Report: Apple Signs New Samsung Chip Deal

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

Apple has committed to keep Samsung on as a manufacturer of its mobile processors, but may also bring in TSMC or Globalfoundries

Apple reportedly will continue to use rival Samsung to make processors for its popular mobile devices, stirring up even more speculation over who will be the tech giant’s chip supplier.

A report in the Korea Economic Daily on 15 July indicates that Samsung will build 14-nanometre A9 chips that will be used in upcoming iPhones and iPads in a deal that was signed over the weekend.

TSMC speculation

The report comes weeks after the Wall Street Journal and the Taiwan-based tech news site Digitimes reported that Apple had signed a three-year deal with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) to make chips via its 20nm, 16nm and 10nm processes.

At the same time, other reports over the weekend indicate that Apple is talking with Globalfoundries about manufacturing chips for the giant device maker in a new fabrication facility in upstate New York.

iphone5_sidebarIt also could mean that Apple officials, who have talked in the past about reducing the company’s reliance on Samsung for its silicon and other components, have decided to take on multiple suppliers.

Apple officials, as a policy, don’t talk publicly about company suppliers.

The company has had a chip-making relationship with Samsung for several years, since it started designing its own ARM-based processors for its smartphones and tablets. However, during many of those years, the two companies have been ferocious rivals in the booming global smartphone and tablet markets.

Samsung, whose Galaxy smartphones run Google’s Android mobile operating system, has overtaken Apple as the world’s top smartphone maker. The two companies have been in courtrooms around the world, accusing each other of stealing patented technologies.

3D architecture

However, Apple over the past several years has invested a lot of time, money and effort in working with Samsung in designing and building these chips. For Samsung, Apple has become one of the company’s top component buyers.

According to the Korea Economic Daily report, Samsung has agreed to build the 14nm A9 chips that will include the FinFET three-dimensional transistor architecture, which enables greater performance and energy efficiency. It’s similar to Intel’s Tri-Gate 3D transistor technology.

The Samsung A9 chip will be used in Apple’s iPhone 7 starting in 2015.

On 1 July, the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed TSMC executives, said Apple had signed a deal that would have TSMC begin manufacturing 20nm chips starting in 2014. However, according to the report, Samsung would remain the primary chip supplier though next year.

Globalfoundries

Now Globalfoundries is entering into the speculation. The company, which was created when AMD spun out its chip manufacturing business, has built a new $6 billion (£4bn) fab in New York.

A report on the SemiAccurate website indicates that not only is Apple interested in having Globalfoundries manufacturing chips in the future, but that Apple may want to buy a piece or all of the fab, putting it in the position of becoming its own chip supplier.

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Originally published on eWeek.

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