updated 06:10 am EDT, Mon June 24, 2013
Apple switching from Samsung fabrication to TSMC for A-series designs
A new report out of the Taiwanese supply chain says that Apple has finally signed a deal with TSMC to fabricate the Cupertino-based company's custom A-series chip designs. According to Digitimes, Apple has entered into a three-year deal with TSMC that will result in the Taiwan-based fabricator producing Apple chips from the A8 onwards. This suggests that Apple's long break up with Samsung for chip production will continue throughout 2013 and into 2014 with the South Korean company fabricating Apple's next-generation A7 and A7X designs expected in Apple's widely-rumored iPhone 5S, and Apple's fifth-gen iPad.
TSMC will use its foundries to begin pre-production of 20nm A8 chips in "small volume" beginning July that will ultimately be produced in volume for Apple's 2014 expected iPhone redesign and future iPads. Over the next two years, TSMC will reportedly produce A9 and A9X designs on a 16nm process slated to begin preproduction in late 2014, with a likely A10 and A10X chip design to be fabbed on a 10nm process (assuming Apple continues with its current naming schemes).
TSMC had previously been reported to have commenced the "tape out" of Apple's A7 design in March, although it seems that this may have not been for mass production purposes, but rather as evidence of its ability to produce chips to Apple's quality specifications based on the details of the latest report. However, it remains possible that TSMC could still supplement Samsung's A7 chip production for Apple devices heading into 2014 and beyond as Apple begins a transition away from Samsung fabricated chips.
Following Apple's much publicized courtroom dramas with Samsung, the company has been working hard to diversify its supply chain so that it is less reliant on Samsung for its components, in particular those components where Apple IP is embedded in the technology. Samsung continues to supply Apple with a wide range of components including NAND flash and LCD panels for its notebooks, among other parts. As one of the major computer components suppliers in the world, it is unlikely that Apple will be able to entirely divest itself of its dependence on Samsung-sourced components.