Samsung vs. TSMC: Comparing the battery life of two Apple A9 processors

“Apple is sourcing an important system component, the Apple A9 system-on-a-chip, from both Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC),” Andrew Cunningham reports for Ars Technica. “This is something that it normally doesn’t do, since manufacturing processes from different chipmakers can have different performance and power consumption even when the chip’s design is identical.”

“And that’s just what some iPhone 6S and 6S Plus buyers have run into. Using an app that has since been pulled from the App Store, some users were able to determine which chip individual iPhones were using and found that the phones with Samsung chips had significantly lower battery life than the phones with TSMC chips in certain tests,” Cunningham reports. “The findings got enough attention that Apple offered a rare comment on the situation, claiming that the test being used wasn’t representative of actual use and that in “real-world usage” the difference between iPhone models with any combination of components was no more than 2 to 3 percent.”

“We just happen to have two iPhone 6S models here, one with a Samsung chip and one with a TSMC chip, and we’ve been running a variety of battery life tests for the last few days to see if we could find any differences,” Cunningham reports. “There are two big takeaways from the results here. First, the Samsung phone did have consistently lower battery life results than the TSMC phone… Second, even though that’s true, the Geekbench test was the only test that caused what we would believe to be a significant difference, one that we can definitely attribute to the SoC rather than the screen or the battery itself or some other system component. All three of the other tests showed the two phones scoring within two to three percent of each other, which just happens to be the same figure Apple quoted to the press last week. The heavier Geekbench test, on the other hand, showed the TSMC phone lasting an average of 28 percent longer than the Samsung phone.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Chips fabbed at 14nm versus 16nm are simply not the same chips and should not be referred to or sold as such.

How to find out if your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus has the good TSMC or crappy Samsung chip – October 9, 2015
Analyzing Apple’s statement on TSMC- and Samsung-stamped A9 chips – October 9, 2015
Apple may have made a huge mistake in having Samsung stamp inferior A9 chips – October 9, 2015
Apple claims iPhone 6s/Plus’ A9 battery performance only varies 2-3% between TSMC and Samsung variants in ‘real-world usage’ – October 8, 2015
Chipgate: Did you get the good A9 or the crap A9 in your iPhone 6s/Plus? – October 8, 2015

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Denis” for the heads up.]


      1. Being a little bit worse than the very best mobile CPU doesn’t make it garbage. Even Samsung’s A9 is better than the Exynos & Snapdragon chips going into most Android phones.

  1. Apple’s taking too much heat for this. The company requires such a vast number of chips to supply the insane demand there’s probably not a single foundry that can satisfy their chip volume needs.

    1. Samsung has a reputation for tuning their phones to perform better on Geekbench than in real world applications. Maybe this time they tuned something with the A9 to perform poorly on Geekbench so their phones would look better than Apples? 😉 Backfire!!!!! ;P

      1. Ha!
        But, the problem is that the Samsung chips are using more power during that test, which is how they cheated in the past to get better performance: they would deliberately over-perform if the chip detected it was a test, while using the standard (slower) power-saving when running in real life. In other words, traded battery life for performance during test. So, if they were still cheating a bit, that would result in the situation found here.

    2. When’s the last time you bought a Mac that’s supposed to have the latest Skylake processor and ended up having a Broadwell? Apple should be taking heat for this. I love my $949 128GB iPhone 6s Plus, but I bought their highest end model for a reason and it sucks that people who paid less than me may have a better iPhone than I do.

  2. MDNs take is dumb. They’re the same exact CPU, same functionally, just fabbed on two different processes

    You’ll find differences like these in anything that’s produced at different factories.

    1. I have posted twice on this subject. However, since MDN is still sticking to the same ignorant, dumbass position despite being given plenty of time to recant, it bears saying again.

      This chipgate is FUD and MDN continues to support with the same old take despite this new evidence. Get a grip, MDN! You are losing credibility faster than the U.S. is accumulating debt.

    2. For someone who did well enough to retire at 35 working in the chip business (TSMC included), 14nm and 16nm are different technologies. They are DIFFERENT chips.

      1. Different chips that do exactly the same thing given the inputs, at the same clock speed and within 2% power consumption of each other are the SAME. For any practical definition of SAME.

        Most other components on the phone.have even higher batch/fab differences yet no one really cares.

        Btw retire at 35? That’s just lazy.

      2. Then you are well aware of dual sourcing and that 16nm and 14nm are similar processes – they are at the same node. What we are talking about here is different libraries not different technology nodes.

        Do you have issues when they dual source flash from Hynix, Samsung, Toshiba, Micron? They all meet the specs and have slightly different performance, above the specs.

        Sounds like you have not worked in the industry at all.

  3. this all pales besides Samsung’s Galaxy S5

    some had EIGHT core Exynos (like those sent to reviewers! )
    millions had FOUR core Snapdragons (cheaper processors by Qualcomm)

    in CPU integer the Exynos had a score of 5320, for the snapdragon it was 3669 !

    the (more expensive ) Exynos had other advantages like ability to read higher SD card speeds etc.

    (also I remember there were differences in the screens etc).

    I was arguing with a forum android troll who was boasting he had EIGHT cores. I told him to check and he was flabbergasted to find he had a snapdragon.

    WEIRD or expected that the tech press which MAKES a LOT more MONEY from dozens of android reviews than one iPhone a year didn’t play that S5 issue up at all — they want Android to thrive to make more money writing about them.

  4. Competion FUD… And mdn is nipping at the bait big time…

    All within Apple tolarance !

    Everyone take a chill pill and move on ……..

    Much a do about nothing..
    Just competition FUD

  5. why is the temperature reading missing? I had heard that there are 3 Celsius degrees difference between TSMC Chip (cooler) and Samsung Chip (hotter)? Correct me if I am wrong.

    1. 3 Celsius degrees.. Omg.

      Even if true, come on who really cares about that. That’s why it’s missing!

      Would you care if you car engine was running 3 degrees hotter than your neighbour’s?

      This is Media+competitors really grasping at straws to fabricate any -gate scandal..

  6. Interesting. After upgrading from my 6 to a 6sPlus I was surprised at the “fastish” rate of battery depletion. I thought the bigger battery of the 6sPlus would improve battery life a lot. It must be just that I’m using it more as its a new phone I thought. But then I ran across this story and after checking found I have the Samsung chip. So while my experience is anything but scientific, there just might be legs to this story. PS. I’m thinking of returning the 6sPlus and getting the smaller 6s. While the bigger screen of the 6sPlus is great, it’s also much heavier, doesn’t sit in the pocket quite as unobtrusively and is more awkward to hold.

    1. Did you go through the settings and make sure background app refresh was turned off for the same apps as the old phone? I’ve seen updates turn that on for every single app before. Huge battery drain.

  7. Apple is saying we should not worry as there is only a 3% difference.

    That is fine, now give us a 3% difference in price between the two phones. It might only be a €32 reduction on the top phone, but I somehow can’t see Apple going for this.

    So if they wont take a 3% hit, why should I?

  8. The most annoying (and un-mentioned) point here is that both chips exceed Apple’s published specs for an A9 processor.

    You cannot expect to get a discount for a chip that performs better than specified (and both do).

    Should those who have TSMC chip pay additional 10% premium because their chip exceeds the specs by over 10%?

  9. I doubt any electronics product doesn’t have at least dual sourcing for many of their components. What should we have, a list of each component on the box and where it came from? No, the product performs as advertised and instead of the Samsung chip being slightly slower, the reality is that they are both effectively the same, but the TSMC one is slightly faster, but barely measurably so.

    The choice is to have chips that are statistically the same or a 3 month wait on new iPhones. People may not realize this, but Apple buys the vast majority of most of the components in their devices. You can’t just call up Samsung or TMSC and tell them to make more. They can’t. They are all making them at full capacity.

    There is no news here except people discovered what has been standard and accepted industry practice for consumer electronics (and in a lot of other industries) pretty much forever. Because it’s Apple. Did you know that Cheerios uses oats from 107 different vendors? Some taste slightly different, some have slightly more or less calories. No one with a level head cares.

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