Intel has 1,000 people working on chips for Apple iPhone

“Intel now has a thousand people or more working to outfit a 2016 iPhone with its lauded 7360 LTE modem chip, sources say,” Mark Sullivan reports for VentureBeat. “If all goes well, Intel may end up providing both the modem and the fabrication for a new Apple system on a chip.”

“Sources close to the matter say Intel is pulling out the stops to supply the modems for at least some of the iPhones Apple manufactures in 2016. This phone will likely be the iPhone 7. VentureBeat was the first to report on the two companies’ work together, and more pieces are falling into place as the project progresses and grows,” Sullivan reports. “Apple may dual-source the LTE modems in its new iPhones from both Intel and Qualcomm. Today, Qualcomm’s 9X45 LTE chip is baked into all iPhone modems.”

“Sources with knowledge of the situation say that Apple eventually would like to create a system-on-a-chip (SOC) that includes both the phone’s Ax processor and the LTE modem chip. A system-on-a-chip design could deliver significant returns in improved speed and better power management. Apple would design the SOC, which would carry an Apple brand name, and would license the LTE modem intellectual property from Intel for the SOC, one source said,” Sullivan reports. “While the SOC would be created from top to bottom by Apple’s formidable chip designers, Intel would get the job of fabricating the SOC using its 14-nanometer process.

“Samsung and TSMC, which currently share the fabrication of the iPhone’s A9 chip, also have 14-nanometer processes, but those foundries are said to compromise by making the interfaces with a 20-nanometer process,” Sullivan reports. “Intel’s foundry, by contrast, uses a 14-nanometer process ‘from front to back,’ as our source said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Anything that helps slavish copier Samsung from the iPhone equation is a Good Thing™.

21 Comments

  1. I’d rather give my money to Intel than Samsung. Sure they act like the serious uncle, a bit Scrooge, but still family. I wish AMD would participate, but they’re off in the woods digging holes to who knows where.

  2. I hate Scamdung as much as the next person, but at least they supply Apple with some chips for the 6s series. Without them Apple wouldn’t be able to sell so many. Before MDN gets on its bandwagon again, we all know they’re not quite so efficient. Get over it.

    1. Samsung illegally undermined/sabotaged the local competition for years so that’s how it came to be the now leading chip supplier for the region. The only ‘at least’ worth worrying about is the fact they’re losing revenue in almost every division which is pure karma for their thoroughly disreputable and shameful behaviour.

    1. Please read the articles on this more closely.

      No one is saying Apple could, would, or should use Intel x86 derivative chips for their iPhones or iPads or any other iDevice. Intel’s x86 derivative ultra low power chips are not there yet and likely never will be.

      Conversely, Intel’s cell phone / tablet modem is considered one of the best out there. If such Intel’s modem can be integrated into the main CPU/GPU chip, then the overall power savings would be significant.

      I doubt very much Intel will back off in their development efforts to as this is a growing market — and Intel is going to go after any growing market it can. So Apple, as well as everyone else, can expect Intel’s modems to stay competitive with the rest of the suppliers.

      But a few points do need to be brought up:
      1) It is *extremely doubtful* that Intel has 1,000 or more personnel working full time on any effort to get Apple’s business. While I don’t doubt that Intel is actively pursuing Apple’s business, it’s more likely a few hundred.
      2) Feature size in the RF components is somewhat irrelevant. The analog components are not feature size driven.
      3) NO — I repeat, NO — digital chip fabrication house is 100% at any specific feature size. Samsung’s chips are not 100% 14 nm. TSMC’s are not 100% 16 nm. Intel’s are not 100% 14 nm. The relative percentage of components in a chip at the lowest feature size varies by the chip design and the manufacturer, but none of them are 100% at any given feature size. So Sullivan source is absolutely wrong when he says, “Intel’s foundry, by contrast, uses a 14-nanometer process ‘from front to back,’ as our source said.”

      One interesting possibility (even if it is *extremely* unlikely) is if Intel were to license an ultra low power version of its integrated GPU for use in an Ax chip. Intel could modify the front end to accept current Ax GPU instructions then integrate the Apple designed CPU with an Apple licensed Intel GPU and an Apple licensed Intel modem. Apple wouldn’t need to do what it has done with ARM, which is to license the instruction set and various specifications so Apple can design its own chips. (Apple does not license ARM’s chip designs as Qualcomm, Samsung and others do. Apple licenses the instruction set and various specifications in order to design their own, better CPUs that run the ARM instruction set.) Intel could work with Apple to integrate an appropriate version of Intel’s GPU into the Apple Ax chip. Intel has made great strides in their integrated GPU designs in the last few years. They’ve gone from not even being considered an “also ran”, to be a true competitor in that market. Intel would then manufacture the entire chip on Intel’s 14 nm fab line, which is very often considered to be the most advanced 14 nm fab line out there.

      1. Interesting assessment, Shadowself. I will be following these developments very closely, as they could impact Apple’s predominant source of revenue and profits and change the entire course of iOS development for decades to come.

      1. DavGreg, yes the Samsung fab is in Texas, but the profits go back to Samsung’s headquarters in South Korea. Furthermore, since Texas is such a notorious low tax state, very little of Samsung’s profits stay on this side of the Pacific.

        Intel on the other hand has most of its fabs in Oregon, a notorious high-tax state (I know, I live here), and Intel’s headquarters are in the the Silicon Valley.

        Therefore, I stand by my statement that if Intel made the chips, it would help the US economy far more than having the task done by any Asian chip manufacturer.

        1. Only statists use the words “notorious” and “low tax” together. I’m glad you live in a high tax area, so that the state government can spend your money. Apparently you cannot handle the freedom of managing it unassisted.

  3. Perhaps Intel can keep their proprietary NSA designs out of the chip process this time? If not, stay with the Taiwan company and let the chips fall where they may.

  4. Hard to trust anyone anymore in an ethics dead world, that lobbies politicians to de regulate and turn the other way in return for secret “cooperation” with the NSA.

    That’s why Apple Founded it’s own in house SOC and chip design division.

  5. What’s interesting here, if this rumor is to be believed, is that Intel and Apple don’t have a contract yet, but are ‘working together’ to create a chip Intel can contract to make for Apple.

    Intel would, of course, dearly like to make its way in some form into iOS devices. I, as usual, point out that the Intel Atom chips have been a significant failure in the market and Apple entirely ignored them in favor of ARM.

    Of interest to ‘Michael’ and other people who foolishly think Apple can easily stuff OS X onto an ARM based iOS device: If Apple had gone the way of using Intel Atom CPU, that task might have actually been feasible. But in the end, stuffing OS X into an iOS device is a bad idea. Apple has wisely differentiated the two markets, and they’re staying that way.

    (Yes ‘Michael’, ad nauseam. Go cry about me being right. I don’t care. I did my best to help you comprehend).

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