Apple Is Sourcing A9 Chips From Both Samsung and TSMC


It had been industry speculation prior to the iPhone 6S launch that Apple would be dual-sourcing the A9 and A9X from Samsung and TSMC, respectively.

It was a surprise to find two different application processors in two otherwise identical phones. As pictured below, there is a difference in the die size for the APL0898 (Samsung) and the APL1022 (TSMC).

The Samsung version is slightly smaller. Both versions seemingly perform equivalently.

When Apple announces sales numbers for the iPhone (like they did today, for the 6S opening weekend), my thoughts first turn to what a marketing success that is. It’s absolutely amazing that 13 million people wanted to buy a new iPhone during its first three days of availability. But I think that number is even more amazing when considered as an operational success. It’s not just that 13 million people were willing to buy an iPhone, it’s that Apple was able to deliver 13 million new iPhones — made from a new aluminum alloy, with a new “harder” glass for the display, and with an industry-leading CPU/GPU that is years ahead of the competition.

The negotiations between Apple and Samsung for the production of these chips must be fascinating. The chips Samsung uses in its own phones are years behind in single-core performance. How is it that Samsung can fabricate these chips for Apple but can’t copy or clone them for their own use?

Monday, 28 September 2015