Rumor: Samsung begins building first 'A9' chips for Apple with 14nm process

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2014
After Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. reportedly built the majority of A8 chips for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple is said to have begun turning back to Samsung for its next-generation "A9" processor, which is expected to power the company's 2015 iPhone lineup.




Trial builds of the so-called "A9" chip using Samsung's 14-nanometer FinFET technology began this week, according to ETNews, which cited unnamed "industry insiders." Production was said to have begun on Thursday at Samsung's foundry in Austin, Tex., as part of an effort by Apple to move chip production back to the U.S.

The allegedly agreement is said to have helped Samsung to not only recover some of the foundry quantities it lost to TSMC with the A8, but also gain the upper hand with its 14nm FinFET technology.

But Friday's report claims that TSMC could still be in the hunt with its own 16nm FinFET plus process, which began production in July.

Apple's switch to TSMC is said to have caused a significant hit to Samsung's chip making business. As a result, the company is banking hopes that its 14nm process will be enough to bring the iPhone maker back and recover some of those losses.

Reports first surfaced in October claiming that Samsung had won a contract to build 14nm "A9" chips for Apple. Other companies expected to use application processors with that process are Qualcomm and AMD.

This week's rumored manufacturing start aligns with that previous report, which claimed that Samsung would begin building chips for its partners around the end of 2014.

Prior to the launch of the iPhone 6, Samsung manufactured all of Apple's low-power ARM processors at its factory in Austin. But starting with the A8 CPU in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, TSMC was said to have taken over the bulk of responsibility, though exactly how much is in doubt.

While initial reports claimed TSMC was building all A8 chips for Apple, more recent rumors have claimed Samsung is still supplying about 40 percent of the latest-generation 64-bit mobile processors. The A8 is built through a 20nm process, which itself was a reduction from the previous A7 processor.

Smaller processors are more efficient, resulting in power savings that can allow devices like the iPhone to see improved battery life, even as the chips themselves become more powerful and capable. The Apple-designed A8 chip has been found through independent benchmarks to outperform the competition while still offering excellent battery life in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    what will the A9 chip have that the A8 chip does not? better battery life would be awesome.
  • Reply 2 of 57
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,346member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by schlack View Post



    what will the A9 chip have that the A8 chip does not? better battery life would be awesome.



    I would guess more of the same... a GPU that's 25 to 50% faster, a dual core CPU that's about 25% faster, a better camera ISP, better audio processing circuitry, and yeah -- probably better performance/watt (so improved battery life). 

     

    The days of either CPU or GPU performance doubling are probably over. 

  • Reply 3 of 57
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by schlack View Post



    what will the A9 chip have that the A8 chip does not? better battery life would be awesome.



    I would rather find out what more will the Co-processor be doing :-)

  • Reply 4 of 57
    Yes it will be faster. But honestly, there isn't one single app that uses the power of the A8 apart from high frame-rate video capturing. Not even games. Where are the blockbuster titles like Infinity Blade or Real Racing to show off the power of the iPhone 6 / iPad Air 2? When are apps get more powerful?

    I think Apple is bringing some significant changes to iOS next year to make use of all this spare power. Things like split-view multitasking or multiple users can't be that far off - however, I've been thinking this since iOS 5. Let's see how it plays out with iOS 9.
  • Reply 5 of 57
    I'm hoping the A9 to bring support for onboard Siri processing coupled with an always-listening feature a la Moto X.
  • Reply 6 of 57
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by supersheep View Post



    Yes it will be faster. But honestly, there isn't one single app that uses the power of the A8 apart from high frame-rate video capturing. Not even games. Where are the blockbuster titles like Infinity Blade or Real Racing to show off the power of the iPhone 6 / iPad Air 2? When are apps get more powerful?



    I think Apple is bringing some significant changes to iOS next year to make use of all this spare power. Things like split-view multitasking or multiple users can't be that far off - however, I've been thinking this since iOS 5. Let's see how it plays out with iOS 9.



    When Apple requires all new apps to be compiled for 64-bit (February) the A7 and A8 will really start to shine.

     

    Pixelmator uses the A8X. There are some games that run smoothly on the A8 but sputter a bit on the A7.

     

    You want someone to blame, though, blame Apple for keeping the A5 alive and in production so long. Most devs don't want to abandon a portion of the market that is still far too large.

  • Reply 7 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

     



    When Apple requires all new apps to be compiled for 64-bit (February) the A7 and A8 will really start to shine.

     

    Pixelmator uses the A8X. There are some games that run smoothly on the A8 but sputter a bit on the A7.

     

    You want someone to blame, though, blame Apple for keeping the A5 alive and in production so long. Most devs don't want to abandon a portion of the market that is still far too large.




    Actually, I am not complaining. Not at all. This is just amazing. I have an iPhone 4S and I can still run most apps just fine. However, this keeps me from buying a new device. Why should I get a new phone when the old one still runs brilliantly for my needs? And has done so for the past three years? If however, there were really great apps that didn't run on my phone - I'd consider getting a new one. But until now I haven't found them. But Pixelmator is a great start - I give you that. Makes me think about replacing my 1st gen iPad (which has slowly degraded into a mobile evernote system and little else) with a new one...

  • Reply 8 of 57
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

    The days of either CPU or GPU performance doubling are probably over. 


     

    At least until we switch away from silicon.

  • Reply 9 of 57
    mpantonempantone Posts: 2,070member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by schlack View Post



    what will the A9 chip have that the A8 chip does not? better battery life would be awesome.



    One real possibility is Apple including the Apple Pay Secure Element on the A9. Apple installed the NFC chip in the new iPads, but did not include the NFC antenna circuitry; the sole reason for the NFC chip's existence on the iPad is for the Secure Element to support Apple Pay.

     

    Other possibilities would be to include the NFC circuitry on the A9 or to include some/all of the other communications circuitry (cellular/WiFi/Bluetooth) so Apple would not have to rely on third-party silicon. An additional benefit might be power savings.

  • Reply 10 of 57

    I'll say this again, the 40% of chip business that Samsung has is most like for everything non-A8, the older apple product. It is too hard to have a SOC on two different lithograph technologies and deal with the difference they cause. Most likely Apple would not have introduce this level of complexity into a new product like the i6 or new iPads.

     

    The Fact that Samsung is acting like whore to get back the business they lost is only good for apple and the rest of us it allows them to get better pricing, TSMC will have to compete to keep the business and their overhead is lower than Samsung, Samsung may have to give it away to get the business back,

     

    You hear that sucking sound it the money Samsung is going to be loosing.

  • Reply 11 of 57
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,286member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    I'll say this again, the 40% of chip business that Samsung has is most like for everything non-A8, the older apple product. It is too hard to have a SOC on two different lithograph technologies and deal with the difference they cause. Most likely Apple would not have introduce this level of complexity into a new product like the i6 or new iPads.

    You would likely be incorrect. The news that Samsung has a contract to supply the A9's to Apple date back over a year ago. This latest report is just more validation.

    http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/183466/rumor-apple-taps-rival-samsung-to-build-majority-of-a-series-chips-starting-next-year#post_2640695
  • Reply 12 of 57
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by supersheep View Post



    Yes it will be faster. But honestly, there isn't one single app that uses the power of the A8 apart from high frame-rate video capturing. Not even games. Where are the blockbuster titles like Infinity Blade or Real Racing to show off the power of the iPhone 6 / iPad Air 2? When are apps get more powerful?



    I think Apple is bringing some significant changes to iOS next year to make use of all this spare power. Things like split-view multitasking or multiple users can't be that far off - however, I've been thinking this since iOS 5. Let's see how it plays out with iOS 9.



    the key is that the can throttle the SoC down and gain the Battery Life, and incrementally improve performance as well.   

     

    Apps will get more powerful when the growth of RAM will permeate 50% of the installed base.   getting to 1/2GB of ram in all the iPhones and iPads is a start.. now we have to wait 2 years.

  • Reply 13 of 57
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,418member

    Apple's version of The Marshall Plan?

    Why?

  • Reply 14 of 57
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by supersheep View Post



    Yes it will be faster. But honestly, there isn't one single app that uses the power of the A8 apart from high frame-rate video capturing. Not even games. Where are the blockbuster titles like Infinity Blade or Real Racing to show off the power of the iPhone 6 / iPad Air 2? When are apps get more powerful?

     

    Complete bull. You left out the audio production Apps, which can consume a LOT of processor power when rendering real-time effects.

  • Reply 15 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by supersheep View Post



    Yes it will be faster. But honestly, there isn't one single app that uses the power of the A8 apart from high frame-rate video capturing. Not even games. Where are the blockbuster titles like Infinity Blade or Real Racing to show off the power of the iPhone 6 / iPad Air 2? When are apps get more powerful?



    I think Apple is bringing some significant changes to iOS next year to make use of all this spare power. Things like split-view multitasking or multiple users can't be that far off - however, I've been thinking this since iOS 5. Let's see how it plays out with iOS 9.

    I agree.  

     

    These things are getting powerful enough to run a desktop/laptop system with "console quality" graphics.  Even if that "console quality" is a generation ago (which is debatable), the power is remarkably impressive.  I think Apple will eventually make the full shift away from x86 in favor of their own custom chips.  They are clearly on top of their game designing ARM chips for themselves, and can simply sit back and pick which ever fabs can handle the production.  

     

    And I couldn't agree more about split-view, multitasking, and multiple accounts.  I've been using split-view for a couple of years now and it is hard to imagine life without it.  I honestly thought Apple would announce split-view with the 6 plus.  They must be working on it, right?

  • Reply 16 of 57
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

    The days of either CPU or GPU performance doubling are probably over. 


     

    At least until we switch away from silicon.


    I for one welcome our non-silicon overlords.

  • Reply 17 of 57
    I don't think this is necessarily for next iPhone. I see this being primarily for an iPad plus/pro (12.9 inch) I could see it releasing in early 2015. Then the chip will make its way in to all other iPads/iPhones around sept launch
  • Reply 18 of 57
    If Apple could buy Intel that would pretty much wrap things up. Especially if they could have factories in locations other than China.
  • Reply 19 of 57
    froodfrood Posts: 771member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by boredumb View Post

     

    Apple's version of The Marshall Plan?

    Why?


     

    The spin and tone of the article would make it seem like that, but has it backwards.  It is Samsung's 14nm technology lead and track record of reliably delivering processors that got them the business despite Apple probably really having preferred using someone else.  Alluding that Apple's contract somehow made Samsung 14nm tech possible is a little backwards.  To see how those types of deals often work out, see "GT Advanced"  It helps Apple quite a bit in keeping their suppliers diversified.  I believe they snooped around Global quite a bit.  Would have been interesting to see an Apple/Intel manufacturing deal at Intel's mothballed 14nm Arizona project but Intel doesn't want to be a base foundry.

     

    It is a good deal for both Apple and Samsung.  Apple isn't being some benevolent patriarch here.  They shopped around and couldn't find a better supplier.

  • Reply 20 of 57
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TechLover View Post

     

    These things are getting powerful enough to run a desktop/laptop system with "console quality" graphics.  Even if that "console quality" is a generation ago (which is debatable), the power is remarkably impressive.

     


    They're not even close to touching the Xbox One or PS4. And GPU wise, it won't be until IMGTech's next generation GPU's that they match the 360 and PS3.

     

    It's hard for a mobile SOC to match octo-core APU's with 8GB of RAM.

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