TSMC set to oust Samsung for future Apple chip fabrication

“Despite a late start in TSMC’s 16 nm FinFET process, TSMC appears to have captured up to a third of chip production for Apple’s latest iPhones,” Mark Hibben writes for Seeking Alpha. “TSMC is only the second ARM foundry to put FinFETs into production after Samsung. TSMC’s impressive accomplishment paves the way for it to replace Samsung. The combined resources of Apple and TSMC could bring about the next process node, 10 nm, as much as a year ahead of Intel.”

“Despite the bad blood between Apple and Samsung, Samsung has been making the A9 systems on chip (SOC) for the new iPhone 6s,” Hibben writes. “Apple had no choice but to turn to Samsung since it wanted to use Samsung’s 14 nm FinFET process, the most advanced available from an ARM foundry. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing was racing to get its own comparable 16 nm FinFET process into production, but only started the production ramp in July.”

“Based on teardowns by iFixit of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, it appears that TSMC is making the A9 SOC for the 6s Plus while Samsung is making the A9 SOC for the 6s. Sales of the 6s Plus could be about one-third of total 6s/6s Plus sales, so this is a huge win for TSMC and something of a minor miracle,” Hibben writes. “To ramp up production of a new process from a more or less standing start into volumes sufficient to support an iPhone launch is extremely impressive. It shows how badly TSMC wanted Apple’s business and it also shows how badly Apple wants to divorce itself from Samsung.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Better to dump thieving Samsung late than never!

Of course, we’ve heard that Apple was dumping Samsung multiple times before, so we’ll believe it when we see it.

TSMC to be Apple’s exclusive A10 chip fab – September 14, 2015
Samsung stole trade secrets from TSMC to win Apple A9 stamping deal – August 26, 2015
Apple makes ‘last-minute decision’ to use TSMC to stamp out 30% of next-gen ‘A9’ chips – April 15, 2015
TSMC sues former ex-employee over leaking trade secrets to Samsung – February 9, 2015
TSMC says to invest additional $16 billion in advanced chip factory – February 6, 2015
Bernstein: Samsung gets Apple’s next-gen iPhone chip business; TSMC gets iPad, ‘iPad Pro,’ and ‘iPhone 6c’ – November 21, 2014
TSMC overtakes Samsung in FinFET, confident they will land Apple A9 orders – October 7, 2014
Apple’s shift to TSMC for A8 chip fab hurts Samsung profits – August 5, 2014
Samsung/Globalfoundries, TSMC fight to land Apple A9 processor orders – July 1, 2014


  1. I think the guy is just guessing I have not seen anything from the teardowns indicating Samsung is manufacturing the soc.

    The 6s had a Samsung memory on it while the lid had Hynix.

    Until there is confirmation on the SOC , I hold TSMC has sole production of the SOC

  2. The combined resources of Apple and TSMC could bring about the next process node, 10 nm, as much as a year ahead of Intel.

    Can Apple make a BETTER chip than Intel? I have info they ALREADY have done that !!! Secret info? well no, because the “G” series, was TWICE as fast as Intel ! Of course Intel caught up quick. The real question, is if Apple can continually do that.
    Also you got 2 different chips… ppc, and intel. 2 different OS’s (iOS, and OS X). How Apple can sort this out… who knows.
    But a MacPad that uses an Intel chip, could run OS X, iOS, AND Windows. Or some kind of chip from Apple, rather than Intel?

    1. A lot of people here hate they idea of an Apple laptop or desktop chip, but as someone who actually designed an instruction set and ALU for a chip I have a different view.

      Apple’s design prowess is quickly catching up with Intel. Intel’s main advantages have been:

      1) An industry leading fabrication process
      2) An industry standard instruction set

      Apple’s response:

      1) The toughest part for Apple is keeping up with Intel’s fab process, but Samsung and TSMC are doing their best to level that playing field.

      2) Apple has instruction set advantages:

      a) Xcode allows Apple to retarget Mac/iOS code
      b) Apple has transitioned chips with virtual instruction sets in the past

      But Apple already has unique advantages that Intel doesn’t:

      a) Scaling up their best-in-world low-power chips leaves lots of room for clock speed increases.

      b) Scaling up numbers of CPU cores leaves lots of room for more parallel computing speed.

      c) ARM instruction set is informationally more efficient than aging/patched x86 instruction set.

      d) Unlike any other chip manufacturer, Apple can continue improving their ARM instruction set (or come up with a completely new set themselves) while not creating problem by using Xcode to generate code for each version and “app slicing” to supply only the right code to the right device. Their control of the full stack including Objective C and Swift languages gives them an incredible degree of freedom that Intel does not have.

      e) Apple has already demonstrated its ability to run virtual instruction sets during chip transitions twice in its history.

      I believe it is only a matter of time before Apple transitions laptops to its own chips with its own proprietary instruction sets.

  3. Maybe Apple is think ahead of most everyone else including those on this most distinguished and exceptional forum.

    We’ve all been thinking that Apple wants to get revenge on Samsung for their stolen IP. And we’ve all been very imaginative about how Apple could do that from using the law to withdrawing supplier contracts.

    But Apple has seen how the law has worked (or not worked) and they have observed that Samsung’s technical capabilities in Texas (chip fab with US talent) are reasonably impressive.

    Apple may come to the conclusion that the best way forward is not to destroy Samsung but to make them their bitch. They can do this by continuing to deny Samsung any profits from the phone and tablet, and by providing steady profits making chips as long as they behave and keep their margins reasonable. And having TSMC as a second supplier will only reinforce that role.

  4. Once again MDN’s take demonstrates its utter cluelessness when it comes to managing a supply chain involving billions of parts and engaging in a global chess match with substantial competitors. Let’s start with the fact that Apple has NEVER said it was going to stop sourcing from Samsung, so if MDN “has heard this before” it didn’t hear it from the only source that matters. Second, the reality is that Samsung is the one of the few component suppliers that can meet Apple’s requirements for quality, quantity and cost. Third, Apple would be insane to have only one maker for its A-series chips. Finally, keeping Samsung tied up making A-series chips means that they don’t have surplus production capacity that can be devoted to making parts for competitors. It is simple: Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.

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