Apple Pivots to Samsung for iPhone Memory Chips Following US Trade Ban Against Chinese Suppliers
Apple will turn to Samsung for memory used in iPhones ahead of the imposition of U.S. export controls on one of China's top NAND flash chipmakers, reports DigiTimes.
Apple originally intended to buy 128-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips from Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC) for use in iPhones sold in the Chinese market as early as this year, with the possibility of eventually purchasing up to 40% of the chips needed for all iPhones.
However, last month those plans were put on hold when YMTC and 30 other Chinese entities were added to an "Unverified" list of companies that U.S. officials have been unable to inspect, and the supplier is widely expected to be blacklisted in early December for trade restrictions.
U.S. companies are prohibited from sharing any design, technologies, documents or specifications to companies on the Unverified List without a license. Companies who cannot provide the necessary information within 60 days can be added to the U.S. export control blacklist. YMTC is also being investigated by the U.S. Commerce Department over whether it violated Washington's export controls by selling chips to Huawei, which is already blacklisted.
As a result of the restrictions, Apple will now use Samsung Electronics as an alternative supplier starting in 2023, according to supply chain sources cited in the report.
Samsung, long the main supplier of DRAM chips for iPhones, is set to start next year supplying NAND flash for iOS devices from its plant in China's Xian plant, which now contributes 40% of the Korean vendor's total 3D NAND flash capacity, ranging from 128 to 176 layers, the sources said.
Unlike its rivals, Samsung has not imposed production cuts in response to sluggish NAND flash market demand, likely partly due to its entry into the Apple supply chain. Moreover, the Korean manufacturer is thought to be able to afford quote cuts and output increases, which has further strengthened its competitiveness.
The export controls on China imposed by the Biden administration are an effort to slow the country's technological and military advances by cutting off Beijing's supplies from certain semiconductor chips made anywhere in the world with U.S. equipment.
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