First HomeKit certified chips now shipping to smart home device makers

By Christian Zibreg on Nov 4, 2014

Although Apple hasn’t officially launched its HomeKit yet (they’re still finalizing the protocol), first certified chips that run a beat version of the upcoming HomeKit firmware have begun shipping to smart home device vendors such as makers of connected climate controls, lighting, security cameras and door locks, Forbes reported Tuesday.

The iPhone maker requires that accessory makers use officially certified Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chips from Apple-approved chipmakers Texas Instruments, Marvell and Broadcom, which have now started shipping HomeKit chips to device vendors. By all accounts, there shouldn’t be too long a wait until first HomeKit-certified smart home devices arrive. Read More

 

TSMC reportedly lands contract to build A8X processor for iPad Pro

By Christian Zibreg on Oct 15, 2014

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s leading independent semiconductor foundry, has landed a contract to fabricate Apple’s upcoming A8X mobile processor, Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes reported Wednesday.

The chip, which leaked on claimed photographs earlier this week, is said to feature faster graphics.

In addition to an improved GPU, it reportedly incorporates twice as much RAM as its A8 counterpart, which powers the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. As such, the A8X should power Apple’s rumored ‘iPad Pro’ tablet with an ultra high-resolution 12.9-inch screen. Read More

 

Samsung confirms building 14nm A9 processors for 2015 iPhones and iPads

By Christian Zibreg on Oct 2, 2014

Echoing previous rumors, Samsung of South Korea confirmed to reporters Thursday that it will start churning out mobile processors for Apple before end of the year, ZDNet reported. The chips, likely to be branded under the “A9” moniker, will be manufactured on Samsung’s cutting-edge 14-nanometer process technology.

The confirmation came through the mouth of Kim Ki-nam, president of Samsung’s semiconductor-making arm and head of System LSI business.

Speaking to reporters at company headquarters in Seoul, Ki-nam quipped that his company’s fortunes “will improve positively” once sales are boosted thanks to the lucrative Apple chip deal. The new mobile processor should make their way into 2015 iPhone and iPad devices. Read More

 

Apple’s new A8 chip: 20% faster CPU, 50% faster graphics

By Christian Zibreg on Sep 9, 2014

Apple’s new iPhones — the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus — come outfitted with Apple’s in-house designed A8 system-on-a-chip which has an astounding two billion transistors, twice as many as its predecessor, the A7.

The second-generation 64-bit mobile processor is fabricated on a smaller 20-nanomenter process technology making it more power-friendly and thirteen percent smaller than the A7. Read More

 

Scratch that: iPhone 6 ‘Phosphorus’ component likely barometric pressure sensor

By Jake Smith on Aug 25, 2014

An eagle-eyed member of the MacRumors forum says the “Phosporus”component destined for the iPhone 6, leaked on Monday, isn’t a next-generation version of Apple’s M7 co-processor, but instead a barometric pressure sensor. It makes sense given the several rumors that have cropped up in recent months with word Apple plans a barometer used to measure atmospheric pressure in the iPhone 6. Read More

 

Rumor: low-powered M7 successor code-named ‘Phosphorous’ to collect health and fitness data (Updated)

By Christian Zibreg on Aug 25, 2014

An Apple chip internally code-named ‘Phosphorous’ has been identified on leaked schematics and thought to replace the M7, a motion coprocessor which debuted inside the iPhone 5s last Fall. (Update: It’s looking like a barometer pressure sensor instead.)

It’s said to include the M7’s motion tracking functions and thought to be able to collect a number of health and fitness data from various health and fitness accessories and specialized medical devices.

This apparently includes heart rates, calories burned, cholesterol levels, blood sugar and more. It’s believed the chip works in tandem with iOS 8 and the new Health app, which allows users to enter a number of health and fitness-related data manually, or automatically collect these from various HealthKit-friendly accessories and wearables. Read More

 

Assembled iPhone 6 logic board apparently leaks, but crucial component obfuscated

By Christian Zibreg on Aug 14, 2014

In late-July, a claimed iPhone 6 circuit board leaked on the web. As it lacked the actual chips (it only showed the pin layout), it left watchers guessing as to whether the handset might include much-rumored NFC capability for a rumored Apple-branded mobile payment service.

Today, a photo purportedly showing a fully assembled logic board of the iPhone 6 has surfaced. Published by a Taiwanese blog, it reveals several semiconductor components such as a Toshiba flash chip and a Wi-Fi module… Read More

 

Rumor: Apple’s A8 chip boasts frequencies of 2.0GHz or more per core

By Christian Zibreg on Jul 11, 2014

Given Apple’s past mobile processor patterns, it’s fairly safe to assume that the new iPhones and iPads – when they drop this Fall – will feature a new A8 chip, designed by Apple and manufactured by both Samsung and Taiwanese chip foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).

We also heard whispers that the A8 chip focuses primarily on power efficiency and thus yields only marginal CPU speed increases. However, if a new report out of China is anything to go by, that may not be the case after all as the new 20-nanometer chip is said to boasts clock frequencies of 2.0GHz or more per core… Read More

 

WSJ: TSMC starts shipping 20nm A8 chips to Apple

By Christian Zibreg on Jul 10, 2014

It’s been long rumored that Apple for years has been working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest independent chip foundry, on building its in-house designed processors that power the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Apple TV devices.

Thus far, several conflicting reports have indicated that TSMC has been running test production of the upcoming A8 processor for months now, with other sources insisting that the Taiwanese chip foundry was unsuccessful kickstarting mass-production over ongoing yield issues.

A report Thursday by The Wall Street Journal has it on good authority that TSMC finally began shipping its first batch of microprocessors to Apple in the second quarter… Read More

 

Retina MacBook Air hits roadblocks as Intel’s Broadwell chips face new delays

By Christian Zibreg on Jul 9, 2014

It’s hardly a secret that Apple is looking to phase out non-Retina models from its MacBook Pro lineup.

Furthermore, the expected switch to all-Retina notebooks should over time affect Apple’s ultra-portable MacBook Air model, too.

I mean, even Apple’s Taiwan-based suppliers have been adamant that a long-expected version of the MacBook Air with Apple’s Retina display is due in the second half of 2014.

Unfortunately, it’s now almost certain that a Retina MacBook Air won’t see the light of day this year because the crucial components – Intel’s next-generation, extremely low-power Broadwell chips – reportedly won’t be available in volume until mid-2015… Read More

 

DigiTimes: Samsung receives orders for 14nm Apple A9 chip

By Christian Zibreg on Jul 1, 2014

Kicking Samsung out of the supply chain for Apple-designed iPhone and iPad processors may be easier said than done.

For years now Apple’s attempted to kickstart mass production of these chips at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry, to no avail.

As TSMC continues to cope with yield issues, technological hurdles and scale, rival Samsung is said to have landed orders for Apple’s A9 processor set to appear inside next year’s iPhone and iPad devices.

According to a new report by DigiTimes, the somewhat accurate Taiwanese trade publication, the sophisticated microprocessor will be fabbed on Samsung’s advanced 14-nanometer process technology, albeit not exclusively… Read More

 

Synaptics beats Apple to the punch on Renesas SP Drivers acquisition

By Christian Zibreg on May 27, 2014

Apple has failed to follow through with its rumored acquisition of the chipmaker Renesas Electronics’ mobile display chip division, Renesas SP Drivers. Reuters reported Tuesday that the iPhone maker has definitely lost its bid to acquire Renesas to Synaptics, a company that builds touchpads and touchscreens for an array of mobile and desktop devices.

The development is especially newsworthy given that Synaptics was once an Apple supplier (the company is not listed on Apple’s list of 2014 suppliers). Basically, this means that the powerful consumer electronics powerhouse has gotten outbid by one of its former suppliers… Read More

 

Revived rumor reiterates Apple continues to prototype Macs with ARM chips

By Christian Zibreg on May 26, 2014

It’s been speculated for years that Macs which run ARM-based processors instead of Intel chips have been in internal testing for quite some time.

This weekend a French publication has resurrected the rumor, claiming that the iPhone maker is indeed actively prototyping several ARM-based Mac models.

Moreover, the company is also working on a brand new keyboard which integrates the Magic Trackpad, Apple’s multitouch trackpad currently available as a standalone $69 accessory. But why would Apple transition from Intel to ARM-based chips and what benefits would such a major brain transplant bring to your daily computing?

Read on for the full reveal… Read More

 

Samsung-GlobalFoundries deal gives Apple’s chip production greater flexibility

By Christian Zibreg on Apr 18, 2014

As Apple continues to move anything it can away from Samsung as a result of heightened competition, fierce rivalry and an ugly patent spat between the two technology giants, Samsung seems to be doing the opposite, hoping to to please Apple’s enormous appetite for mobile processors powering iOS devices.

More than a thousand in-house Apple engineers design chips like the A7 processor and the M7 motion coprocessor. The former, the mobile industry’s first 64-bit processor, serves as the engine that drives the latest crop of iOS devices like the iPad Air, the iPad mini with Retina display and the iPhone 5s.

To manufacture these things in volume according to its blueprints, Apple relies on some of the biggest of the chip-making services known as foundries because it doesn’t have or operate its own semiconductor plant, an investment upward of $10 billion.

Samsung semiconductor arm has thus far churned out all Apple-designed mobile chips. Moreover, the company remains adamant to do so in the future despite its straining relationship with Apple and persistent talk of the iPhone maker throwing itself into the arms of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry.

Samsung and GlobalFoundries, the Santa Clara, California headquartered chip foundry, yesterday signed a global partnership to standardize mobile chip production around the same 14nm FinFET process technology. The deal gives Apple the flexibility to build its A-series processors at both foundries, which was previously impossible due to the foundries’ incompatible production processes… Read More

 

Apple poaching Broadcom talent as rumors of in-house baseband chip development intensify

By Christian Zibreg on Apr 9, 2014

Following talk of Apple’s rumored initiative that would have it develop its own baseband chips for 2015 iPhones and iPads in-house, AppleInsider has learned the firm’s recently poached a pair of longtime semiconductor engineers from chipmaker Broadcom.

Both men are experienced at building RF hardware and have led the effort to produce baseband transceivers used by Nokia and Samsung devices.

Apple counts Broadcom as its supplier: the iPhone 5s uses a Broadcom touchscreen controller and the handset’s Wi-Fi chip by Murata is based on Broadcom’s BCM4334 module, according to a teardown analysis by repair experts over at iFixIt… Read More

 

Apple allegedly working on its own baseband chips for 2015 iPhones and iPads

By Christian Zibreg on Apr 8, 2014

As you know, Apple’s in-house teams have been designing the engine that drives the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Apple TV devices for years now. However, the company still sources one crucial piece of silicon from a third-party: it buys baseband modems that provide the iPhone and iPad with cellular connectivity from Qualcomm. But even that could soon change, if a new rumor is an indication.

DigiTimes, the hit-and-miss Taiwanese trade publication, is reporting that Apple is planning to form a research and development team to engineer baseband processors for iPhones fully in-house. The move would empower the firm to take an even greater control of its chip destiny.

In years past, Apple acquired several fabless semiconductor makers such as PA Semi and Intrinsity for their talent and technology. Apple now has over a thousand silicon and wireless engineers who design A-series of chips in house by licensing CPU and GPU blueprints from ARM and Imagination Technology, respectively, optimizing their designs for speed, low power consumption and iOS… Read More

 

Rumor: Apple buying Renesas SP Drivers to improve iPhone battery life and image sharpness

By Christian Zibreg on Apr 1, 2014

The Japanese business site Nikkei is reporting that Apple is in discussions with chipmaker Renesas Electronics concerning taking over their division that builds mobile display chips, Renesas SP Drivers.

The deal should enable Tim Cook & Co. to bring another technological piece under their roof and help Apple’s engineers “improve image sharpness and battery life” on iPhones.

Renesas Electronics is included on the official list of Apple’s suppliers. Apple is known for investing in its partners and suppliers when it makes sense. For instance, the company holds a ten percent stake in UK’s fabless semiconductor maker Imagination Technologies which provides blueprints for GPUs used in iOS devices… Read More

 

New report alleges Samsung will build iPhone 6’s A8 processor after all

By Christian Zibreg on Mar 10, 2014

Shortly after Taiwan’s Commercial Times ran a story about Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) seemingly having started production of an upcoming Apple-designed A8 chip on an exclusive basis (as Samsung reportedly dropped out of the race due to yield issues), an unnamed Samsung executive in a defensive PR move took to blogs to argue that the rumor is greatly exaggerated.

Pouring cold water on the Commercial Times report, the Galaxy maker told ZDNet Korea (via GforGames) that the conglomerate has already signed a contract with Apple concerning next-generation A8 chip production. Moreover, the firm is currently in the final testing phases and is gearing up to kick off mass A8 production at its Austin, Texas facility.

The multi-billion dollar chip plant is almost entirely dedicated to Apple silicon production. Samsung’s semiconductor arm has thus far churned out every iOS device processor since the original iPhone… Read More

 

TSMC allegedly started producing A8 processor for iPhone 6 last month

By Christian Zibreg on Mar 5, 2014

A new story published by Taiwan’s Commercial Times (Google translate) and relayed by Agence France Presse has it that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest independent foundry, has begun churning out A8 chips that will likely serve as the engine for the coming wave of iOS devices, namely the iPhone 6 and the next iPad.

TSMC also builds Touch ID sensors for the iPhone 5s. The firm is understood to account for the bulk of A8 chip manufacture as Apple’s been attempting to decrease its reliance on Samsung, which up until recently used to exclusively build mobile processors for iOS devices based on Apple’s blueprints… Read More

 

An in-depth look at how Touch ID, A7, and Secure Enclave boost iOS security

By Christian Zibreg on Feb 26, 2014

We know quite a lot about the iPhone 5s’s fingerprint scanner, Touch ID. The advanced sensor works seamlessly and learns more about your prints over time so it continues to expand your fingerprint map as additional overlapping nodes are identified with each use.

It can match prints in any orientation, unless your fingers are greasy or wet, or there’s some dirt or debris on the Home button. There’s a 1 in 50,000 chance of a successful random match with someone else’s print, which is much better than the 1 in 10,000 odds of guessing a typical four-digit passcode.

The Touch ID sensor doesn’t store actual fingerprint images and instead creates an encrypted profile of your print and stores it on a module on the A7 processor called the Secure Enclave that’s walled off from the rest of the system.

After five unsuccessful fingerprint match attempts, or after every restart, the system asks for your passcode  so that hackers can’t stall for time. These are pretty much key pieces of information on Touch ID that was made public since its inception.

Today, Apple updated its iOS Security white paper [PDF download] with a few previously unknown specifics relating to how Touch ID works side by side with the A7 chip and its Secure Enclave portion to detect a fingerprint match in a highly secure manner. The document also details other security safeguards Apple put in place to prevent tampering with fingerprint data… Read More

 
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