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After its disastrous Exynos 5 Octa, Samsung may have lost Apple's A7 contract to TSMC

post #1 of 366
Thread Starter 
Apple has long been expected to move its A-series chip production from Samsung to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. This wasn't expected to happen before next year, but mounting evidence suggests TSMC may already be building the unprecedented 64-bit A7 inside the iPhone 5s.




Source: TSMC, via SemiWiki


Who's fabricating Apple's A7?



In June, the Wall Street Journal reported the signing of a deal between Apple and TSMC, supporting the longstanding rumors that Apple had been actively working to find an alternative to Samsung for building its Application Processors.

However, that report described Apple's deal with TSMC as only intended "to make some of the chips [powering iOS devices] starting in 2014," and said "Samsung will remain the primary supplier through next year," citing unnamed TSMC "officials" and "executives."

Earlier, related reports from April by Taiwan's Economic Daily News stated that TSMC would build A7 chips for an "iPhone 6," but again suggested this would not happen before 2014.

In June, DigiTimes similarly reported that TSMC would begin building batches of 20nm process "A8" chips, but wouldn't ramp up production until September.

Put together, these reports paint a picture of Apple's TSMC partnership gearing up for a launch next year, but a variety of recent facts suggest that the duo may have entered production earlier than anticipated.

Apple's A-series chips


Apple has set a regular pattern of introducing annual updates to both its iPhones and the A-series Application Processors (above) that power them. It doesn't seem likely that the company would introduce a new A8 chip early in 2014 based on production starting this fall.

If anything, it seems likely that Apple would push to introduce a TSMC A7 ASAP, and possibly create a mid-year enhancement of the same design benefitting from a newly completed die shrink process (as it did with the A5 for Apple TV last year).

Apple's A7 on the edge of the iPhone bell curve



Given that Apple's iPhone product lineup has now subtly shifted from selling "the last three generations" of iPhones to a new two-tier model featuring an upscale iPhone 5s and mainstream iPhone 5c (flanked by a low end iPhone 4S, and in some countries an even cheaper iPhone 4), it's certainly possible that Apple is sourcing its high-end 5s A7 brain from a chip supplier outside of Samsung, even if in limited quantities, likely under the expectation that the majority of sales will come from 5c buyers.

iPhone range in China
Source: Apple China


While the rest of us can speculate about what models of iPhone we think Apple could best sell (there's certainly no shortage of that in the world), anyone who knows anything about how Apple actually functions has to agree that the company has precisely-mapped mountains of data about what sells and what doesn't, from colors to capacities to price points. Anyone who thinks they know any of this better than Apple is either wrong or wasting their lives if they are not already generating billions of dollars in value with their grand expertise. Anyone who thinks they know any of this better than Apple is either wrong or wasting their lives if they are not already generating billions of dollars in value with their grand expertise.

For each of the last six models of iPhone, the "latest" model was the top seller. But now we are reaching a maturing point where there is more middle-market potential than there is high-end demand. This was proven by the unusual iPhone demand Apple saw this summer, significantly driven by iPhone 4 despite the device being a relatively ancient three years old and of little interest to the gadget hounds of the media sniffing out "innovation" by the scent of new SKUs.

Virtually every industry experiences such a shift. Once all the wealthy had automobiles, car makers turned their attention to the growing middle class. Today, the greatest volume of cars are aimed at mid-market value seekers, even though there are many ultra-luxurious models and even some limited edition marques that cater exclusively to the rich.

Apple is similarly shifting from focusing on "one new model for the well-heeled" to a new strategy that delivers a high-quality product to the mainstream and reserves a gold-plated (literally in this case) version for those with few resource constraints. But it's actually somewhat surprising that Apple's most expensive, 64GB iPhone 5s "only" costs $850 unlocked. Apple's iPhone product range is broader than ever, but still seems very restrained.

There's a far greater price range among Apple's MacBooks, which scale from an entry level Air at $1000 to a decked out Retina Display Pro at $3450. A top of the line iMac reaches up to $3850. A high end Mac Pro will probably make delicate creatures faint.

At the same time, regardless of their niceness, Apple's entire Mac lineup will be outsold several times over by this year's range of iPhones that cost $420 to $850. Additionally, those mobile devices will generate more than half of the company's profits.

A7 within a volume driver in the finite market for luxury smartphones



While the media has tattooed Apple with indelible ink spelling out "expensive," the reality is that Apple's iPhone business is very mainstream, with Tim Cook's laser operational focus aimed at mass production of a very few, broadly affordable SKUs, each the subject of rigorously scrutinized consideration. They don't get extremely cheap (Benedict Evans ‏recently pointed out that Nokia sells feature phones at an average selling price cheaper than Apple's iPhone 5s case) and don't get crazy expensive.

September 12, 2013


This is the antithesis of Samsung and its "throw everything and see what sticks" business plan, as well as Google's Moto X hobby that will crank out far fewer phones over the next month than Apple took preorders for in Yellow iPhone 5c's yesterday.

There are lots of much more expensive smartphones than Apple's top of the line iPhone, but these models sell in tiny volumes. Apple's sales volumes are so vast, and its profits are so fatty, that even on the bleeding edge of Apple's sales chart, the advanced A7 is guaranteed tremendous economies of scale. That is a remarkable business.

While Apple has been putting a lot of effort into its new luxury tier products, from the Retina Display MacBook Pros to its new Mac Pro, those products have relatively limited sales volume potential. The iPhone 5s will sell in the tens of millions, making the A7 successful at virtually any price. And make no mistake: it's a big price.

Over the last several years, Apple spent billions amassing a chip design team, acquiring or licensing silicon technology and expertise, and in financing the progressive fabrication of the A-series Application Processors, culminating in the industry leading design of the A7.

TSMC


And the interesting part isn't that Apple thought up ideas that nobody else was smart enough to "innovate," because that's not what occured here. The reality was that Apple arrived at delivering a production ARMv8 chip first because it uniquely had the resources to pull off such an engineering effort, it uniquely had the need and desire to pull it off, and it had the business plan in hand to confidently pull a return on this vast investment.

Nobody else does. Android serves in the same economy tier that its predecessor, Java Mobile on Linux, did. Windows Phone is a low volume curiosity product for eccentrics. BlackBerry is a dinosaur trying to evolve its way out of the tar pit. Outside of Apple, everyone else is struggling to sell to the mainstream at a minor profit.

Apple has the extremely unique luxury of knowing it can get top dollar for anything great it can imagine into existence, like an expert bartender working at the Cosmopolitan on Billionaire Night.

What we know about the A7



Most of what we officially know so far about Apple's A7 fits in a slide presented by Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller (below). Having more than an incredible billion transistors means the A7 is in a similar category to the Sun UltraSparc T3 16-core server CPU (really). A 6-core Gulftown Intel Core i7 has 1.17 billion transistors. An Intel Core 2 Duo has 291 million, while the original Macintosh was powered by a Motorola 68000 with a mere 68,000.

iPhone 5s


Of course, the A7 is a "System on a Chip," incorporating not just multiple CPU cores but also multiple GPU cores, along with lots of other integrated logic, including components related to encryption, audio processing for Siri noise reduction , the "secure enclave" for Touch ID and other supporting circuitry that would typically be found in external chipsets on a desktop PC.

Check out Google Trend's mapping of interest in ARMv8 (below). It's been talked about over the last year, but typically in the context of servers, not mobile devices. Interest spiked in conjunction with Apple's release of the A7, despite the fact that Apple hasn't even explicitly named ARMv8 as the "modern instruction set" the A7 will use.



As noted in an analysis of Apple's description of the A7 by electrical engineer Chris Jenkins, the A7's support for OpenGL ES 3.0 means it has shifted from PowerVR Series5 GPU cores and has likely adopted Imagination's new four cluster "Rogue" G6430 PowerVR Series6 GPU.

Last summer, Imagination presented some of the benefits of its Rogue Series6 including support for OpenGL ES 3.0 and Apple's OpenCL GPU computation API, as well as lossless compression designed to handle the vast amounts of data required to drive video on a Retina Display screen. Apple owns a ten percent stake of Imagination.



Further, Jenkins notes that in considering Apple's A7 die size, transistor count and performance ballpark, "it seems obvious that the move to 28nm and TSMC are both necessary to get the claimed 2x transistor density."

There's also a report by MacRumors from June that examined the chip identifier on an A7 appearing in a logic board leak. The site consulted with Chipworks to conclude that, because "this number has typically started with an 'N' and referred to a Samsung part number on the die," the shift to "a new 'K' identifier could indicate that the chip is being made by TSMC."

Apple's very busy 2013 vs the Samsung-kowtowing media



Outside of the Wall Street Journal, which seemed to be intently focused on narrating Apple's difficulty in leaving Samsung, there have been reports beginning as early as a year ago that stated Apple was set to begin cranking out the first fruits of its TSMC partnership by the fall of this year, where we find ourselves today.

Last October, for example, AppleInsider reported comments by analyst J.T. Hsu of Citigroup Global Markets, who described TSMC as having reached "unmatched" technological advancements in 20nm chip production, and stated that the firm's "volume production [for Apple] is expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2013." That was significantly earlier than had been expected.

It turns out that while the tech media spent most of 2013 complaining that Apple "wasn't innovating," Apple was secretly developing its new Mac Pro supercomputer, perfecting its Authentech-based Touch ID technology that the industry has been flummoxed to copy, completing iOS 7 (while Google took a Kit Kat break with Android Key Lime Pie) and OS X Mavericks (while Microsoft fiddled as Windows 8 burned), while also bringing an entirely new 64-bit mobile architecture into production ahead of the world's leading chip designers and foundries (which didn't see a pressing need to move to 64-bit and lacked Apple's experience in doing so), and, as nearly a side project, spending billions to build out a series of new iCloud data centers, and of course, Apple retail palaces like the new Stanford 2 store Cook drew attention to (below, from the inside) as well as the new Apple Campus 2 that takes the place of HP's old Executive Briefing Center.

Stanford 2


On top of all this, it was also financing the construction of a multibillion dollar new chip foundry with TSMC capable of producing advanced new 20nm components. The move to a 20nm process is a vastly expensive and incredibly complex new technological frontier, one that caused NVIDIA's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang to publicly question whether the move even made financial sense just last year.
It's not exactly impossible to understand how the mainstream tech media could have got the story wrong on TSMC, particularly given that they all seem to be getting the story wrong on the A7's 64-bit architecture.

One problem Apple doesn't have is a lack of resources, particularly overseas where it has over $90 billion flying in a holding pattern. Few companies have TSMC's chip fab technology, and few companies have Apple's resources to fund such technological endeavors.

If it's possible, Apple and TSMC would likely be the ones to pull it off, heavily motivated by Apple's desire to pull its funding from Samsung, and equally motivated by TSMC's (and Taiwan's) desire to establish itself as one of the world's few major chip foundries.

With the tech media and their Old Media counterparts completely hoodwinked into repeating the idea that Google's nearly-profitless Android is "winning" and that Samsung was "leading innovation" with its Galaxy of Players, Cameras, Tablets and a watch that are all falling to sell, along with a flagship S4 that's not selling as well as expected, it's not exactly impossible to understand how the mainstream tech media could have got the story wrong on TSMC, particularly given that they all seem to be getting the story wrong on the A7's 64-bit architecture.

The A7 design Samsung didn't see coming



Perhaps the most convincing evidence of a TSMC-built A7 is that the news of Apple's new 64-bit chip was also apparently news to Samsung. In fact, it was largely news to everyone.

Brian Klug and Anand Shimpi from Anandtech expressed surprise in their reporting of Apple's event, and if you can impress them ("OpenGL ES 3.0 support in iOS!!This is nuts. Wow I seriously can't believe the 64-bit move!" the site blogged) you're clearly on the frontier of technology.

However, it seemingly should have been impossible for Apple to surprise Samsung, whose System LSI chip fab has produced virtually all of the ARM processors powering Apple's iPods and iOS devices over most of the last decade, outside of a variety of secondary ARM components designed by Marvel and others (and apart from the iPhone's baseband chips built by Infineon and now Qualcomm, which are self-contained ARM computers that manage the devices' radio functions).

Gearing up the production of a new SoC typically takes many months of intense collaboration, so even if Apple (as the fab client) were bringing in a fully custom chip design for "simple" fabrication, it would still give Samsung a very long period of awareness of Apple's overall game plan, something Samsung clearly appeared to lack with the A7.

Samsung's flawed, dead-end Exynos 5 Octa



Instead, in the months before the A7's release, Samsung introduced its own 28nm, 32-bit "Octa-core" Exynos 5 as its vision of the state of the art in mobile Application Processors, in conjunction with the launch of its Galaxy S4 and then again for its even more recent Galaxy Note 3 phablet and Note 10.1 tablet released just a week before Apple's iPhone 5s event.

Exynos 5 Octa


While billed as an 8-core chip, Samsung's "Exynos 5 Octa" only uses four cores at once, following ARM's "big.LITTLE" design concept associated with its Cortex-A15 core design, which pairs four low-power, efficient Cortex-A7 cores with four high-power Cortex-A15 cores, switching between them to balance power with efficiency.

A year ago, Apple had the opportunity to develop such an Cortex-A15 chip of its own. Shimpi suggested last year that Apple might be among the first to develop such a device, likely informed by ARM's public roadmap, which presented the Cortex-A15 design as the future of ARM CPU cores.

Instead, Apple released its A6 chip (below) last year using custom designed "Swift" cores that incorporated some elements of the Cortex-A15 tech portfolio but were largely based upon existing Cortex-A9 designs. Qualcomm similarly avoided implementing a pure Cortex-A15 design in its own "Krait" custom ARM CPU core used in its recent Snapdragon chips.

A6 internal design


Texas Instruments also began work on a new OMAP 5 processor using ARM's Cortex-A15 design, but then scrapped the plans and exited the consumer mobile chip business last September.

And in fact, after developing the Exynos 5, Samsung announced that its Galaxy S4 phones bound for North America would be powered by Qualcomm chips, not its own new Exynos 5. That seemed to be puzzling, because Samsung is regarded as a leading designer and manufacturer of ARM chips, so why would it use a competitor's parts, particularly for such a flagship product?

Recall that just a year ago, iSuppli was releasing reports suggesting that Samsung's new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet should theoretically make more money than Apple's iPad, because the firm estimated that Samsung's component and manufacturing costs were less by virtue of the fact that Samsung is its own component manufacturer.

As it turned out, Samsung neither sold significant quantities nor profited much at all from its entire tablet, PC and netbook businesses. According to figures from Strategy Analytics, Samsung's entire non-phone computing device business earned a tenth of Apple's profits outside of the iPhone.

iSuppli


This year, iSuppli came out with a new report indicating (above) that Samsung's GS4 equipped with its own Exynos 5 Octa was substantially more expensive than the North American version of the same phone shipping with a Qualcomm Snapdragon (and both were estimated to be more expensive than iPhone 5). So much for having a home field advantage as a component manufacturer.

ARM and hammered



It turns out that ARM's designs aren't always the best. Industry consensus appears to indicate that the Cortex-A15 and its big.LITTLE architecture are too big and too expensive, and in particular not ideal for use in handheld mobile devices. That makes sense given that ARM appears to have developed the design for use in server applications, not smartphones, even if they are oversized and designed to pack extra battery capacity like the Galaxy S4.

ARM's Mali GPU cores are also broadly considered to be suboptimal; rather than using Mali GPUs, Apple partnered with Imagination Technologies for the its PowerVR GPU core technology used in all iOS devices from the beginning.

That left ARM's Mali largely a generic GPU used by vendors for whom graphics performance isn't all that important. That includes Samsung, which has defaulted to the basic ARM Mali graphics across most of even its higher-end mobile offerings, including the Exynos 4-powered Galaxy S II and III; various models of Note, II, III; Chromebook and the Google-branded Nexus 10.

It was actually noteworthy that Samsung decided to use the same PowerVR GPU as Apple's A6 in its Exynos 5 for the Galaxy S4 rather than ARM's Mali, although its North American GS4's are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 with Adreno graphics.

Of course, you wouldn't need to know any of this unless you were in the unfortunate position of trying to develop Android games, and needed to test your software against three different vendors' GPU architectures just to work on one vendor's recent high-end smartphone.

But what all this really highlights is that the tech media's Samsung-fed understanding that Apple is devoid of innovation and just blindly using components from other, wiser companies, while Samsung is both a brilliant innovator and an accomplished designer and manufacturer of components -- is all actually quite backward.Outside of backwards land, the Exynos 5 Octa was such an expensive failure that Samsung couldn't handle eating its own dog food within the most competitive market of Apple's home continent.

Samsung has clearly failed to make the correct engineering and design decisions, first in losing its smartphone leadership to Apple with the iPhone, then in failing to create a viable tablet market (repeatedly), and ever since in struggling to match Apple's profitability in either business (or in PCs), but most importantly and relevant in this discussion of Application Processors: it clearly failed to develop the correct technology for powering the future of mobile devices, forcing it to buy alternatives from a competing chip maker.

Imagine the field day tech punditry would have if Apple built even a low end phone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon. Now imagine if Apple floated out its iPhone 5s in some markets with something other than the A7 due to cost constraints. Yet when Samsung, a chip fabricator, did this, it was seriously praised for seeking out new sources of components, and nobody cried foul over the marketing blitz for a chip that was left out of the device in the country where it was launched.

Outside of backwards land, the Exynos 5 Octa was such an expensive failure that Samsung couldn't handle eating its own dog food within the most competitive market of Apple's home continent. It's not just big and inefficient, but appears to represent a dead end direction in mobile technology. It's also failing to deliver any appreciable difference in performance to the extent that Samsung felt comfortable swapping it out with a more pedestrian Snapdragon in order to make the Galaxy S4 price more approachable. And sales were less than impressive despite this marketing bait and switcheroo.

ARMv8 was as public as Cortex-A15



All of ARM's licensees were fully aware of Cortex-A15, but all were equally aware of the 64-bit ARMv8 alternative. To many observers, both architectures seemed far-out future technologies more applicable to server applications than handheld mobile devices. The two most successful ARM designers last year simply avoided Cortex-A15 designs.

But as a variety of knowledgeable sources have noted, Apple not only developed its custom Swift A6 design last year, but also developed, in parallel, an implementation of ARMv8 (apparently Cortex-A50 series) technology that others had only experimented with in the lab. It wasn't that Apple knew something that the rest of the industry did not, but simply that Apple had a broader vision for selling high end technology that nobody else saw as immediately possible.

Take note, tech journalists: that's a much better definition of innovation than pooping out new SKUs every month.


Cortex-A50


Source: ARM


This reality is particularly clear from two announcements Samsung recently made; the first was just prior to Apple's event, where the Korean giant floated news that it had developed a way to activate all 8 of its Exynos 5 cores at once, broadly interpreted as an attempt to distract from Apple's own announcements.

Of course, the problem with the Exynos 5 wasn't its benchmarks, but rather that it was such an expensive pig that even Samsung didn't want to use it in its American-bound flagship smartphone.

Secondly, there was Samsung's immediate reaction to Apple's A7 unveiling, where its co-CEO jumped to assure the media that it too is working on a 64-bit chip and will have one in its next smartphone at some future date, without really explaining why, apart from the obvious reason.

"Not in the shortest time," Samsung's co-CEO Shin Jong-kyun said, "but yes, our next smartphones will have 64-bit processing functionality."

Incredibly, this announcement garnered none of the frothy "64-bit is a hoax!" reactions from the media. When Samsung promises vaporware, it's serious stuff. When Apple delivers technology, pay no never mind! It's witchcraft after your soul! Run for the hills and hide in caves. Trust us, we have media credentials and have interviewed an expert.

Samsung's approach to Application Processor design seems an awful lot like how Samsung entered the smartphone business: by failing until it embarked upon an intense copying session of every aspect of the iPhone 3GS.

Galaxy iPhone 3GS


Or how it entered the tablet business: by striving over and over again to copy the iPad, making claims of superiority and then withdrawing from the market in order to improve its product, then returning and still failing to find sales, and ultimately giving away tons of tablets even as its shipments were forced to scale back this summer.

Samsung was simply blindsided by the 64-bit A7. How it could be so left in the dark while spending months gearing up manufacturing of Apple's A7 is an opaque mystery unless Samsung wasn't ever involved in building it in the first place.

No A7 would be bad news for Samsung



In April, the Korea Times cited an executive at a local Samsung partner as stating that "Apple is sharing confidential data for its next A7 system-on-chip (SoC) with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). TSMC has begun ordering its contractors to supply equipment to produce Apple?s next processors using a finer 20-nanometer level processing technology."

The paper explained, "Apple has been paying billions of dollars to Samsung to use the latter?s application processors in its i-devices. Amid sluggish demand for conventional chips hit by poor sales of personal computers, Apple?s orders were a big help in lifting Samsung?s semiconductor business.""Amid sluggish demand for conventional chips hit by poor sales of personal computers, Apple?s orders were a big help in lifting Samsung?s semiconductor business" - Korea Times

Another Korean parts supplier to Samsung was cited as saying, "Apple is cutting the use of Samsung displays for its products. Now the deterioration of ties has expanded to chips. You should remember that the application business is one of Samsung?s new growth engines in which the firm is heavily investing."

The report described Samsung as scrambling to replace Apple's business, quoting another unnamed local official as saying, "If Samsung fails to win Apple orders for A7 chips, then some of Samsung?s system chip-manufacturing lines will be stopped. That?s a scenario Samsung really doesn?t want to see."

It could very well be that at some point between April and September, Apple rushed its A7 into production at Samsung, and that Apple managed to erect a firewall between its own A7 fabrication at Samsung's System LSI and the rest of Samsung's System LSI and Samsung Electronics' co-CEOs that worked better than the firewall between System LSI and the group that cloned the iPhone 3GS from Apple's blueprints.

But that doesn't seem very plausible.
post #2 of 366
Apple needs to hit Samsung where it really hurts... in the pocket. Samsung loves to copy other rivals' products but it might be tough for them to copy Apple's A7 and M7 processors.
So many other sites are touting the Exynos 5 Octa chip as an A7 killer but this site says Apple's A7 has the upper hand. Only time will tell who's right.
post #3 of 366
Take note, tech "journalists". This is how you do tech journalism! The info is out there (google is your friend) once you are able to see behind the bullshit. It seems Daniel is one of the few people out there with the intellectual capacity and the guts to add the pieces of the puzzle, draw the logical conclusions and spell it out for the rest of us. Another brilliant analysis and piece of investigative journalism - bravo! I'm surprised nobody else commented on the poorly worded panicked statement from Samsung re 64-bit processors and rather jumped on the "phones don't need to address more than 4 GB memory" bandwagon (possibly a result of some quick-thinking Samsung PR people in the first place).

Apple has done it again - a 32 to 64-bit transition literally overnight - seemingly effortless for developers and consumers alike. Forcing the whole industry forward when the rest were trotting down a blind alley at their own pace - this is true innovation!
post #4 of 366

Hoping the A7 is made by TSMC.

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Douglas Adams

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"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Douglas Adams

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post #5 of 366
AppleInsider, thanks for seeing beyond the gold and other color phones and reporting on the depth of technology and innovation that is Apple. With 64bit A7 and with battery saving M7 Apple is laying a solid foundation for the future.
post #6 of 366
Fact is that Samsung outsources chip manufacturer to alleviate shortfall in Apple orders.

And considering Samsung were first out and ahead with the A15/A7 designs it would be easy to speculate Samsung gave Apple exclusive time window for their 64 bit production.
Doing similar to what Intel did with Apple could well suit Samsung.

With 64 bit being no gain to existing smartphone users, its hard to envisage a fast open source led move to 64 bit. Here it is going to be harder to impose.
post #7 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by stevemost View Post

AppleInsider, thanks for seeing beyond the gold and other color phones and reporting on the depth of technology and innovation that is Apple. With 64bit A7 and with battery saving M7 Apple is laying a solid foundation for the future.

 

Indeed.

Funny, a supposedly rumor/fanboy site doing better tech journalism than the mainstream newsCorporation.

Look at the mess The BBC and CNN are drown in.

post #8 of 366
Referencing DigiTimes. Fail.
post #9 of 366
An article proving that no one does technical sarcasm better than DED. Nothing more bracing than a big, deep breath of Dilger to start off the weekend! There should be a name all its own for it ... Dilgercasm!

I admit to being a Fanatical Moderate. I Disdain the Inane. Vyizderzominymororzizazizdenderizorziz?

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I admit to being a Fanatical Moderate. I Disdain the Inane. Vyizderzominymororzizazizdenderizorziz?

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post #10 of 366
Quote:
 Perhaps the most convincing evidence of a TSMC-built A7 is that the news of Apple's new 64-bit chip was also apparently news to Samsung. In fact, it was largely news to everyone. 

That's a very good point. Also the diagram above for the ARM Cortex-A50 series, indicates that the designs are for 20nm and 14nm processes, so maybe the A7 does actually already use a 20nm process rather than the 28nm or 32nm processes previously suspected...now that would really be a jump on the industry. For once Apple's 'doubling down' on security paid off!

post #11 of 366

Superb article, I'm glad that there is a greater likelihood of TSMC instead of sasmung doing the chips, not that I mind, but I'm happier when Apple is not funding their main competitor.

 

Also, the M7 chip, this occurred to me while using my iPod, it tracks my movement all the time regardless of what app, if you're using Safari laying down and shift position, Safari flips, its bloody annoying but the sensors are definitely working all the time and not just for sports apps or whatever.

post #12 of 366

Really well written and detailed article, nice to see good analysis and information that doesn't just gloss over things and regurgitate press releases and sound bites. Congratulations.

post #13 of 366

Well, I guess this is after all AI.  :no:

 

Samsung S2, S3, S4 all came out with Qualcomm Snapdragon (mostly US) and Samsung Exynos (international), while Samsung used Samsung Exynos, Qualcomm Snapdragon, Intel Atom chips (Galaxy Tab 3 10.1) for tablets. Samsung Chromebooks are also powered by dual-core Exynos.

 

Samsung is doomed.  LOL!

post #14 of 366

What an excellent article! Nice job to whomever is responsible.

 

I'm so sick of all the nonsense that spews from most tech analysts mouths. I hope you keep this post stuck to the top of your site for a while, so people can understand what Apple is all about. 10,000 of some of the best engineers in the world are not there just to put out a line of multi-colored phones. Incredible amount of research and development being done at Apple. 

 

It's refreshing to see a writer who understands this, and takes the time to do the research before posting. Again....Great Job!

post #15 of 366
This is a well written and interesting investigative report.

Basically, there is a lesson to be learned - Apple should always strive to partner with companies like TSMC - pure parts manufacturers that don't and won't compete with them in the consumer market.

Companies like Google or Samsung are bad partners for Apple because when they know beforehand about future Apple products they have time to copy it. When they don't, they are left in the dust. See Google's success with Android phones vs their failure with tablets. See also Samsung's success with mobile chip designs vs their sudden failure with Exynos 5.
post #16 of 366
Apple very obviously had their own roadmap rather than sticking to ARM's which said 64-bit mobile chips were for 2014 smartphones and tablets, not 6 months earlier. Good on Apple.

A couple of other things of note in the "who's building the A7" guessing game.

TSMC and Samsung both licensed ARM's A53 and A57 chip designs in 2012. The A7 could well be a big.LITTLE layout using Apple-customized and paired A53 and A57 cores, and coupled with Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series 6 GPU as DED found during research. Here's another coming to the same chip design conclusions:
http://www.itproportal.com/2013/09/12/apple-a7-soc-two-cortex-a57-two-cortex-a53-class-socs-rogue-20000-mips/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+itproportal%2Frss+%28Latest+ITProPortal+News%29

In it's quarterly conference call laying out it's general plan thru 2015, TSMC expects 28nm shipments to triple this year compared to 2012, with the first 20nm shipments coming in 2014. If TSMC's statement was accurate and Apple's A7 is a 20nm die as some surmise...

.... and then there's GlobalFoundries who some claim was up to 15 months ahead of TSMC on 20nm 64bit ARM chip design.

Finally there's been a rumor around, dating as far back as late 2012. that Apple bought into United Microelectonics to build their own processors.
Edited by Gatorguy - 9/14/13 at 6:48am
melior diabolus quem scies
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melior diabolus quem scies
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post #17 of 366
Samsung has no one else to fab chip for since Apple and Samsung own more than 95% of the market now.
post #18 of 366
Samsung has no one else to fab chip for since Apple and Samsung own more than 95% of the market now.
post #19 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1983 View Post
 

For once Apple's 'doubling down' on security paid off!

 

The above comment stands out the most to me at the moment. With Apple stocks going up and down because of the 2 versions S or C and the different color choices, the real break through is what is inside that is more important. I think main stream media just doesn't understand technology and missed the point. 64-bit for a phone, WOW!

 

Nice article.

post #20 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by studentx View Post

Samsung has no one else to fab chip for since Apple and Samsung own more than 95% of the market now.

 

No. Samsung mobile, Qualcomm, Apple, nVidia use Samsung LSI to manufacture their ARM chips. 


Edited by tooltalk - 9/14/13 at 5:29am
post #21 of 366

Is exynos really that bad? I know people were disappointed that it wasn't a true octa-core processor (basically 2 quad-core processors glued together), but it sounds good in theory. Lower power consumption when the slower processor "is good enough" and switches to the faster processor when the user would value speed over battery life. 

post #22 of 366
Did anybody else's brain burp after reading this article?

My God, that was a good meal!

Kudos to the author for researching, reviewing, and releasing such material rather than just regurgitating like many others have chosen to do.

God, I wish there were more like you.
Apple Products: So good that their ‘faulty' products outsell competitor’s faultless ones...
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Apple Products: So good that their ‘faulty' products outsell competitor’s faultless ones...
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post #23 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ochyming View Post


Indeed.
Funny, a supposedly rumor/fanboy site doing better tech journalism than the mainstream newsCorporation.
Look at the mess The BBC and CNN are drown in.

I stopped watching/reading both BBC and CNN a couple of years ago. By idiots, for idiots.
post #24 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by tooltalk View Post

Samsung is doomed.  LOL!

Yeah, you're going to have to find a new employer soon. LOL!
post #25 of 366

Another thing that allowed Apple to surprise everyone with 64-bit is OS X. It shares a core codebase with iOS, so they were able to test all their 64-bit code in the wild for years with no-one suspecting anything.

post #26 of 366
Quote:
Samsung was simply blindsided by the 64-bit A7. How it could be so left in the dark while spending months gearing up manufacturing of Apple's A7 is an opaque mystery unless Samsung wasn't ever involved in building it in the first place.

Isn't there an alternative explanation? That Samsung could not reveal that they knew about the 64 bit processor in advance? They likely promise Apple a firewall between components manufacturing and the rest of the business. So if they indeed knew, they had three choices:

1. Mention 64 bit before Apple announced. That announcement coming out of the blue with no context would make no sense. It would put a big red flag in front of Apple and tell the rest of its customers that the firewall is a sham. There is a difference between suspecting a sham, and knowing it. The only reason to say anything pre-5S launch would be to tell the world it knew what processor was coming in the 5S. Bad idea with no upside.

2. As played. Make their 64 bit lame announcement once the A7 was revealed. Sure it makes them look flat footed, but alternative 1 would do the same, with the added downside of adding to their unethical image. So now they are not content to copy and ship. They must pre-announce their intent to copy as part of their road map strategy.

3. Shut up until they can ship. This one doesn't seem to be in the vocabulary of the grand copier.

So regarding this one data point, is it not just as plausible that they knew about the A7 because they were building it, but were forced to keep quiet? After all, this is not the most sophisticated company in the world when it comes to the media.
post #27 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

There are lots of much more expensive smartphones than Apple's top of the line iPhone

 

Are there?

censored

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censored

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post #28 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by janbanan View Post

Take note, tech "journalists". This is how you do tech journalism! The info is out there (google is your friend) once you are able to see behind the bullshit. It seems Daniel is one of the few people out there with the intellectual capacity and the guts to add the pieces of the puzzle, draw the logical conclusions and spell it out for the rest of us. Another brilliant analysis and piece of investigative journalism - bravo! I'm surprised nobody else commented on the poorly worded panicked statement from Samsung re 64-bit processors and rather jumped on the "phones don't need to address more than 4 GB memory" bandwagon (possibly a result of some quick-thinking Samsung PR people in the first place).

Apple has done it again - a 32 to 64-bit transition literally overnight - seemingly effortless for developers and consumers alike. Forcing the whole industry forward when the rest were trotting down a blind alley at their own pace - this is true innovation!

It's not really overnight because there are very few apps that will take advantage of the processor. It's a move that future proofs the 5s so it'll will be relevant in 2 years time when all the iPhones that Apple sells will have a 64 bit processor, and that's the genius part of it.
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #29 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

Are there?

1 or 2 but definitely not 'lots'.
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
post #30 of 366
Pieces like this (and not rehashed news or analyst bullshit) are the reason I come to this site. Amazing.
post #31 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lstream View Post

Isn't there an alternative explanation? That Samsung could not reveal that they knew about the 64 bit processor in advance? They likely promise Apple a firewall between components manufacturing and the rest of the business. So if they indeed knew, they had three choices:

1. Mention 64 bit before Apple announced. That announcement coming out of the blue with no context would make no sense. It would put a big red flag in front of Apple and tell the rest of its customers that the firewall is a sham. There is a difference between suspecting a sham, and knowing it. The only reason to say anything pre-5S launch would be to tell the world it knew what processor was coming in the 5S. Bad idea with no upside.

2. As played. Make their 64 bit lame announcement once the A7 was revealed. Sure it makes them look flat footed, but alternative 1 would do the same, with the added downside of adding to their unethical image. So now they are not content to copy and ship. They must pre-announce their intent to copy as part of their road map strategy.

3. Shut up until they can ship. This one doesn't seem to be in the vocabulary of the grand copier.

So regarding this one data point, is it not just as plausible that they knew about the A7 because they were building it, but were forced to keep quiet? After all, this is not the most sophisticated company in the world when it comes to the media.

Now if Apple could only get it's other suppliers not to leak anything.
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
post #32 of 366
Thank you for this. For the last 2 months or so, AppleInsider has created insanely detailed and well-written articles about Apple. Compared to the rest of the garbage out there, articles like these are a breath of fresh air.

Thanks AppleInsider.
post #33 of 366
Here's something that's slightly off topic, but worth pointing out:
Quote:
Apple's case for the iPhone 5S: $39
For the 5C: $29
Nokia's average selling price for feature phones: $34
? Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)
September 12, 2013

Two things stand out:
1. There's not that big a difference in costs between the 5S case and the 5C case. While I don't know where this person got his information, it sounds about right based on my manufacturing experience.

2. It highlights the reason why Apple will never offer a phone that people consider to be 'cheap'. No way in the world that Apple's going to be able to compete in $30 phones.
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #34 of 366
Maybe the rumour about Apple pursuing the A15 was actually due to disinformation being directed at Samsung. Apple knew that if Samsung thought they were working on an A15-based chip, then Samsung's next chip would be A15-based. They then quietly worked on the new 64 bit A7 with TSMC. Samsung went with bad technology because they thought it was part of Apple's roadmap. All Apple would really have to do is go to Samsung and say, "Hey, this is our reference design for our next CPU, we need to know if you can manufacture something like this... We'll just leave it here with you, whatever you do, don't copy it!"
post #35 of 366
"...But what all this really highlights is that the tech media's Samsung-fed understanding that Apple is devoid of innovation .. while Samsung is both a brilliant innovator and an accomplished designer and manufacturer of components -- is all actually quite backward..."

Brilliantly stated. This one line captures the basis of all the angst of Apple users over the past year.
post #36 of 366
64 Bit with only 1-2GB of RAM?

That is like blowing a 10 gallon air compressor through a straw!
Apple what the heck do you think you are doing?

That is nothing more than marketing ploy to get people reinterested in the smartphone as we are already seeing saturation in the market place.

"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

Reply

"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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post #37 of 366

Please appleinsider - stick to what you're good at and don't try to write technical articles as your knowledge level is embarrassingly low.

 

From a process standpoint, the A7 is clearly using TSMC's 28nm process and packing 1 billion transistors onto a100mm2 die is not impressive *from a process standpoint*. It clearly is an impressive chip overall and it's new functionality is great.  However comparing it to pure-CPUs frankly demonstrates ignorance, as integrated GPUs blow up transistor counts and have higher density than CPUs. 

 

At 28nm, assuming the A7 is approx 500 million transistors GPU and 500 million transistors non-gpu, the GPU portion would be about 40mm^2 and it would occupy about 40% of the total die. The non-gpu portion would be around 60mm^2 (50% more area per transistor, which sounds about right.) When apple moves to a 100mm^2 die on 20nm, it will have 1.4billion transistors or more.

 

Frankly Intel is the only company with a clear process advantage as TSMC's upcoming 22nm process will still be behind Intel's now somewhat outdated 22nm node as they lack FinFETs and Intel is releasing products at 14nm.

 

If you want great technical reviews - go to anandtech - right now they're one of the few places you can go to and really trust their reviews and editorials.

 

Last note - I'm not sold on the big.LITTLE arch (as clearly Qualcomm is not). However with Samsung and other OEMs releasing devices that now have HMP, it'll be interesting purely from a technical exercise if it really does improve the race to idle as well as non-intensive power usage. Whether the overall BOM increase of $7.75 of the Exynos-powered S4 vs the Qualcomm-powered S4 makes a material difference it up for question (once you remove the extra battery and box contents of the international S4).

post #38 of 366
This article is full of useful information and good reporting BUT you badly need and editor. The article's structure and tone are all over the place. You bury the most important bits in bad paragraph structure, awkward sentences and uneven rhythm.

This should have been at least two articles, maybe three.

Try this for starters: Have someone read your copy aloud. If they stumble, so will your reader.

Again, all the parts of a solid article exist within here, but it needs work.
post #39 of 366
Quote:
Originally Posted by Galbi View Post

64 Bit with only 1-2GB of RAM?

That is like blowing a 10 gallon air compressor through a straw!
Apple what the heck do you think you are doing?

That is nothing more than marketing ploy to get people reinterested in the smartphone as we are already seeing saturation in the market place.

It's all about laying the groundwork for future products.
post #40 of 366

"Anyone who thinks they know any of this better than Apple is either wrong or wasting their lives if they are not already generating billions of dollars in value with their grand expertise. Anyone who thinks they know any of this better than Apple is either wrong or wasting their lives if they are not already generating billions of dollars in value with their grand expertise."

 

This bears repeating. Over and over.

 

Basically the ultimate rebuke to every single troll nonsense comment made here since the 10th.

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  • After its disastrous Exynos 5 Octa, Samsung may have lost Apple's A7 contract to TSMC
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