Rumored A10 Production Win for TSMC Could Be Tied to Device Packaging Advances

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Nov 6, 2015.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    According to a recent report from Taiwan's Commercial Times, via EE Times and a separate research report from KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo, Taiwan-based TSMC may have won sole production rights on the A10 chip slated for the next-generation iPhone 7.

    This is in contrast to the split production of the A9 processor between Samsung and TSMC featured in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Apple's decision to revert back to TSMC as a single supplier, as was seen in A8 chip production, could be motivated by advanced device packaging techniques offered by TSMC that may not have equivalents in Samsung's packaging offerings.

    The Commercial Times report mentions TSMC's integrated fan-out wafer-level packaging (InFO WLP) technology as one of the key inclusions in the production contract. InFO WLP is one of many competing 3D IC technologies that promise higher levels of component integration in a single package with better electrical characteristics.

    Among those improvements is the possibility for higher-width memory buses that support lower-power operation necessary for mobile devices, which for consumers means better performance and efficiency. 3D IC technologies are just beginning to emerge in the consumer space, with AMD's use of High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) in its Fiji XT line of discrete graphics cards being one of the first implementations.

    According to a paper abstract from TSMC engineers, InFO WLP also allows for better thermal performance as well as superior performance for radio frequency (RF) components such as cellular modems. We reported last year about Apple hiring more engineers to potentially bring RF component development in house, so this packaging technology could serve as additional motivation to Apple for packaging in the future. Even if Samsung could offer Apple a comparable technology, the challenges of verifying a design on two new manufacturing flows may be a motivating factor for Apple to stick with one supplier for its next processor.

    In the near term, the thermal advantages and potential increased memory bandwidth are the more immediate sources of improvement for Apple's potential next chip. Many 3D IC technologies have seen slow adoption due to increased costs and processing steps, but the simpler InFO WLP technology offers an easier, cheaper entry point for Apple, which also has the luxury of uncommonly high margins on its devices.

    Comparison of packaging technologies offered by TSMC

    TSMC's InFO WLP differs from many competing 3D IC solutions in that it does not require an additional silicon interposer along with the existing package substrate used for component integration. Though they do not feature active components, silicon interposers are made on silicon wafers just like the application processors featured in mobile devices, making them a costly addition to the device assembly.

    InFO WLP allows multiple flip chip components to be placed side-by-side on a package substrate resembling a traditional assembly, but with the ability to interconnect to one another through the package substrate. This is in contrast to traditional methods which feature stacked packages (package on package, or PoP) interconnected with tiny wires. As mobile memory technologies advance, with LPDDR4 being the latest iteration, electrical signaling becomes an increasing technological challenge which begins to make 3D IC technologies more attractive for enhanced performance.

    The list of included components would not be limited to memory, however, so future device teardowns will be interesting as mobile devices begin to include these technologies. More information on TSMC's packaging technologies can be accessed via this PDF.

    Article Link: Rumored A10 Production Win for TSMC Could Be Tied to Device Packaging Advances
  2. JaySoul, Nov 6, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2015

    JaySoul macrumors 68030


    Jan 30, 2008
    Very much hoping this is true as I'm a shareholder in


  3. jimthing, Nov 6, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015

    jimthing macrumors 65816


    Apr 6, 2011
    London, UK (Europe, Earth, Space)
    "...highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language. highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language. highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language highly technical language..."

    Erm, what does this all mean exactly...?! I suspect this simply means: "It's better-er-er than the current one." :-|
  4. JoshDoug macrumors member


    Apr 25, 2014
    The link to the TSMC 'paper abstract' on IEEE doesn't work, 'query not valid'. Checked with my institution account and it's not behind a paywall or anything either.
  5. rugmankc Contributor


    Sep 24, 2014
    That's why we have an EDIT feature-----;):):)
  6. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    It means: Suck it, Samsung.
  7. happyslayer macrumors 6502a


    Feb 3, 2008
    Glendale, AZ
    Having been an engineer, (now a computer consultant) it's nice to see the occasional super-techy article on MacRumors. Admittedly, I didn't understand all of it, but it made me tab out and go research some of the terminology. Good article!
  8. koyoot macrumors 603


    Jun 5, 2012
  9. EllieV macrumors 6502

    Apr 22, 2010
    Ah, so maybe this is why the TSMC chip had slightly better performance!
  10. Chytin macrumors member


    Oct 24, 2013
    Translation: no chipgate when the iPhone 7 launches.
  11. GrumpyMom macrumors 604


    Sep 11, 2014
    Amen and Hallelujah. Though it was entertaining.
  12. Jsameds macrumors 68040

    Apr 22, 2008
    There was no chipgate in the first place.
  13. Jeremy1026 macrumors 68020


    Nov 3, 2007
    There certainly was chipgate, it just wasn't warranted.
  14. 1080p macrumors 68030


    Mar 17, 2010
    Planet Earth
    Translation: Many of our customers suffer from extreme OCD and feel entitled. We need to curb people returning a phone 10 times to get the chip they want.
  15. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Sorry...should be working now.
  16. reyalP macrumors 6502


    Oct 10, 2012
    I prefer they not use Samsung parts. One can only speculate at the quality of Samsung chips being sold to Apple. A company that Samsung views as a competitor.
  17. Benjamin Frost Suspended

    Benjamin Frost

    May 9, 2015
    London, England
    This is great news.

    Just as Apple fixed Bendgate with the iPhone 6s, whilst publicly denying it, so they will fix Chipgate with the iPhone 7, whilst similarly denying it.

    Finally, we can look forward to iPhones that all have the same battery life, as opposed to the current iPhone 6s, which has battery life that can be as much as two hours shorter if you are afflicted with the Samsung chip.
  18. jkichline macrumors 6502

    Aug 25, 2010
  19. nepalisherpa macrumors 68020


    Aug 15, 2011
    TSMC better start working now. Let's just hope that TSMC is able to keep up with the demand and Apple won't need to use Samsung again.
  20. citysnaps, Nov 6, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015

    citysnaps macrumors 601

    Oct 10, 2011
    San Francisco
    There was no "chipgate" and no issue. To really understand that though, you would need to be an engineer. The fact the many aren't, and really don't understand the underlying technology, manufacturing, second-sourcing of components, semiconductor processes, tolerances, etc, is evident, and is what ultimately froths up the tech media and its readers.
  21. 69Mustang macrumors 603


    Jan 7, 2014
    In between a rock and a hard place
    Great technical article on MR. Thread devolving into fanboy garbage. This is why we don't get article's like this very often. Based on comments, MR should only post vacuous articles to feed the insatiable mob.

    /rant over
  22. jayducharme macrumors 68040


    Jun 22, 2006
    The thick of it
    Maybe that will enable Apple to make a base iPhone model with 32 GB of storage. (I can dream, can't I?)
  23. JeffyTheQuik macrumors 68020


    Aug 27, 2014
    Charleston, SC and Everett, WA
    But there's lots of gates on the chips!

    (That was for you semiconductor engineers...)
    (I'm here all week folks...)
  24. rp2011 macrumors 65816


    Oct 12, 2010
    I'm pretty sure I do not understand any of this, other than it seems to be pretty good. I wonder if it's as advanced as the design used by Pringles on their chips, mathematically known as the hyperbolic paraboloid design.Their design was reportedly aided by supercomputers to ensure safe aerodynamics while packaging.
  25. recoil80 macrumors 68020

    Jul 16, 2014
    Nice pun.
    And there will be plenty of gates with the next iPhone, as usual

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