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
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
By Christian Zibreg on Feb 25, 2014
Imagination Technologies, the fabless British semiconductor maker, yesterday at Mobile World Congress detailed its new PowerVR graphics which outperforms Nvidia’s Tegra K1 platform and is a likely candidate for the next iPhone’s GPU. And now, another premium silicon vendor has announced a chip that could just as easily find its way into future iOS devices.
I’m talking about Broadcom, whose Wi-Fi chips and other controller components are used in the iPhone 5s and iPad lineup. The Irvine, California based firm announced at Mobile World Congress a new fifth-generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi component which doubles data throughput and increases Wi-Fi coverage by up to 30 percent.
Should Apple choose to tap it, the iPhone 6 and the next iPad will adopt Gigabit Wi-Fi aka 802.11ac, the latest and greatest standard in wireless networking for the consumer market… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Feb 24, 2014
Apple’s been using GPU parts from Imagination Technologies since switching to its own in-house designed iOS device processors, starting with the iPhone 3Gs in 2009. This UK-based firm does not churn out actual chips. Instead, it licenses out its GPU designs and intellectual property to vendors like Apple, Intel, Qualcomm and many others – that’s why “they” call it a fabless semiconductor maker.
Now, Apple’s engine that powers iOS devices typically combines Imagination’s GPU and ARM’s CPU blueprints with some memory, I/O logic and other supporting functions on a single die, a solution known in the semiconductor industry as a system-on-a-chip (SoC).
Moreover, both Apple and Intel own a stake in Imagination, another indication of its importance to Apple’s mobile future. See, Imagination’s PowerVR graphics processors coupled with Apple’s efficient mobile operating system have been largely responsible for the smooth graphics, transitions and animations seen throughout iOS. It’s the reason iOS is the smoothest mobile OS out there.
At CES earlier this year, Imagination unveiled a new GPU that we suspect should make its way into upcoming iOS devices. Today, the company is detailing some of its more intricate aspects and boy does it make our hearts sing: it supports 4K resolutions and outperforms even Nvidia’s upcoming Tegra K1, apparently enabling the most powerful graphics yet in mobile phones and tablets… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Feb 18, 2014
Starting with the iPhone 5, Apple has switched to using a single-chip LTE module which, by the way, costs $10 more than the cellular module in the iPhone 4s.
There has been talk lately of Apple possibly adopting a tightly integrated solution that would combine both LTE modem and a main processor on a single A8 chip, akin to many Android devices.
According to a new report by Fudzilla, this won’t happen in the next iPhone generation as Apple is once again looking to turn to its longtime supplier Qualcomm for dedicated LTE chips… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Feb 17, 2014
Apple’s upcoming A8 mobile processor is of course expected to power the next wave of iPhone and iPad devices, but the advanced chip apparently won’t be manufactured by Samsung, which fabbed all of A-series processors since the iPhone 4′s 2010 A4 chip.
According to a new report out of China, Samsung is experiencing yield issues and in turn has dropped out of Apple’s A8 chip production… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Feb 6, 2014
The fabless semiconductor maker, Imagination Technologies, has been providing Apple’s iPad and iPhone with its graphics and video hardware since 2007. On Thursday, the UK-based company announced extending its licensing agreement with Apple, giving the iPhone maker multi-year access to Imagination’s current and future PowerVR-branded graphics and video GPU blueprints.
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Both Apple and Intel are investors in Imagination, with the former holding a ten percent ownership stake in the company… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Feb 3, 2014
The University of Wisconsin via its patent-licensing arm, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, has filed a lawsuit against Apple alleging the company’s in-house designed A7 chip infringes the foundation’s patent designed to improve “the efficiency and performance of contemporary computer processors” by introducing a new process for allowing quicker execution of processor instructions.
It’s been reported Monday that Apple’s 64-bit A7 chip, which acts as the primary engine driving the iPhone 5s, the iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display, apparently uses this technology without permission… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Jan 27, 2014
An Apple-designed mobile processor for this year’s iPads and iPhones will be probably labeled ’A8‘ and supply chain rumors have asserted that the world’s top independent semiconductor foundry, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), will share orders with Samsung, whose multi-billion dollar Austin, Texas plant used to exclusively churn out Apple’s A-series chips.
Like the A7, the A8 is said to use package-on-package design which combines the CPU part and mobile DRAM in a single package for increased performance and optimized power consumption… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Jan 14, 2014
According to industry sources, Apple has seemingly commissioned Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to build Touch ID fingerprint sensors for a next-generation iPhone, dubbed by the press the iPhone 6.
The manufacture of the sensors should start in the second quarter of 2014 at TSMC’s twelve-inch fab, using the company’s 65-nanometer process, according to a report the Asian industry publication DigiTimes filed on Tuesday… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Jan 3, 2014
Despite what some would call a steep asking price, Apple’s desktop powerhouse – the new Mac Pro - has been universally regarded by reviewers as the dream machine for content creators who desperately wanted a reasonably priced monster workstation that would make real-time 4K video editing a reality. And despite scarce availability – online orders slipped to February and in-store availability is not expected before March – the new Mac Pro never ceases to amaze us.
Some power users have voiced their concern that Apple would, as is often its wont, lock down the system to allow only for memory upgrades. As it turns out, the new Mac Pro is one of Apple’s most expandable Macs, if not the most expandable one.
A teardown analysis by iFixIt has revealed a socketed Intel CPU, accessible RAM and no proprietary Torx screws (go figure!), giving the workstation an eight out of ten for repairability.
Earlier in the week, Other World Computing (OWC) has confirmed that the Mac Pro’s Intel Xeon E5 processor was socketed and removable. Today, the OWC team said it’s successfully swapped the stock CPU with an eight-core Xeon E5–2667 V2 chip not offered as the Online Apple Store’s built-to-order option… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Dec 27, 2013
Quick, what’s more painful than dropping anywhere between $3,000 to $20,000 on Apple’s juicy new Mac Pro? Being unable to perform a DIY upgrade of the computer’s main processor to a faster Intel chip down the road, of course! But worry not as a quick teardown has confirmed an upgradeable CPU so tinkerers and creative pros around the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Other World Computing, a U.S. company which has been in the business of selling various after-market upgrades for Apple products since 1998, has tore apart the new Mac Pro to reveal a socketed Intel Xeon E5 chip, potentially allowing for future upgrades… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Dec 18, 2013
After reporting that Apple supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) will share next year’s production of A8 chips with Samsung, the sometimes-reliable Taiwanese publication, DigiTimes, today said that the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry will account for more than half of total A9 chip output in 2015, with only one-third of chip manufacture to be handled by Samsung.
The South Korea-based Samsung up until this year used to exclusively produce Apple designed mobile processors for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices, but Apple’s been looking to distance itself from the company in order to prevent Samsung engineers from getting an early glimpse into its upcoming chip tech… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Nov 12, 2013
Yesterday, the unconfirmed news broke out about a surprise tie-in between Apple and GlobalFoundries, the world’s top semiconductor foundry second only to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) which counts Nvidia, Broadcom, Qualcomm and AMD as its clients.
The Albany Times Union newspaper asserted that GlobalFoundries will build Apple’s A-series chips for iOS devices at a new $6 billion facility in upstate New York. The development has led some folks to conjure up that Apple could be finally ditching Samsung for semiconductor manufacture, but that’s not really the case at all. Read on… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Nov 11, 2013
Milpitas, California-headquartered GlobalFoundries, one of the top semiconductor operations in the world, owns and runs cutting-edge multi-billion dollar production facilities all over the globe in places like Germany, Singapore and the United States.
Along with TSMC, GlobalFoundries gets frequently contracted to build various chips for such clients as AMD, Broadcom, Qualcomm and STMicroelectronics. And now, the company has apparently scored a major win, Apple, if a new report is anything to go by.
According to an unnamed source “close to the company” who spoke to the Times Union newspaper, GlobalFoundries may soon start building processors for iPhones, iPads and iPods at its new $6 billion Fab 8 facility in Malta, New York, just north of Albany… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Oct 30, 2013
In a surprise announcement that sent shockwaves throughout the technology industry, Intel said it will open kimono to arch-rival TSMC and begin making chips for third-parties, based on CPU blueprints from the British fabless semiconductor maker ARM Holdings, plc. Apple is among the licensees of ARM’s technology for its own in-house chips which serve as the engine powering the iPhone, iPad and iPod devices.
This is a huge development. Not only will Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor company, now fabricate its own ARM-based 64-bit mobile chips starting next year, it will now undoubtedly compete for the lucrative Apple business, especially given the iPhone maker has long been looking to take its chip-making contract elsewhere… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Sep 30, 2013
Apple has made quite a noise about its brand new chip, the M7 motion coprocessor designed to offload taking sensor measurements from the iPhone 5s’s main A7 processor. Because the M7 requires at least one-sixth of the power versus the 64-bit A7 chip, it can log data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass sensors independently of the A7 package, thus allowing for substantial power savings.
The details of how this data is captured and what power savings developers can count on were kept to Apple’s chest until the Argus app made headlines as the first fitness software optimized for the M7 silicon. Here are a few previously unknown details about Apple’s motion coprocessor hardware… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Sep 30, 2013
The sometimes-reliable Taiwanese publication, DigiTimes, has been saying for years that Apple was shifting its chip manufacture away from Samsung and towards its rival, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).
In its new report Monday, the trade publication now claims that TSMC will be responsible for the bulk of orders for Apple’s next-generation processor, the A8 chip, with Samsung taking care of about one-third of orders… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Sep 27, 2013
Following their initial analysis of the iPhone 5s’s innards, silicon experts at Chipworks have now taken a closer look at the handset’s 64-bit A7 processor to reveal a number of interesting tidbits in their initial low-level chip analysis. Based on transistor-level images of the Apple-designed, Samsung-built package, Chipworks was able to determine that the A7 consists of a dual-core processing core and quad-core graphics, tentatively identified as the four cluster version of Imagination Technologies’s PowerVR Series 6, the G6430.
Apple, along with Intel, is of course an investor with a ten percent stake in Imagination Technologies, the UK-based fabless semiconductor maker. Chipworks also focused on a portion of the A7 chip called Secure Enclave where Apple says fingerprint profile is stored securely and walled off from the entire system, except the Touch ID circuitry… Read More
By Christian Zibreg on Aug 25, 2013
According to sources who spoke with an anchor for Fox News Channel, the A7 chip expected to power Apple’s iPhone 5S is “very fast,” nearly a third faster than the A6 silicon ticking inside the current-generation iPhone 5. That’s only half the story as the reporter has also heard there’s a separate chip inside the device devoted to motion tracking.
Oh, and a prominent blogger has independently heard claims that some of the internal iPhone 5S prototypes include a 64-bit flavor of the A7 chip. He’s also learned a couple interesting tidbits concerning the rumored fingerprint sensor, the way it works and how it could lend itself to mobile payments integration… Read More