Monday, September 22, 2014

Apple using TSMC for 20nm A8 chip in iPhone 6, not Samsung

iPhone Board
Apple’s iPhone 6 & 6 Plus built by TSMC

According to recent reports, the latest 64 bit A9 system-on-a-chip of Apple’s latest iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is said to be built by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and not Samsung, its long-time partner. As the iPhone device made their worldwide debut, the team at Chipworks disassembled the models to have a closer look at the components inside, which revealed an A8 processor that had been built by TSMC.

This discovery confirms the rumours of last year that Apple would be switching away from Samsung foundries to TSMC which employs a 20 nanometer CMOS process for the present generation. Aseries SoC. As per Chipworks, the A8’s contacted gate pitch of 90nm conforming to Qualcomm’s MDM9235, which is a chip built by TSMC.

The change from Samsung to TSMC for fabricating the A series chip powering the iOS device tends to be significant since Apple had relied on Samsung earlier for the task. Besides this other discoveries include the unannounced NFC controller made by NXP dating back to 2012 with Chipworks cities insiders stating that the design was built by Apple exclusively indicating that the company had access to the silicon for around 18 months.

New Chip Power and Energy Efficient

The discovery of the A8 chip that is found in both the updated iPhone models confirms the use of 20 nm process as The Journal’s July report had indicated which compares to the 28 nm processor of the A7 chip that is found in the iPhone 5z, iPad Air as well as iPad mini together with Retina display, built by Samsung, thus making the new chip more efficient with regards to power and energy.

At the launch of the iPhone, Phil Schiller, Apple SVP of Marketing, had stated that Apple was capable of fitting the 2B transistor of the A8 in less space than the 1B transistor in the A7.

Apple’s decision to use TSMC instead of Samsung for the new A8 chip is considered to have affected the profits of Samsung earlier this year though Samsung could return to produce the chips in future. For some time now, TSMC had been expecting to replace Samsung in the A8 fabrication process.

Faster CPU Performance & Graphics

Besides this, InvenSense has also been tapped by Apple for the new iPhones’ six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, taking over the supplier STMicroelectronics while Texas Instruments also showed up with haptics driver that were used to control the vibrator unit.Sony is also supplying the iSight chip which in iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is the company’s Exmor RS back illuminated CMOS image sensor which previouslyindicated that the chip featured 1.5 micron pixels on a die size of 4.8 mm x 6.1 mm.

Moreover, Chipworks also discovered that Apple’s phase detection system or `Focus Pixels have been implemented in the green channel. By preferring a different company in the production process, Apple’s A8 processor in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has a faster CPU performance of about 25% and up to 50% faster graphics as informed by Apple during the September 12th iPhone 6 announcement. Consumers, recently got the glimpse of the components used in the building of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

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