a9 Stories February 15, 2016

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Apple chipmaker TSMC said that the earthquake that hit southern Taiwan earlier this month caused damage that will impact production, but has not yet given a clear indication of the scale of the problem. The company is one of two chip fabricators for the iPhone 6s, and is expected to be the sole manufacturer of the A10 chip for the iPhone 7.

The 6.4-magnitude earthquake on February 6 killed 116 people and injured many more, with significant damage also caused to manufacturing facilities …

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a9 Stories December 3, 2015

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KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a good track record on what if not when, says that Apple’s new 4-inch iPhone will “resemble an upgraded iPhone 5s,” but will get some new internals. Externally, he suggests the main visible difference will be similar curved-edge glass to the iPhone 6/6s.

Beneath the hood, he says the phone – expected to be dubbed the iPhone 6c – will get an A9 processor and NFC chip to support Apple Pay. The camera will, however, be identical to that in the 5s. Kuo’s investment note also supports recent reports that the 6c will get a metal case, stating that it will be available in at least 2-3 colors.

Kuo expects the phone to hit in the first quarter of next year, but does think that it may generate relatively modest sales …  expand full story

a9 Stories October 14, 2015

Two key Apple suppliers fighting for control of Taiwanese chip company – billions at stake, say analysts

The WSJ reports that Foxconn and the world’s largest chip assembler, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE), are fighting for control of the number three company in the chip assembly business, SPIL. ASE assembles chips used in the Apple Watch, while SPIL last year started supplying chips for iPhones.

ASE had planned to take a controlling interest in SPIL in order to protect its market-leading position and remain one jump ahead of competitors. Key iPhone assembly company Foxconn, however, persuaded the company that it would do better by collaborating with the Chinese firm in order to win more of Apple’s business.

SPIL shareholders will vote on the proposed deal with Foxconn tomorrow. Although ASE had already bought some shares in the company, it did so too late to qualify for vote, so has instead sent a letter to other SPIL shareholders urging them to vote against the motion.

All three companies are competing for system-in-package (SiP) orders from Apple, which analysts say will be worth billions of dollars.

There is huge competition for Apple’s business among chip manufacturers and assemblers, with Apple reportedly playing off Samsung and TSMC against each other in order to squeeze out last-minute price cuts for the A9 chip. Samsung’s recent return to profit was attributed to the chips it supplies to Apple.

a9 Stories October 8, 2015

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iPhone 6s <a href="http://9to5mac.com/2015/09/24/iphone-6s-teardown/" target="_blank">iFixit</a> teardown

After some debate over whether the difference between iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models made with Samsung or TSMC chips may impact battery life, Apple has offered its own take on the matter:

Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other.”

That 2-3% difference may be greater than some suspected, myself included, considering how tight battery life on iPhones can be with moderate to heavy usage. Apple’s full statement (via Ars Technica) actually addresses the type of battery tests many testers reference when measuring performance as being unrealistic: expand full story

a9 Stories October 7, 2015

Samsung sees first profit growth in two years – but thanks to Apple, not to phone sales

Samsung has today forecast a reversal of its seven-quarter decline in profits, suggesting an impressive year-on-year hike of almost 80%. But while the company itself hasn’t released any details on where the profit is coming from, analysts cited by the WSJ and elsewhere put it down to strong growth in sales of chips and displays – not phone sales.

This suggests that Samsung is making its money by helping other manufacturers sell their phones – with Apple’s record-breaking iPhone 6s sales doubtless playing a significant role. Apple split its A9 chip orders between Samsung and TSMC.

While the mobile-phone business isn’t likely to see a significant rebound as growth in global demand for smartphones cool amid saturated markets, Samsung’s earnings are being powered by strong growth in its chip business due to tight supply and firm pricing, analysts say. Samsung’s chip unit likely accounted for about half of the company’s profit in the third quarter, analysts said, while strong sales of displays to Chinese smartphone makers also contributed to its bottom line.

Samsung is estimating that its Q3 profits rose to 7.3 trillion Korean won ($6.3B), its first year-on-year growth since the same quarter in 2013.

a9 Stories September 28, 2015

Chipworks-a9 According to Chipworks, there are actually two different sized A9 processors floating around in the iPhone 6s and 6s plus released last week. That’s not really a surprise because Apple likes to have redundancy, especially when one of the manufacturers is Samsung. We’d heard that both Samsung and TSMC would be producing A9 processors destined for the iPhone 6s.

However, there appears to be a difference in size of the two A9s which might play a role in how the iPhone performs…

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a9 Stories August 26, 2015

Trade secrets stolen from TSMC helped Samsung win Apple’s A9 chip business, rules Taiwanese court

Taiwan’s top court has ruled that former TSMC R&D director Liang Mong-song revealed to Samsung trade secrets that enabled it to copy the chipmaker’s FinFET manufacturing processes, reports DigiTimes. The processes are used by both companies to produce the A9 chips used in the upcoming new iPhones.

It was recently suggested that Apple was playing off the two companies against each other, with Samsung reportedly offering discounted prices in order to “grab the majority of A9 chip orders.”

The ruling of the second-instance court was according to an analysis conducted by third-party experts regarding key manufacturing processes of TSMC and Samsung […]

“The 16nm and 14nm FinFET products that both companies will mass produce this year were even more alike,” the report indicated. “It could be hard to tell (if the product) came from Samsung or TSMC if only structural analysis is used.”

Liang resigned from TSMC to take up a position at a Samsung sponsored university where all the students were said to be Samsung employees.

As Patently Apple notes, the penalty for passing on the trade secrets hardly acts as a deterrent: Liang has merely been banned from working for Samsung for a period of four months.

a9 Stories August 17, 2015

Artwork by shoplemonde.de

Artwork by shoplemonde.de

While we’ve reported extensively on what to expect from Apple’s next generation iPhone 6S — including Force Touch in May and what enhancements it offers last week — a fresh set of rumors are floating around today regarding the pending iPhone model ranging from expected, known, and spoofed. We’ll unpack each one below: expand full story

a9 Stories August 14, 2015

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Less than a month from now, Apple is expected to officially unveil its new A9 chip. This will be the ninth A-Series processor including the original A4, which powered the first iPad, iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod touch, and second-generation Apple TV. It’s hard to overstate the importance of the A-series chips to Apple’s devices, as they’ve helped the company to achieve everything from major processing leaps to impressive power efficiency and — often taken for granted — guaranteed UI smoothness for every year’s newly-launched devices.

With the iPhone 6S just around the corner, we’ve started to receive tips purporting to reveal how much better the A9 will perform than the A8 processors found in the latest iPhones, iPad Air 2, and iPod touch. While we wouldn’t characterize the numbers we’ve seen as reliable, they led us to look back at the history of A-series chips, and consider what can reasonably be expected from the A9. Read on for our thoughts…

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a9 Stories August 12, 2015

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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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a9 Stories May 26, 2015

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A trio of new rumors from a handful of Asian sources have popped up over the holiday and today, each predicting a different facet of the upcoming ‘iPhone 6S‘. While these are still just very unverified whispers at the moment, odds are that at least one of these will end up coming at least partially true.

Here’s a roundup of the latest iPhone rumors, in no particular order:

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a9 Stories April 15, 2015

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In a new report from KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo, the usually accurate analyst estimates that global pre-orders for the Apple Watch will top 2.3 million units through May. A report earlier this week claimed that Apple Watch first day pre-orders were at almost 1 million units…

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a9 Stories April 2, 2015

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Bloomberg reports that Samsung has signed on to provide A9 chips to Apple for the next-generation iPhone. Apple moved to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) in 2013 for its processors, looking to reduce its reliance on Samsung, who is a major competitor in the smartphone space and a legal foe. With that said, it was reported last September that Samsung was still supplying 40 percent of the A8 chips found in the iPhone 6 despite Apple’s attempt to part ways.

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a9 Stories February 26, 2015

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The WSJ is suggesting that Apple’s growing presence in Israel is focused on expanding the company’s chip design capabilities, reporting that it has hired most of the local employees of a chip design company shut down by Texas Instruments and is advertising new positions in silicon and semiconductor design.

“Apple’s Israeli acquisitions and its expanding local workforce show that the company is becoming more and more independent on the chip level, where it once had to rely on external suppliers,” said Shlomo Gradman, chairman of the Israeli Semiconductor Club.

While the report contains more speculation than hard fact, we noted yesterday that Tim Cook–who is currently visiting the country–is accompanied by Johny Srouji, whose bio on the Apple website says that he “leads all custom silicon architecture and development” …

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a9 Stories February 4, 2015

Apple again said to be going back to Samsung for A9 chip in future iOS devices

After moving to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to produce chips for its latest mobile devices and reduce reliance on competitor Samsung, Recode reports that Apple is tapping Samsung for its next-gen A9 chips.

While Apple had hoped to rely more heavily on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to fabricate the Ax family of processors used in its iOS devices, the company has turned to Samsung for its next-generation A9 chip, according to people with knowledge of the situation…. Though Samsung refuses to identify chip customers, sources say the company is working to ensure an adequate supply of application processors for the next-generation iPhone.

The report mirrors much of what we’ve already heard in recent reports from others adding that “Samsung holds a technological edge over TSMC when it comes to the latest manufacturing process.”

More specifically, Recode cites the fact that “Samsung has managed to shrink the size of the transistors on its chips to 14 nanometers — effectively packing more processing power into a smaller space and consuming less power. TSMC is still at 20 nanometers.” The upper hand with Samsung’s tech was also noted as a reason behind Apple’s decision in earlier reports.

Samsung was said to be handling around 30% of Apple’s latest A8 chips in current gen iOS devices with TSMC producing the majority. Prior to the current-gen A8 chip, Samsung was previously producing the majority of Apple’s mobile chips alongside many other components for Apple products.

a9 Stories January 14, 2015

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Is an A-series chip destined for a future model of the 12-inch MacBook Air?

A KGI report predicts that Apple will begin using its own processors for Macs “in the next 1-2 years,” with a specific prediction of a Samsung-fabbed A10X chip powering at least one Mac made in 2016. The wording appears to suggest an entry-level machine–possibly a future model of the 12-inch MacBook Air.

Apple may launch Mac products that use own AP [Application Processor] in next 1-2 years. This prediction is based on the assumption that Apple’s self-developed AP performs at a level between Intel’s Atom and Core i3 and is good enough for Mac. Using self developed AP can help Apple better control the timing of Mac launches and Mac product features.

With performance between an Atom and Core i3, the chip would not be suitable for mid- to high-end Macs.

An accompanying table (below) shows an A10X chip made with a 10-nanometer process to be made by Samsung at some point during 2016 …

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a9 Stories January 5, 2015

NVIDIA sets the bar high for Apple’s A9 chip as early Tegra X1 benchmarks significantly outperform A8X

NVIDIA has thrown down the gauntlet to Apple in the mobile chip power stakes. While the A8X chip used in the iPad Air 2 has so far blown away the competition, NVIDIA has shown off benchmarks indicating that its new mobile superchip, the Tegra X1, leaves it standing.

The benchmark data shared with SlashGear were heavier on graphics than hard data, but appear to show that the chip significantly outperforms the A8X, with NVIDIA saying that it will offer “silky-smooth 60fps 4K video.” The one number the company did share is that when throttled back to match the GPU performance of the Apple chip, power efficiency was 1.7 times better.

a9 Stories December 12, 2014

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Production by Samsung of the A9 chip destined for next year’s iPhones and iPads is underway, according to a report in Korea’s Electronic Times.

According to industry insiders on December 11, Samsung Electronics began production of Apple’s A9 in the Austin plant in the US using the 14nm FinFET technology. Samsung has production lines capable of FinFET process production in Austin, US and Giheung, Korea, but began to produce A9 only in Austin as it is in the initial stage.

It had been reported back in July that Samsung had received some orders for the chips, which the company effectively confirmed in October when the president of the company’s chip-making division said that profits would improve once it began supplying its latest-generation chips to Apple …

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a9 Stories November 17, 2014

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Korea Times is claiming that a deal has been struck with Apple for Samsung to supply 80% of the chips for next year’s iPhones and iPads, with TSMC picking up the balance of orders.

Samsung Electronics agreed with Apple to produce application processors (APs) from next year for iPhones and iPads, sources said Monday.

The agreement means Samsung will become a primary supplier of APs to Apple, pushing its chief Taiwanese rival TSMC back to second place. From 2016, the company will supply 80 percent of APs used in Apple devices, and TSMC the remainder.

The paper suggests that Samsung will split production of the A9 chip across its Korean and Texas plants, partnering with New York-based GlobalFoundries for additional capacity … expand full story

a9 Stories October 2, 2014

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At a press conference, ZDNet says that Samsung president of the company’s semiconductor arm is looking forward to reversing its profit forecasts when it starts producing chips for Apple using its next-generation technology.

Kim Ki-nam, president of the Korean electronic giant’s semiconductor business and head of System LSI business, told reporters at Samsung’s headquarters in Seoul that once the company begins to supply Apple with chips using its latest technology, profits “will improve positively”.

Samsung is expected to start producing application processors (APs) for clients such as Apple, Qualcomm, and AMD, using its 14-nanometre process around the end of the year.

Effectively, Samsung has all but confirmed that it is signed up to manufacture Apple’s next-generation SoC for iPhones and iPads, likely named ‘A9’, probably using a 14 nanometer process. The current A8 chip is produced using 20 nanometer fabrication, with most orders being taken by TSMC.

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a9 Stories July 1, 2014

Samsung reportedly takes early lead in possible three-way battle to make Apple’s A9 processor

A report from DigiTimes claims that Samsung has received orders from Apple for chips made using its new 14nm process, with volume production set to ramp up in the course of next year.

The Samsung Electronics and Globalfoundries team reportedly has landed orders for its 14nm FinFET process from Qualcomm and Apple, with related foundry services to begin in early 2015, according to industry sources in Taiwan …

a9 Stories April 7, 2014

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Benoit Dupin, Vice President of Amazon A9’s Search Technology group, has left the high-profile search technology firm to take up a job with Apple. Dupin’s profile from Amazon A9’s executive management website disappeared this week, and his LinkedIn profile has been updated to reflect that he began his position as a director at Apple this month.

Amazon A9 is Amazon’s Palo Alto, California-based subsidiary that focuses on developing Amazon’s marquee search and advertising functionality. While Amazon has become popular in the tablet, eBook reader, and now set-top-box worlds, its core business has, of course, been Amazon.com, and Dupin’s work on search powers the heart of the online sales giant…

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