Following a five-year hiatus, Apple’s frenemy Samsung is set to supply NAND flash memory chips to Apple for its devices beginning with 2017, ETNews reported Wednesday. NAND flash memory is extensively used across Apple’s many products, including the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac notebooks.
Apple dropped Samsung as a NAND flash supplier following the iPhone 5 introduction in 2012 because the South Korean conglomerate was stuck with ball grid array (BGA) packaging and refused to invest in land grid array (LGA) package contacts that allow the flash memory chips to sit flush with the printed circuit board and were required to comply with Apple’s electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding requirements.
It’s all about EMI shielding
EMI shielding for semiconductor chip parts comes in the form of either bespoke packaging or special ultra-thin metallic coatings applied on the memory chips. According to industry sources, Samsung Electronics is now co-developing an EMI shielding process with Taiwan’s Protec, US’s Asymtek, Hansol Chemical and Atrium.
The former two have been tasked with building equipment while Hansol Chemical and Ntrium are developing EMI masking material in the form of a special ink. Samsung is planning to start churning out NAND flash memory chips with these EMI shields applied to them when equipment and material are developed.
“It is predicted that supply will be possible starting from next year,” reads the report.
The ETNews report corroborates an earlier rumor, also published by ETNews, which asserted that crucial iPhone 7 chips—such as the main ‘A10’ processor, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules, cellular modems and RF chips—will be protected by EMI shielding.
While prior iPhones have used EMI shielding on the printed circuit board and the connectors to reduce electromagnetic interference, fully protecting the rest of the chips might make it simpler for Apple’s engineers to fully waterproof their next iPhone.