Samsung & TSMC begin volume production of Apple's next-gen 'A9' CPU for 'iPhone 6s' - report

Posted:
in iPhone edited July 2015
The two principal manufacturers of Apple processors, Samsung and TSMC, have each begun volume production of the next-generation "A9" CPU for use in the upcoming iPhones, according to a new report.




TSMC however is only expected to enter mass production in the fourth quarter of 2015, using its 16-nanometer FinFET process, industry sources told DigiTimes. If Apple holds to a standard September iPhone launch window, that would imply that TSMC will not make a meaningful contribution to launch-day iPhones, at least in terms of CPUs.

The company is reportedly also doing contract production of Touch ID sensors and audio chips for the new iPhones, the latter on behalf of Cirrus Logic.

The sources added that estimates call for 80 million new iPhones to be shipped by the end of the year. That would be well below the 85 to 90 million recently claimed by The Wall Street Journal.

Apple is believed to be working on at least two new iPhones for this fall, commonly referred to as the "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus." Those phones should be identical to their predecessors in most respects, but gain A9 chips, more RAM, and Force Touch control options. Some rumors have also pointed to a budget-priced iPhone 6c being produced, but eschewing the 5c's plastic in favor of metal.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    Apple, if they have any brains, won't be putting SOC's on two different processes in the same phone. If this is true (which I doubt) they would be putting the TSMC units into iPads.
  • Reply 2 of 32
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,026member
    Eh! As usual, they have no idea.
  • Reply 3 of 32
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,026member
    Apple, if they have any brains, won't be putting SOC's on two different processes in the same phone. If this is true (which I doubt) they would be putting the TSMC units into iPads.

    I'm not worrying. This "report" is just a rehashing of what we've been hearing in the always 100% reliable rumor mill. The one thing we know we can count on about that, is that they've never gotten the SoC correct. Someone might get a lucky guess in, but that's about it,
  • Reply 4 of 32
    muaddibmuaddib Posts: 77member
    I will think the rumored iPhone 6c will be identical to the new iPod touch. The only difference being the ability to make phone calls. Also throw in touch ID
  • Reply 5 of 32
    doggonedoggone Posts: 294member
    There are always rumors of delays / issues with the run up of an Apple product. It's par for the course and there are plenty more to come.
  • Reply 6 of 32
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member

    Interesting to see in the news today that Intel can't do 10nm and are sticking with 14nm.  I imagine the 6S will sell very well but will represent the pinnacle for some time.

     

    I suspect the only reason why Apple would bother with TMSC at 16nm is if Samsung don't have the capacity at 14nm for both the A9 and Exynos 7420\30.

  • Reply 7 of 32
    smalmsmalm Posts: 671member
    Industry sources?
    Rumour-mongers!

    @cnocbui
    Why would Apple bother with Samsung's 14FF LPE when TSMC's 16FF+ is available?
  • Reply 8 of 32
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,026member
    smalm wrote: »
    Industry sources?
    Rumour-mongers!

    @cnocbui
    Why would Apple bother with Samsung's 14FF LPE when TSMC's 16FF+ is available?

    Several reasons, I suspect.

    One is that until last year, Samsung has made every ARM chip for Apple, at least, from the A4 onwards, and possibly earlier. Apple has never had a real problem with Samsung. Two is that Samsung's 14nm process is supposedly better than that of TSMC's 16nm process. I've never felt comfortable with TSMC. Nvidia and ATI have had problems with them going back as far as I can remember. They're always late with a new process, and have problems for months afterwards.
  • Reply 9 of 32
    Skylake solves everything.
  • Reply 10 of 32
    tomhqtomhq Posts: 22member
    Apple, if they have any brains, won't be putting SOC's on two different processes in the same phone. If this is true (which I doubt) they would be putting the TSMC units into iPads.
    Why is that?
  • Reply 11 of 32
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post



    Apple, if they have any brains, won't be putting SOC's on two different processes in the same phone. If this is true (which I doubt) they would be putting the TSMC units into iPads.

     

    Why not? Apple sells such a large volume of devices that splitting production across two processes wouldn't pose any difficulty. They would still enjoy economies of scale on both processes.

     

    Most likely TSMC would be making the ones that go into iPads while the smaller process devices from Samsung would go into iPhones (where battery life and power consumption are more important).

     

    Better to go to two processes and guarantee yourself enough capacity to meet orders than stick to one process and have shortages.

  • Reply 12 of 32
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TomHQ View Post





    Why is that?



    If you put some 16nm chips and some 14nm in the same iPhone, then you'd have some which were faster and could run at full speed longer than others.

  • Reply 13 of 32
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,417member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post





    Several reasons, I suspect.



    One is that until last year, Samsung has made every ARM chip for Apple, at least, from the A4 onwards, and possibly earlier. Apple has never had a real problem with Samsung. Two is that Samsung's 14nm process is supposedly better than that of TSMC's 16nm process. I've never felt comfortable with TSMC. Nvidia and ATI have had problems with them going back as far as I can remember. They're always late with a new process, and have problems for months afterwards.

    Well, Apple hasn't had any problems with the A8/A8X, so history isn't necessarily a great predictor of future success. There's also the case that Apple had both tapeout successfully, and now is providing updated production masks.

     

    My readings a few moments ago are that TMSC is having yield issues at 16nm but at the same time has put significant effort into 10 nm for 2017. Samsung put a huge effort into ramping a few of its fabs to 14nm and has picked up some of the TMSC workload. GlobalFoundries will benefit from the partnership with Samsung, and both might benefit from a partnership with IBM at 7 nm.

     

    Either way, the next two generations of mobile will be at 14nm/16nm so It would appear that Apple will be using all three foundries, albeit Samsung will get the bulk of the orders.

     

    I expect that the various SOC's will not be mixed within individual product SKU's. 

     

    There was also some verbiage about a LPE (early) and LPP(Plus) process, with the Exynos processors that came off the line really getting LPE and Apple's rumored to be the LPP. 

  • Reply 14 of 32
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,026member
    tmay wrote: »
    Well, Apple hasn't had any problems with the A8/A8X, so history isn't necessarily a great predictor of future success. There's also the case that Apple had both tapeout successfully, and now is providing updated production masks.

    My readings a few moments ago are that TMSC is having yield issues at 16nm but at the same time has put significant effort into 10 nm for 2017. Samsung put a huge effort into ramping a few of its fabs to 14nm and has picked up some of the TMSC workload. GlobalFoundries will benefit from the partnership with Samsung, and both might benefit from a partnership with IBM at 7 nm.

    Either way, the next two generations of mobile will be at 14nm/16nm so It would appear that Apple will be using all three foundries, albeit Samsung will get the bulk of the orders.

    I expect that the various SOC's will not be mixed within individual product SKU's. 

    There was also some verbiage about a LPE (early) and LPP(Plus) process, with the Exynos processors that came off the line really getting LPE and Apple's rumored to be the LPP. 

    I believe Samsung has most of the production again this year. While Apple was luck with TSMC last year, I'd hate to see them push that luck. And while we don't know, a reason why Apple went to Samsung again this year could be related to TSMC having process problems again, as has been reported. I also would put too much credence on anything 10nm, as Intel is having major problems of its own, and if they're having problems, it's difficult to believe that others won't as well.
  • Reply 15 of 32
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,417member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post





    I believe Samsung has most of the production again this year. While Apple was luck with TSMC last year, I'd hate to see them push that luck. And while we don't know, a reason why Apple went to Samsung again this year could be related to TSMC having process problems again, as has been reported. I also would put too much credence on anything 10nm, as Intel is having major problems of its own, and if they're having problems, it's difficult to believe that others won't as well.

    I don't think "luck" was involved. Apple had both tapeout  and TMSC won, with capacity and yield in its favor. Samsung bet big on building out its fabs for 14nm and it is paying off for them. 

  • Reply 16 of 32
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    Apple, if they have any brains, won't be putting SOC's on two different processes in the same phone. If this is true (which I doubt) they would be putting the TSMC units into iPads.

    Why? From the users standpoint one or the other wouldn't even be noticeable.
  • Reply 17 of 32
    tomhqtomhq Posts: 22member

    If you put some 16nm chips and some 14nm in the same iPhone, then you'd have some which were faster and could run at full speed longer than others.
    I don't see this as being that different from sourcing different DRAM, flash, sensor, panel, ..etc, which has obvious advantages on the business side. Even same process would not yield identical parts. I would imagine there is screening in place to ensure all parts meet a certain bar.
  • Reply 17 of 32
    smalmsmalm Posts: 671member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post



    Two is that Samsung's 14nm process is supposedly better than that of TSMC's 16nm process.

    It is not.

    Samsung's 14FF LPE had a small advantage over TSMC's 16FF.

    But 16FF was retired when 16FF+ went into production last month.

     

    To keep up with 16FF+ Samsung needs to replace 14FF LPE with 14FF LPP which they haven't done yet.

     

    Once Samsung switched to LPP both 16FF+ and 14FF LPP will have the same fin pitch, gate pitch, and metal pitch.

    We may see hardly any noteworthy advantage of one over the other.

  • Reply 19 of 32
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member

    If you put some 16nm chips and some 14nm in the same iPhone, then you'd have some which were faster and could run at full speed longer than others.

    If it is the same design you will get the same computational performance at a given clock rate. It is the clock rate that determines performance in a processor. It is pretty obvious too that Apple is having its chips built for maximum yields and not clock rate. So if all that Apple wants out of its SoC is 2GHZ it doesn't matter what the ultimate performance potential of any one process is as Apple isn't focused on the small percentage of faster processors that can come off any line.

    Now there is the possibility of differing thermals but even here it isn't clear which process is actually better. As with the new iPod Touch, Apple is free to manage clock rate anyway it wants to lower thermals.
  • Reply 20 of 32
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    cnocbui wrote: »
    Interesting to see in the news today that Intel can't do 10nm and are sticking with 14nm.  I imagine the 6S will sell very well but will represent the pinnacle for some time.
    Just because Intel can't do 19 nm doesn't imply others can't. Part of the problem with these transitions is chip complexity which is why RAM and flash producers are often ahead of other semiconductor manufactures in feature size implemented in their chips.

    Given that if Intel can continue to lower power usage at 14 nam it makes a lot of sense for them to do so.
    I suspect the only reason why Apple would bother with TMSC at 16nm is if Samsung don't have the capacity at 14nm for both the A9 and Exynos 7420\30.

    This has been an issue for some time as Apples demands at times have fully saturated Samsungs plants. In any event I think people need to realize that their isn't a huge difference here in the two processes with respect to performance. Further there can be variants and refinements in the processes at a given node. Samsung is rumored to be running two different 14 nm. processes right now. Likewise TSMC has been known to have a process node targeted at performance and a variant for low power.

    The fundamental problem here is that the average user would never know from usage which company built a chip for Apple.
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