the fold, also spoke of “a need to compete in a fair manner for the benefit of the consumer”, adding “this stance existed in the past, is taking place now and will occur in the future”. Another indication of attempts to diffuse the ugly legal brawl comes in another report quoting Samsung’s mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun as saying that the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, which was unveiled yesterday with great fanfare, is designed to bypass potential legal attacks from Apple:

Now we will avoid everything we can and take patents very seriously. We will see if it will be 100 percent free [from Apple lawsuits]. I think it is just a start and [the lawsuits] will last for a considerable time. I don’t think there is much gain [from lawsuits against Apple]. What we are losing is the pride in our brand.

Now, despite Apple’s rumored chips deal with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Apple reportedly isn’t taking risks. The company sold a quarter billion iOS devices to date and hopes to grow sales even faster in the years ahead.

Apart from Samsung’s semiconductor fab in Austin, Texas, other chip vendors may not be capable of producing mobile processors for Apple in volume, without affecting quality and all the while meeting Apple’s high standards. Remember, we’re talking up to 200 million chips for iPhones, iPads and iPods in 2012. As for Apple cozying up to TSMC…
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