Is Apple using Intel to fabricate their 64-bit A7 processors?

“During the Apple product introduction last Tuesday, Tim Cook mentioned that the heart of the new iPhone 5S was the A7 chip, which contained a billion transistors. The size of the chip grew from 96 sq. mm for the A6 to 102 sq. mm for the A7,” Russ Fischer who spent 35 years in the semiconductor industry, wrties for Seeking Alpha.

“Experts at Chipworks who claim to be familiar with the Apple ‘A’ chip part numbering system suggest that the early peeks at the A7 chip indicate that it was made at a foundry other than Samsung,” Fischer writes. “It appears that to get 1 billion transistors on a 102 sq. mm chip would require something much better than the 28nm processes available at either TSMC or Samsung.”

Fischer writes, “The Ivy Bridge HE-4 is made on the Intel 22nm Trigate process and has 1.4 billion transistors with a chip size of 160 sq. mm, so a billion transistor logic chip on 22nm should be around 114 sq. mm. “Hand packing” the A7 design might give another 10% size improvement, which would make the A7 chip almost exactly 102 sq. mm. on the Intel 22 nm process.”

Full article here.

27 Comments

    1. Oh, no, Intel may be fabricating the new and most excellent 64-bit wonder. For the love of God, please, no. What is Apple thinking?

      Seriously? How the phuck do handle the fact that Intel is inside every current Mac? More importantly, did you spend your hard earned dollars for any Mac released since 2006 and why? What are YOU thinking? Would you prefer a non-US company produce processors for Apple?

      1. TSMC has 24 nm process developed, so it is fully enough to pack billion transistors in 102 mm^2.

        Intel has deficit to its better facilities, so they hardly able to assist Apple with 22 nm production.

    2. The comments from readers (of the original article) make a strong case that Samsung is probably manufacturing the A7 processor, and if not Samsung then probably TSMC.  The author of the original article is apparently confused about the density of transistors on the A7.

      What I find interesting about the A7 and successor 64-bit processors is their ability (either individually or in groups of 2-4-8 working together) to run Mac OS X.  Apparently the A7 processor is capable of running very fast on-board emulations of Intel x86 instructions (www.zdnet.com/how-apples-a7-64-bit-chip-gives-ios-plenty-of-headroom-for-the-future-7000020686) as well as performing other tasks that would set iPhones apart from other smartphones.

  1. I for one hope they are using Intel and especially not Samsung. This might explain why Samsung didn’t know about the chip before it was released (they seemed surprised in a comment I read). KarlV’s comment reminds me of the time someone at work said to me they would not buy Apple products, they are going to buy a Samsung phone. I said, well good luck with that… I personally like to support American companies, not foreign ones that like to rip off US companies. She just gave me a weird look. Clueless.

    1. Samsung was not surprised by this chip. I’m not sure where the idea that Samsung was surprised by this came from. They manufactured the chip, so they must have known for some time that apple was going 64bit. Lets be realistic, you can’t just show up a couple months before your production run and say “here are the plans, I’d like 10 million of these a year please.”

  2. Overall, Apple has apparently done a masterful job of moving away from Samsung.

    Let Samsung keep making the 32 bit A6 and telling Samsung “we will be on 32 bit…for a long time as we’ve only just introduced the concept of 64 bit for iOS 7”.

    Meanwhile, Apple gets another entire 64 bit line up and moving before Samsung even knows they are doing it, such that the move to 64 bit can be as seamless as possible giving Apple as much market headroom as possible.

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