A new generation of smaller, faster Apple processors is now under production by Samsung, including at Sammy's Texan facility, according to reports.
While Apple and Samsung have a rather fraught relationship (mainly conducted through lawyers) Samsung’s components division is a major supplier to Cupertino.
It’s not known what devices the new chips will go into, but there may be a mid-life kick to the iPhone 6, something Apple has done before. Or, it might be targeted at an iPhone 7.
Given the huge initial shipments Apple has to deal with whenever an iAnything goes on sale it would make sense to secure processor supply.
The new chip is a shrink on the existing A9 processor to Samsung’s 14nm process. It’s common to “flip-flop” the development of processors so that new designs are implemented on an established scale and then evolve them by reducing the size.
Smaller chips run faster and cooler, and you get more of them to a wafer, but as the scales reduce they become increasingly harder to make.
ET News Korea reports that the new processors are being made at Samsung’s plant in Texas. This represents a contract win over TSMC, which currently makes the A9 on a 20nm process.
The new chips use the FinFET, 3D chip design. This flips the power line so the transistor switches vertically, and so packs the transistors more closely.
Samsung makes processors for many major companies, including Qualcomm, so the A9 won’t have 14nm to itself.
Apple and Samsung fell out so badly over several patent disputes the chip business dwindled to almost nothing, but if the reports are true, it seems the promise of 14nm has been so alluring they are back in bed together. ®