TSMC Rumored to Be Sole Supplier of A-Series iPhone Chips in 2018
Earlier this week, a report by The Korea Herald suggested that Samsung Electronics could be returning as a supplier for the so-called A12 chip in 2018's line of iPhones, after being removed from the A-series chip supply chain in 2016 and 2017, years in which Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company took on all of the orders. Now, industry observers reported upon by DigiTimes are predicting that TSMC is "still likely" to retain its title as the sole manufacturer of A-series chips in 2018.
In today's report, TSMC's integrated fan-out wafer-level packaging technology -- which the supplier uses in its 7-nanometer FinFET chip fabrication -- is looked at as largely superior to any progress made by Samsung in the same field. Samsung is said to be "aggressively vying" for A-series orders from Apple ahead of 2018, but DigiTimes' sources state that even the company's close ties to OLED might not be enough for Apple to add Samsung as a secondary A-series supplier for the reported three iPhones launching in fall 2018.
It is unlikely Samsung will be able to regain application processors orders for Apple's iPhone, as TSMC's in-house developed InFO wafer-level packaging will make the Taiwan-based foundry's 7nm FinFET technology more competitive than Samsung's, said the observers.
Samsung has grabbed Apple's A9 chip orders for the new 9.7-inch iPads introduced earlier in 2017, the observers claimed. TSMC, which is already the sole supplier of Apple's 10nm A11 chips for the upcoming iPhones, will still likely obtain all of the next-generation A-series chip orders for Apple's 2018 series of iPhones with its 7nm FinFET process, the observers said.
TSMC's innovation in backend packaging plays a key role in securing exclusive orders for Apple's processors for the upcoming iPhones, the observers noted.
In Tuesday's report, it was rumored that Samsung Electronics co-CEO Kwon Oh-hyun already made a deal with Apple concerning 2018 iPhone chip production during a visit to Cupertino last month. Otherwise, The Korea Herald's report was light on details, with no clear indication on exactly how many orders Samsung might have gained from such a deal besides believing the company would "share some parts" of A-series chip production with TSMC.
If Apple kept TSMC as the sole A-series manufacturer in 2018, it would mark the third year in a row that the supplier created iPhone chips alone, following the A10 in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and the A11 in the upcoming "iPhone 8," "iPhone 7s," and "iPhone 7s Plus." Otherwise, a return to dual-sourced A-series chips in 2018 would be the first time Apple made that move since 2015, when both Samsung and TSMC supplied the A9 chip in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, which frustrated some users when TSMC's technology was discovered to boast marginally better battery life.