Apple is said to be using Samsung to build the A9 mobile chips for the iPhone and iPad in 2015, another sign that the firm’s attempts to extricate itself from its rival’s production expertise are struggling. Although Apple had switched to TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing) for its A-series chip production starting in 2014, according to The Korea Economic Daily it’s Samsung’s expertise in 14nm manufacturing that has won back Apple’s business.
According to the Korean site, Samsung and Apple inked an agreement on July 14, specifically for the Apple A9 chipset expected to be in 2015’s iPhone. The chip will use 14nm “FinFET” technology, it’s said; if Apple’s “S” nomenclature pattern continues, by that point we’ll likely be seeing the iPhone 6S, though the Korean report suggests it will be the iPhone 7.
Apple and Samsung have had a tumultuous relationship over the past few years, spending as much time in the courtroom attempting to extract huge damages payments and have their rival’s devices banned from sale, as they have negotiating components. Samsung has always been a significant supplier for Apple – as well as processors, it supplies flash memory and other components – but since the legal escalations Apple has attempted to broaden its supply chain and avoid giving quite so much money to its Korean foe.
Chipsets had been a bottleneck, despite the ongoing efforts of TSMC, but news of a deal over the upcoming Apple A8 had been seen as a sign that Samsung was being pushed out of its privileged position.
Instead, Samsung’s work on 14nm manufacturing has paid dividends, offering something TSMC reportedly cannot. 14nm chips are expected to offer performance improvements as well as a reduction in power consumption, with a central silicon “fin” running the length of the transistor.
The first devices to use the A9 processors aren’t expected to show up for some time yet, and their specifications haven’t been confirmed. The current iPhone 5 runs Apple’s A6 chip, though the upcoming refreshed version – expected to be the iPhone 5S – is likely to use the newer version, the A6X. That’s currently used in the fourth-gen full-sized iPad, though could be modified for the lower-power requirements of the new iPhone.