According to sources in Taiwan, TSMC has already started producing A8 processors for use in Apple’s next-generation mobile devices, presumably the iPhone 6 as well as possible new iPads to be unveiled later this year.
Despite the fact that production for the new chipsets has started so early, Apple isn’t expected to make its new wares official before the third quarter of the year (which starts in July and ends in September). It might, however, unveil the iPhone 6 in early Q3, which may mean during the month of July. The next iPhone could come with a 4.7-inch screen, finally breaking Apple’s tradition of using only much smaller displays for its phones.
TSMC has long been rumored to be the only manufacturing partner for Apple’s A8 chips. That comes after Samsung made most of Apple’s mobile processors ever since the first iPhone got official. This shift can obviously be interpreted as Apple wanting to get rid of Samsung because of the growing competition between the two firms in the mobile space, but there might be a much less sinister-sounding, and much simpler explanation: yield issues. Namely, as designed by Apple, the A8 has to be made using a 20nm process, and Samsung may have had problems with yields for that particular process. Hence, Apple had to go somewhere else, and TSMC just happens to be the world’s biggest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry, so what better company to turn to when in need?
Sure, the “Apple ditches Samsung because it claims the Korean company copied its iPhones” narrative sounds nice – and makes for good headlines – but we’ve already reported that Apple has signed a further chipset manufacturing contract with Samsung for the next generation of iDevices, those that will be out next year. For them, Samsung will make processors based on a 14nm manufacturing process. The contract has been rumored to be for three years, and Apple reportedly agreed to pay Samsung 20% more per chip than during the two companies’ previous arrangements.
That definitely looks like a big win for Samsung, so TSMC’s fame as sole mobile chipset supplier to Apple may be very short lived.