Samsung to supply Apple with next-gen 14nm iPhone chips

by: Robert TriggsJuly 15, 2013

Apple Logo iPhone 4S 1 1600

Apple and Samsung clearly don’t have the friendliest of relationships, but a few mutually beneficial agreements have popped up between the two every now and again. According to the Korea Economic Daily, the two companies could soon be partners once again, as the two smartphone giants have supposedly signed an agreement regarding the next generation of iPhone processors.

Samsung was, and will be up until next year, the chief chip supplier for Apple’s line-up of iPhone products, but this relationship is set to come to an end once the current contract expires. Apple signed a deal with TSMC a couple of weeks ago, in order to move away from reliance on its largest competitor, which resulted in Samsung trying to court other device manufacturers for future chip contracts.

However, the latest report from the Korea Economic Daily states that Samsung and Apple will be pairing back up in 2015, with Samsung providing 14nm A9 chips for Apple’s next-generation iPhone, dubbed the “iPhone 7”. The handset could be released in the second half of 2015, requiring chip production to start up earlier in the year.

galaxy s4 vs iphone 5 size difference aa

Samsung currently supplies the Apple A6 chip used in the iPhone 5.

But why would Apple go back to Samsung so quickly, having just signed a deal with TSMC?

Well it’s probably all to do with 14nm technology, as Samsung Electronics developed its state of the art 14 nanometer models ahead of TSMC. If Apple wants to remain on the cutting edge, the company needs to sign deals with the most advanced manufactures as soon as possible, in order to secure itself a steady supply of future chips.

This make sense, as Apple is also supposedly exploring a possible deal with chip manufacturer Globalfoundries, which is also aiming to have its own 14nm manufacturing process ready sometime around the end of 2014 or the start of 2015. But so far talks haven’t led to a deal, so an agreement with Samsung could be seen as a safer option.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that Samsung will be the sole supplier for Apple’s next-generation processors. It’s likely that Apple is still keen to diversify away from Samsung, and may need a number of manufacturers on board in order to keep up with demand for its future products anyway. Deals with TSMC, Samsung, and potentially Globalfoundries as well, will leave Apple with plenty of supply and choice when it comes to its next-gen processor.

It’s a tad amusing that these two giants can’t seem to get along without each other, despite the constant hostilities in the courts. Perhaps, in the future, the two companies will be much more co-operative, but I won’t hold my breath.

  • cottage McKay

    But the iPhone 5 has a15 architecture why would they go back to a9?

    • Andreas Polycarpou

      The a9 is the processor not the architecture

    • Jusephe

      That is name of SoC

      iPhone 5 uses A6 Soc and this is A9 SoC

      Apple A5 uses Cortex A9 ARM core. And A6 don’t use cortex A15 but totally different Apple designed core codenamed “Swift”.

  • Mayoo

    Complete mindf***. Samsung does Apple, Apple sues Samsung, Samsung continues to supply Apple, Apple sues again Samsung (repeat 20x), Apple looking for alternative, Samsung back in the game.

    The worst couple separation EVAR!

    • Chris

      Its a love hate relationship

  • Roberto Tomás

    I gotta say, this timeframe makes sense as presented here, yet according to his article: — Samsung’s *clients* will begin taping out as early as Q1 2014 .. which surely means production will begin that year, not to mention that it means that Samsung itself will already have finished the engineering part for their own 14nm and should be in production by that time frame.
    I’m just not sure who to believe :)

  • Luka Mlinar

    Apple has it fallen to this? That’s got to hurt mwuahaha :D

  • Nathan Borup

    “It’s a tad amusing that these two giants can’t seem to get along without each other…” right. Like samsung can’t get by without apple. Worst sentence in this article

    • kascollet

      Why so ?
      Both companies have gigantic interests in this collaboration. Apple drives Samsung business in chips making (89% of it !) and no other maker alone can fulfill Apple’s needs for SoCs. Such a deal is just logical.

      • Nathan Borup

        But its not like samsung needs apple to survive… unlike apple apparently. Never said it was a bad idea, just said that they can get along without each other, at least samsung can

        • kascollet

          You don’t get it. Samsung is made of many distinct parts and the one that is about the processor foundries relies almost totally on Apple’s orders. Apple can find other partners (apparently, they already have with TSMC), but Samsung will have a very hard time looking for replacement orders as big as Apple’s (those others needs are currently satisfied by other chip makers like TSMC (Qualcomm, ARM, VIA, NVidia, Broadcomm…). The one company loosing money is actually Samsung

          • Nathan Borup

            No, you don’t get it. Samsung doesn’t just manufacture phones. The make anything you can think of. They have plenty of money. That’s how they even became the smartphone giant that they are. Not to mention samsung doesn’t need apple to make money. They have enough phones to manufacture themselves. Check this out:

          • kascollet

            Yes, but it’s not just about numbers of phone sales. If you read the article you linked, you’ll see that 7.6% of Samsung’s revenue comes from Apple’s orders. The biggest part of those orders lies in SoC manufacturing. Even a huge company like Samsung can’t ditch a 5 billion revenue like that.
            Read IC Insights for information focused on chips makers.

          • Nathan Borup

            7.6% is not 89%

          • kascollet

            Man, grow up. It’s 7.6% of Samsung’s total revenue and 89% of the chips they make (as you said, Samsung is not only making silicon !).

  • cycad007

    Samsung has *NOT* perfected the 14 nm process yet. Considering neither Intel, GlobalFoundries or TSMC is there yet, there is *NO WAY* Samsung lept ahead of either company. This article is completely speculative. As it stands, Samsung is behind both Intel & TSMC in process technology.

    While Apple may have signed an agreement with Samsung, to say Samsung has 14 nm process ready and ahead of TSMC is completely bogus. Do some fact-checking, Robert.

    • Jusephe

      Nice point.
      Samsung didn’t ramped up even 28 nm jet, considering only a tenth of SGS 4’s got Ex5 octa wich is samsung’s 28 nm silicon.

    • Cristi13

      As far as I know 14nm processors will go on market in 2015(for mobile), I think there is time…

      • cycad007

        Hi Cristi – I’m not claiming that 14nm won’t be around in 2015. But what I am stating is that the author didn’t do his homework. Samsung doesn’t have a 14 nm process in place and they are certainly not ahead of TSMC with their “state of the art” 14 nm process.

        • Cristi13

          While I agree that they not so far ahead in development, the idea Is that Samsung, once ready can produce more because
          they simply have more factories and resources and money. At least that’s what I think.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            Yes this is an economies of scale business, and Samsung is worth 180 billion or more.

  • Bone

    A sensible business decision. There’s clearly room for two smartphone giants, but only one has it’s own HW resources, so Apple needs to suck it up and keep the partnership on a professional level, irregardless whether they are correct about the ongoing patent claims or not.

    Now the question is: if Samsung has 14nm scheduled, when are they switing to 22nm/20nm for their own A15 chips, something that heat producing architecture badly needs. There’s so much potential, but not at 28nm.

  • OMGgary

    Stop the next person you see in the street using an iPhone and ask them how many nanometres the manufacturing process of the SOC in their phone is.

    • kevin

      well, most iphone user are not smart so I guess most of them will say it’s 1 nm :D

      • viaimages

        most iphone users don’t know any technical information about their phone. they don’t know what mAh means, or how many cores, etc.. a lot of them thought the iphone 4 was 4G fast LOL

    • kevin

      well, most iphone user are not smart so I guess most of them will say it’s 1 nm :D

  • Nanda Linn Aung

    Samsung electrics are fine with Apple purchasing department.. they both make good money