October 8, 2015

AAPL: 110.78

-0.53

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

We’ve heard and read a lot about Apple going with two different manufacturers for the A9 chip in its iPhone 6s. Some models ship with a processor made by TSMC while others come with a Samsung-made component. While you’d expect that Apple would ensure both are built to offer comparable performance, it appears that may not be the case. It’s already been revealed by Chipworks that the Sammy model is 10% smaller, but if a couple of videos recently published are anything to go by, you might be better off with a TSMC model…

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August 26, 2015

AAPL: 109.69

5.95

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.

August 12, 2015

AAPL: 115.24

1.75

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, 2015

Apple chip supplier TSMC announces record profits, migrating to more advanced technology

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company – better known as TSMC – has posted record Q4 profits after taking around 60% of the orders for the A8 chip in the iPhone 6/Plus. Nasdaq reports the company’s net profits for the quarter rose 79% year-on-year.

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip maker by revenue, said Thursday that net profit for the three months ended Dec. 31 was 79.99 billion New Taiwan dollars (US$2.51 billion), up from NT$44.81 billion a year earlier.

TSMC’s move into 20-nanometer chip production enabled Apple to reduce its reliance on Samsung for the A8 chip, with the chipmaker saying that it is making further investment in more advanced chip-making technology. It plans to increase its capital expenditure this year to $11.5-12B, up from $9.52B last year.

A KGI report yesterday predicted that TSMC would pick up 100% of orders for the A9X chip expected to be used in the next-generation iPad, as well as making all of the A10 chips for the nominal iPhone 7, and all the S2 chips for the second-generation Apple Watch.

September 23, 2014

A8

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

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

a7-apple

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

a7-apple

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

TSMC reportedly shipping first batch of fingerprint sensors for next-generation iPhone and iPads

According to cecb2b, TSMC is already in the midst of fingerprint sensor production for the next round of Apple devices. As rumored, the company is manufacturing fingerprint readers for the next iPhone, as well as the next-generation version of the iPad Air and iPad mini. Apparently, the company has already provided the first batch of sensors from its suppliers.

September 30, 2013

Rumor: Apple will be moving to TSMC for A8 chip production for the 4th year in a row

Oh, Digitimes. This is the 4th year in a row that you’ve reported that Apple would be moving its chip business away from Samsung in Texas to the friendly local confines of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). This time however, the report hedges the bet saying only a portion of the production will move to Taiwan. It also sources a Korean publication Hankyung.

Apple shifting production of its iPhone and iPad chips away from Samsung to TSMC is one of those constant rumors, dating back to at least 2011.

Taiwan-based Commercial Times said a trial with Apple was set to kick off in Q1 for the A6X chip, which didn’t happen. DigiTimes, a site not noted for its accuracy, regularly reports that Apple is shifting its chip production to TSMC, and claimed back in June that this would be the case for the A8 chip, saying that production would start in early 2014. Since we’re not expecting the iPhone 6 until the fall, it’s hard to see why this would be the case.

The WSJ reported back in June of this year that a deal had finally been struck, but big investments by Samsung in its new Austin, Texas plant suggest that multi-year contracts are likely in place, and The Korea Economic Daily is claiming that Samsung will still make 30-40 percent of the A8 processors in next year’s iPhone 6.

This is said to be TMSC experiencing difficulties (presumably yield rates) with its manufacture of 20nm chips. It was recently confirmed that the A7 chip in the iPhone 5s was made by Samsung.

June 28, 2013

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

Report: Apple to utilize TSMC’s 20nm quad-core chips for new products over next few years

Chinese Economic News Service (via MacRumors) is citing Citigroup Global Markets analyst J.T. Hsu today as claiming Apple will make the switch to TSMC’s 20nm process for quad-core processors over the next couple of years. The rumor is something we have heard several times in the past:

Citigroup Global Markets Inc. estimated Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) to be the only supplier of 20nm process to Apple quad-core processors over the next one to two years, citing the company’s unmatched technological advance on 20nm process and Apple’s decision to adopt 20nm quad-core processors in its new products…Apple began verifying TSMC’s 20nm process in August this year and may begin risk production in November with the process. Volume production is expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2013, raising the possibility that TSMC will hike capital expenditure to US$11-12 billion in 2013 and 2014.

According to Hsu, Apple will utilize the processors in iPad, “iTV” (Apple TV?), and MacBooks, while iPhone’s will remain with duo-core chips:

Hsu estimated Apple to design quad-core processors into iPad, iTV and even Macbook. iPhones will be still powered by duo-core processors to highlight its low power consumption merit… Apple’s contracts have been widely criticized for low margin to contract suppliers, likely the reason why TSMC has been reluctant to compete for Apple contracts. But Hsu thinks otherwise, estimating Apple’s quad-core chip, cost at around US$15, could be 10% cheaper once it is made by Taiwan’s supply chains involving TSMC, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE), and Kinsus Interconnect Technology Corp.,

In August, Bloomberg reported both Apple and Qualcomm failed to obtain exclusive chip production rights from TSMC after putting up over $1 billion in bids. Samsung also recently made big investments in its new Austin, Texas plant manufacturing chips for iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products, indicating multi-year contracts are likely in place.

August 29, 2012

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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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