Apple Shifting to TSMC for A-Series Chip Production Earlier Than Expected?

Discussion in 'iOS Blog Discussion' started by MacRumors, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. macrumors bot



    While Apple appears to have been making efforts to diversify its supply chain and move away from courtroom and marketplace foe Samsung, production of one of the company's highest-profile components for its iOS devices remains entrenched at Samsung with the A-series chips.

    There have, however, been rumors that Apple is looking into an alternative supplier for its custom ARM-based chips, with several recent claims suggesting that Apple could switch to TSMC's more efficient 20-nanometer process by late 2013 for introduction in the 2014 generation of iOS devices.

    Taipei Times now reports that Apple's rumored timeline for shifting chip production to TSMC may be accelerating, with Credit Suisse analysts claiming that Apple appears set to make the jump as soon as the second quarter of 2013 using TSMC's 28-nanometer process.
    Earlier this year it was reported that both Apple and Qualcomm had placed bids to try to secure exclusive access to TSMC's chip production capacity, but the foundry opted not to tie its future so closely to any one company, although it has indicated that it is open to dedicating a factory or two to a single customer.

    Article Link: Apple Shifting to TSMC for A-Series Chip Production Earlier Than Expected?
  2. macrumors 65816

    Good to see Apple trying to move away from Samsung components. Reduces leverage/control over Apple products. Of course Samsung is such an honorable company and would NEVER claim "part shortage" to hurt Apple..:rolleyes:
  3. macrumors 6502a


    Bye-Bye, Samsung :D
  4. macrumors member

    This post reminds of all the "Bye-Bye, Google :D" posts when iOS went to Apple Maps.

    How'd that work out?
  5. macrumors regular

    Quote of the day.
  6. blackhand1001, Dec 10, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012

    macrumors 68030


    Samsungs new exynos 5250 absolutely rapes the a6 and a6x. Apple should have let Samsung design the a6 and stick with them for fabbing as well. Its also a much smaller die size which improves power draw.


    2888 vs 1767 on the a6x and 1569 for the a6. And this is only the dual core exynos. The quad core version is expected to be released soon.
  7. macrumors G4


    A newer processor is faster than an older one?

  8. macrumors G5


    Worked out great for me—although some will pretend Google Maps were error free. (And some even believe it: confirmation bias lives!)

    Of course, how things work out in reality and how the media spin it are two different things.*

    * I’m not counting the way media spins Maps in Australia because a) I don’t live there and b) you can’t get any media in the wilderness where Maps will dump you.

    P.S. One of the good things about ARM is that many companies can manufacture the platform. Samsung is in no way the only successful ARM maker, and Samsung did not design Apple’s chips—Apple did. Nobody will know the difference. (Note that Samsung devices with higher CPU specs “on paper” run slower and burn more power in real-world tests. Computing efficiency does not come from a marketing bullet point alone, nor a chip alone. People are of course free to time travel, comparing Apple 2012 chips with Samsung chips that don’t yet exist in the market; they must be assuming, then, that the amazing things Apple’s chip designers did this last time around are the end of Apple’s chip innovation. Every company has future plans except Apple, some will assume!)
  9. macrumors 68020


    The A6 & A6x are already out, though I don't know how well they compare to the Exnos.

    I really wish Apple would standardize on one A# processor. The iPad's on an A6x, the iPhone 5's on the A6 and the 5th Gen iPod Touch is on an A5. I can understand if the processor in them was the latest at the time the device was launched, but that's not the case. Wasn't the current iPod Touch released after or about the same time as the iPhone 5, but has an older proc? Why the fragmentation? Just so Apple could sell more iPhones than iPod Touches?
  10. macrumors 6502a

    28nm on TSMC is an interesting choice. Samsung's 28nm process is supposed to be a very easy shrink from their existing 32nm process since it uses the same design rules. That Apple is going to the effort of using TSMC's 28nm process really shows how much they want to move away from Samsung. I don't believe TSMC's 28nm and 20nm processes are technically similar enough that doing a 28nm TSMC SoC is a significant technical benefit although I suppose it'll be helpful from the perspective of general process and collaboration familiarization.
  11. macrumors 68040


    It isn't just about highest performance. Efficiency and Performance per Watt are king in mobile devices.

    Besides, how is it a surprise an ARM Cortex-A15 clocked at 1.70 Ghz beats the Apple A6/A6X clocked 300-400 Mhz lower based on the same superset.

    Even the A6 beats the Exynos 5250 when it comes to graphics performance. AnandTech easily calls Apple's chips for the most well-rounded System-on-a-Chip, offering the better performance per watt.
  12. macrumors 6502a

    Why would they use 1 processor when these 3 devices have very different performance and power requirements. iPads have large batteries and very high resolution displays hence the use of a A#X type processor with higher clock speeds and doubled GPU performance. The iPod Touch is extremely thin and has a small battery hence the need to use an optimized older generation processor. In this case a 32nm shrink of the A5 in the 5th gen iPod Touch whereas the iPhone 4S uses a more power hungry 45nm A5. The iPhone has a larger battery than the iPod Touch so uses a "standard" A#. The current 32nm A6 is more power hungry than the 32nm A5 so wouldn't work in the 5th gen iPod Touch without impacting battery life or requiring lowering clock speeds which is fragmentation anyways. Fragmentation in SoC between the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch is necessary since the requirements are so different.
  13. chrmjenkins, Dec 10, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012

    macrumors 603


    The exynos is largely a stock A15 implementation. There is much more design in the Swift A6 core than there is the exynos 5 core. Most of Samsung's work went into the memory hierarchy.

    That being said, there's nothing spectacular about Samsung's designs. In fact, most of the design wins go to Nvidia, who can leverage their own graphics IP and have been forward thinking with their shadow core, or Qualcoomm, who has been doing custom ARM architecture implementations long before apple did swift.

    Samsung has also yet to fit Exynos 5 in a phone or even a phablet. Thus, it's clear it wouldn't have been ready for the iphone 5 and it hasn't proven itself as a phone processor yet at all.

    Although I can find no literature on the die size, you're looking at the issue wrong. Power is a combination of process, transistors, transistor type, operating frequency, dynamic operating frequency, core voltage and power saving implementations that can be transistor level logic implementations or endemic like power gating and declocking. It also depends heavily on what fills the area such as cache, core logic, memory bus, etc. Different areas see different toggle rates, and hence, more power draw.

    A15 is no doubt more powerful than the A9 and recent custom implementations of the ARMv7s ISA, but they're starting to add a lot of fluff phone processors don't need. ARM is looking to take on Intel in the ultrabook/notebook and eventually even server space with their recent 64-bit processor announcements. Not really what Apple needs in a phone processor. ARM's introduction of the light A7 core is in fact a reflection of the fact that can't do a one size fits all approach with the A15.

    It's also important to remember, as was noted, that their clocks are 25% higher.

    The iPad needs an X processor because it has more pixels to drive. The touch has an older processor because it's inherently a much more low margin device. Also why it has a worse camera and a worse screen.

    TSMC doesn't have a 32nm node. They skipped it. But yes, generally "half-nodes" do retain rules and a simple optical shrink is usually doable.
  14. macrumors 68020


    I doubt the Cortex A15 was ready in time to be introduced in the iPhone 5, at least not in the kind of volume Apple sells iPhones.

    The Nexus 10 was released months later at a fraction of the volume of iPhones and iPads. I think Apple did the right choice by not going with a Cortex A9-based design again, which was probably the only option they had if they followed vanilla ARM designs.

    There's also no point in "raping" a synthetic benchmark if you don't take into account the benefits it has in the OS. iOS is way more GPU-dependent than Android, that's why iOS devices always have beefier GPUs than Android devices, so it's not fair to compare CPU performance alone.

    There's also the software that factors in. Otherwise how would you explain this? :


    In other words, there's no proof that putting an Exynos 5250 and the Nexus 10's GPU (Mali-T604) at the kind of clock speed iPhones usually run at would improve anything. It would probably make it worse overall.
  15. macrumors 6502a

    wonder if we will see a small test run by way of updated apple tv gen 4 or airport express/extreme.
  16. macrumors 65816


    That's services. Apple has never done services well at all. Apple has in fact shifted hardware and chips before without a hitch. It'll probably be just fine.
  17. macrumors 603


    And concerning that chart, the nexus 4 is a quad core s4, which is more similar to Swift as a core than either is to the A15. The phone ahead of the nexus 4 on that chart is also a dual core version of the quad core chip in the nexus 4.
  18. macrumors regular

    Who cares about the chip?

    I think we all should leave behind the MHz myth by now. All that really matters is how the device performs. Who cares if some other device has twice the specs...if it still performs as well or worse? Apple has proven they write great code that needs less MHz to perform well.
  19. HobeSoundDarryl, Dec 10, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012

    macrumors 601

    How long until TSMC decides to do a Samsung on Apple? In other words, after making these for Apple for a while, how long until TSMC starts thinking: why don't we make our own phones, tablets, pods, etc? It worked so well for Samsung; it could work for us too (Apple has shown us the way).

    I see many of us are celebrating Apple's "victory" in further moving away from Samsung. Why we can't look forward and see that Apple is probably just creating another Samsung (or three) is beyond me.

    Certainly we can trust TSMC not to mirror the very profitable moves by Samsung? And LG? And Sharp? Etc. :rolleyes:


    Funny how we can feel this way when Apple is on the losing end of that variable but then tout it when Apple is on the winning end. It reminds me of the old days pre-Intel when we made similar arguments to rally/rationalize PowerPC over Intel. Then, Apple switched to Intel and we celebrated the big upgrade in variables like this one. Suddenly PPC was "old", "outdated" tech when- before Apple told us to now like Intel- it was "far superior", "more reliable", etc. Or when LTE was a "battery hog", etc before Apple rolled it out and then it was "must have", "best iPhone ever". Or when 720p HD was "good enough", etc until Apple (finally) rolled out 1080p and then all that "good enough" crowd seems to have vanished. Or when a front-facing camera in iPad1 was "stupid" until Apple rolled out facetime in iPad 2 and then it was "I'm already in line", "can't wait to video chat", etc. Or when the 3.5" iPhone screen was the "perfect size" and "Apple won't fragment like Android" until Apple changed to the taller screen and then it was the perfect size. And so on.

    We seem to always have a chorus to spin the positive no matter what the negatives. It sometimes feels like about half the people here must work for Apple PR/Marketing. Nothing wrong with competitors building better tech. It will put the heat on Apple to try to outdo them. Dismissing all competitor advances in every way through spin yields complacency if Apple believed it's own (or our) spin.

    And no arguing that Apple can write some good code... but that shouldn't automatically mean that someone like Samsung/Android can't. I'm pretty happy with Apple hardware (too) but not blindly happy with them. I think this "reject Samsung" thing is net bad for us consumers. TSMC may prove to be a great partner but Samsung sure does make some excellent (and reliable) tech.
  20. macrumors 68040

    Here's the difference tho:

    Report an error in Google maps - fixed 24-48 hours later.
    Report an error in Apple Maps - error still exists 2 months later.

    Doing maps was a dick move on Apple's part. They spread themselves too thin, and it turns out that they are still absolutely crap at services.

    I'm as much of an Apple fan as the next guy, but people need to recognise that whilst Apple is fantastic at creating great hardware and operating systems, they really have no clue when it comes to web-based services.

    They have gotten away with it in the past as they had a fairly minimal customer base with the likes of eWorld and iTools. But from MobileMe onwards they were working with a much larger customerbase due to the success of the iPhone. Now they can no longer get away with saying things like "A small number of customers may be experiencing a problem", or completely ignoring problems at all - because they have so many customers now, they have to get it right, and they sadly still cant do that.

    Maps will never be anywhere near as good as what Google does with their Maps service, and for a lot of blatantly obvious reasons:

    - Google has a HUGE team that works on maps. The last report was 7,100 people. Apple has around 100.
    - Google dont rely as much on 3rd party sources anymore, they have their own Satellite systems specifically for mapping. Apple rely on TomTom and a few other providers in areas that TomTom doesnt serve.
    - Google also has the advantage of owning a fleet of UAV style airplanes to take bird-eye photos, and then dont forget about the fleet of streetview cars too.
    - Google obviously has a huge headstart, so that advantage is obvious.
    - Google has the ability to pore cash into their Maps - Whilst Apple has the funds, they wont ever be prepared to spend huge amounts on maps as its not a money making application.
    - Google make a profit from their maps with licensing - Apple dont make a penny, if anything they lost sales because of maps.

    I dont see it ever being anywhere near as good as Google Maps, and I'm taking in terms of accuracy here, not features. Google have a hell of a lot more tools at their disposal than Apple, and obviously Apple isnt going to shell out millions to get their own cars, satellites, UAV's, etc - they would have already been well into the process of capturing if they even had the slightest intention of ever doing this.
  21. macrumors 603


    Not comparable at all. Samsung was making phones before Apple was buying chips from them. Samsung started as a device company and added fab capability. TSMC has always been a fab company. There's no reason to think 1 new customer would suddenly make them change their minds and want to start designing consumer electronics.
  22. macrumors 601

    Stand by. That "no reason" is gaining an understanding of how to build these for Apple and watching Apple's revenues grow and grow. If I baked cakes for your bakery and watched you grow richer and richer on my baking, it's not long before I start thinking about selling my own cakes direct.

    Having watched this play out over and over in my life, I would bet heavily that it's only going to be a matter of time before TSMC begins to expand into businesses beyond just fabbing.
  23. macrumors 68030



    Nexus 10 using stock android browser instead of chrome. It kills it in this test as well.
  24. macrumors regular

    Because at the time, PPC was better than Intel. Things changed.
    The same could be said for LTR, HD video, and the like. All that does take extra power to run...and if you want your device to have good battery life...some things need to be sacrificed until battery tech improves.
  25. M-O
    macrumors 6502a


    well, seeing as how iOS 6 users still have no native google maps app, it's working pretty well.

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