Samsung Expected to Manufacture Next-Gen A6 SoC for Apple

Samsung May Remain Apple's Critical Business Partner in 2012

by Anton Shilov
10/17/2011 | 10:12 PM

Despite of the fact that Apple has been rumoured to hold talks with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company over manufacturing of Apple's next-generation A6 system-on-chip, Samsung Electronics will still produce the new SoC for the consumer electronics giant, according to a press report. It remains to be seen whether Apple will receive the new chips from two sources or TSMC and Samsung will produce different versions of SoCs.


"Apple has been in talks with Samsung over shipment of its A6 quad-core mobile processor chips to be used in the next iPhone. It appears that Apple clearly has concluded that Samsung remains a critical business partner. Samsung Electronics will apply its advanced 28-nanometer processing technology to produce qualified A6 mobile APs. TSMC will provide customized chips with designs from Apple, however, the volume will be very small," an executive from an Apple parts supplier based in Korea told Korea Times news-paper on condition of anonymity.

Earlier this year it transpired that Apple contracted TSMC to make its next-generation system-on-chip known as A6 that is to be used inside future iPad media tablets and iPhone smartphones. It was believed that the A6 chips would be made using TSMC's 28nm fabrication process, but then rumours emerged claiming that the world's largest contract maker of semiconductors had quality and volume issues with its 28nm production line.

Samsung Electronics may not be as large as TSMC, but the company has synchronized its 28nm process technologies with various other industry players, including Globalfoundries and IBM, which theoretically allows Apple to make chips at different factories in order to meet its volume goals. Samsung can produce 28nm HKMG low-power (28LP) chips at S1 fab in Giheung, Korea and the company’s recently expanded fab, S2 in Austin, Texas, Globalfoundries has two 300mm fabs that qualify the 28nm low-power HKMG technology: Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany and Fab 8 in Saratoga County, New York; IBM has a 300mm production facility in Armonk, New York. The  fabs represent a global footprint estimated to be the largest in the foundry industry for leading-edge capacity, offering customer choice enabled by close collaboration and an unparalleled de-risking of supply chain uncertainties.

Since Samsung and TSMC have different 28nm process technologies, they cannot produce identical SoCs even in case Apple develops two separate versions of A6 for different fabrication processes. As a result, the relationship with TSMC is unlikely about creating a second-source for A6 SoC, or at least this is not the only business project between Apple and the Taiwanese giant.

There is one more reason for Apple to continue its work with Samsung: the semiconductor company had also collaborated with Globalfoundries and IBM to develop the 28HPM process technology. The 28nm high-performance process technology for mobile devices has been specifically developed for chips aimed at mobile device applications, offering 60% of active power reduction at the same frequency or 55% of performance boost at the same leakage over 45nm low power (LP) SoC designs.

Samsung and Apple officials reportedly both declined to comment on the issue.