Apple reportedly contracts out next-gen mobile chip manufacture to TSMC

TSMC logo (medium)

After a long period of rumor mongering, it would seem that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry, is finally stealing Apple chip biz from rival Samsung. If a new report out of Taiwan is to be trusted, Apple has cut a long-term deal with TSMC to produce A-series chips for future iPhones, iPods and iPads built on TSMC’s 20-nanometer, 16-nanometer and 10-nanometer process technology.

If true, it’s the final nail in the coffin in the strained Apple-Samsung technology relationship. And good riddance, too, because Samsung will no longer be able to have a headstart of Apple’s future semiconductor solutions…

This one came via a hit-and-miss DigiTimes.

The terms of the three-year contract are said to include an A8 chip built on the 20-nanometer process technology starting next year. This matches up with Samsung’s earlier confirmations that its contract with Apple won’t expire before end of year.

As you know, Samsung has been building A-series processors according to Apple’s blueprints since the A4 chip debuted on the original iPad in 2010. Legal woes with the South Korean conglomerate have prompted Apple to question its reliance on a technology provider which also competes with it on mobile devices.

Apple chips (TechInsights 001, 201306)

TSMC allegedly partnered with Global UniChip to build Apple’s future mobile processors on its 20-nanometer, 16-nanometer and 10-nanometer process nodes. The foundry is said to be dedicating its Phase 4, 5 and 6 facilities at its Fab 14 location in southern Taiwan to building Apple chips.

TSMC will start to manufacture Apple’s A8 chips in small volume in July 2013, and substantially ramp up its 20nm production capacity after December, the sources revealed. The foundry will complete installing a batch of new 20nm fab equipment, which is capable of processing 50,000 wafers, in the first quarter of 2014, the sources said.

Apple’s most recent chips include the A6/A6X packages powering the iPhone 5 and fourth-generation iPad, respectively. The sources think the A8 chip will power a new iPhone “slated for release in early 2014”, while the A9/A9X chips will be used in the newer-generation iPhone and iPad devices.

Samsung’s components arm is understood to have complained about not receiving orders for the A6 chip while a pro-Samsung Korean newspaper reported that the iPhone maker actually excluded Samsung from A7 chip manufacture altogether.

It was reported in March that TSMC was finalizing chip designs for Apple’s next-gen mobile processor, with risk production pegged for the May-June timeframe and volume shipments expected in the first quarter of 2014.

Last we heard, Chinese-language Commercial Times claimed Apple selected TSMC as a silicon provider for its rumored less-pricey iPhone.