Apple places unusual flash memory order

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
A recent mass order for flash memory chips from Apple is raising more questions than answers given the chips in question are much lower in density than the electronics maker typically chooses for its handheld multi-touch products.



Citing sources at downstream suppliers, DigiTimes says Apple has asked for delivery of 100 million 8Gb NAND flash chips sometime later this year, with the bulk of that order expected to come from Samsung. The Cupertino-based company's other key flash memory suppliers -- Toshiba, Hynix, Intel and Micron -- may also factor into the deal.



The order is suspicious, however, given the low density of the chips on order. Contrary to some inaccuracies being reported around the Web, the parts in question are 8 gigabit chips, representing 1 gigabyte of storage each, not 8 gigabytes of storage each.



While this order could theoretically be used to facilitate the production of 6.25 million 16GB iPhones or 12.5 million 8GB iPhones, Apple has historically purchased higher density chips for its handheld offerings due to space constraints. For instance, its believed that the current 8GB iPhone 3G employs a single 64Gb high-density NAND flash chip, while the 16GB version uses a 128Gb chip.



Similarly, Apple is also thought to be using a single high-density 32Gb NAND chip in its most recent 4GB iPod shuffle, though this hasn't been confirmed with any degree of certainty. A tear-down analysis of the player last month found only a single chip inside -- a multi-layered stack containing the CPU, RAM, and flash memory -- making a face value determination inconclusive. (Update: iFixIt confirmed for us that it is indeed a high-density 32Gb part in the shuffle).



It's also unclear from the report whether the 8Gb NAND parts are finalized chip packages, or bare memory chips that will later be stacked to form a higher density package. Assuming the chips are complete chip packages, the order may signal plans for a new low cost, low storage handheld product in the near future. Another alternative explanation could be that the parts aren't destined for an iPod or iPhone at all.



Their inclusion in future Macs is yet another remote possibility, though rumors of Apple adopting small flash chips for an implementation of Intel's Robson technology -- which promised faster startup, application launching, and battery life by caching key pieces of code in the solid-state memory parts -- fizzled some years ago. Apple now offers customers the option of configuring a handful of Macs with much larger flash drives, doing away with the need for a traditional hard disk drive entirely.



Regardless of Apple's intentions for the chips, DigiTimes claims the order is likely to cause a supply shortage for the broader market, especially with Nokia and Sony also reported to be building up NAND flash inventories for their own products.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 128
    trip1extrip1ex Posts: 109member
    ON-board flash for Macbooks and iMacs etc?



    Or is this for the new MacTouch?
  • Reply 2 of 128
    These are for laptops. I bet there's something in the works with flash memory that contains the boot drive for quicker and more energy efficient power-on, similar to what they recently did in the new Xserve.



  • Reply 3 of 128
    davegeedavegee Posts: 2,765member
    Tablets have far more room than an iPhone/Touch for the inclusion of flash memory... Oops, I've said too much already...







    Dave
  • Reply 4 of 128
    Sounds like a flash boot or deep sleep instant on in laptops to me, though I wonder if this has anything to do with the iChat answerphone rumour - your machine would be in sleep but wakes up just enough with no HD just to replay your outgoing and store the incoming...





    Just a thought.
  • Reply 5 of 128
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,132member
    Robson technology is useless.



    If you want faster bootup then simply replace your HDD boot drive with a SSD.





    These could be used in anything. They could be used in the nextgen AppleTV to buffer content. 1GB of NAND is more than enough to buffer a HD movie.



    They could be used in a storage device to cache frequently used data.
  • Reply 6 of 128
    yodamacyodamac Posts: 58member
    So maybe Apple is just buying them up cause a shortage for everyone else...



    ...is that illegal?
  • Reply 7 of 128
    sipadansipadan Posts: 107member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Baron Munchausen View Post


    Sounds like a flash boot or deep sleep instant on in laptops to me, though I wonder if this has anything to do with the iChat answerphone rumour - your machine would be in sleep but wakes up just enough with no HD just to replay your outgoing and store the incoming...





    Just a thought.



    Would be just a tad too convenient tie in with the previous rumor now wouldn't it? Almost as if they meant for us to make that connection....



    (Would be alright though)
  • Reply 8 of 128
    irelandireland Posts: 17,534member
    An old Duke and Duke trick - corner the market.
  • Reply 9 of 128
    boogabooga Posts: 1,077member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by YodaMac View Post


    So maybe Apple is just buying them up cause a shortage for everyone else...



    ...is that illegal?



    That was my thought, too... "Let's buy as much of the cheapest-per-chip flash products out there so we can to tie up the production lines for everyone else"...
  • Reply 10 of 128
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,132member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by YodaMac View Post


    So maybe Apple is just buying them up cause a shortage for everyone else...



    ...is that illegal?



    No it's stupid. Though I don't think that's what's happening. The movement is with higher density chips. Apple's probably fetching these for a song.
  • Reply 11 of 128
    xpcxpc Posts: 12member
    It must be for the iPhone nano
  • Reply 12 of 128
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    1) I am not a fan of using the term density to describe capacity without signifying that these 1GB chips are the same relative size, and therefore actually are lower density circuits, than NAND of higher capacity with the same relative dimensions.



    2) Would Apple really need 100M units if they were for Macs? It seems very excessive. If it's used for faster hibernation and for virtual memory wouldn't they have to use at least 4GB on average to make it work with most Macs moving forward?



    3) If these are are actually lower-density NAND they may be very fast NAND and may actually support what some are saying about using for Macs. But personally I think we are missing something from the story.
  • Reply 13 of 128
    cubertcubert Posts: 728member
    The first story I read said "8 GB". 8 Gb (ie. 1 GB) does indeed make this a mystery.
  • Reply 14 of 128
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,793member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    An old Duke and Duke trick - corner the market.



    Ha ha! Nice.





    I'd guess, on-board flash in Macs... for the OS only, with applications and user data on a separate internal drive. Or used for virtual memory. Or both OS and VM. Or could be used to store the OS for future iPhones, other mobile devices. So they don't take up user space. Or maybe Apple is planning on embedding OS X in all their devices; iPods, iPhones, Airports, AppleTVs, Macs, etc.



    Or, or, or...





    Maybe Apple is planning on embedding OS X into future Macs as they did with the Classic OS, to prevent others from making Hackintoshes and selling them?
  • Reply 15 of 128
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,132member
    Probably for some unnamed portable device.



    The 1GB of NAND will be used in a low power mode.



    Or maybe Apple gets crafty and RAIDS four of them for

    data protection
  • Reply 16 of 128
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post


    . Or maybe Apple is planning on embedding OS X in all their devices; iPods, iPhones, Airports, AppleTVs, Macs, etc.



    Or, or, or...



    This has already happened



    (except the Airport, to the best of my knowledge)
  • Reply 17 of 128
    irelandireland Posts: 17,534member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by xpc View Post


    It must be for the iPhone nano



    Strangely, I think that was insightful. You could be right, as easy as you could be wrong.
  • Reply 18 of 128
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    No it's stupid. Though I don't think that's what's happening. The movement is with higher density chips. Apple's probably fetching these for a song.



    Couldn't this be the reason though?



    I haven't been able to find out the physical dimensions of 8 of these chips, but assuming they can be shoehorned into a current iPhone body, these would make excellent sense for the "third world" iPhone (8GB and no Wi-Fi) that's being floated as a possible product.



    This would be an excellent way to get the price down so it can be offered by cell companies almost as a give-away.
  • Reply 19 of 128
    cubertcubert Posts: 728member
    I know! They are for the iPod inviso.
  • Reply 20 of 128
    pg4gpg4g Posts: 383member
    Hmmm WEIRD
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