Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC (NYSE:TSM), have secured a three-year deal under which TSMC will manufacture new A-series chips for future iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices, a new report said on Monday.
According to the report by DigiTimes, TSMC and its integrated circuit design service partner Global UniChip will supply the next A-series chips, built on 20-nanometer, 16-nanometer and 10-nanometer process nodes for upcoming iOS devices.
TSMC will start manufacturing the 20-nanometer "A8" chips as soon as July. However, the production is expected to ramp up only after December 2013. The report stated that the A8 processor will power a new iPhone "slated for release in early 2014."
Although it is unclear how that timeframe would fit into Apple’s traditional product release lifecycle, it's speculated that the improved chip could power the rumored "iPhone 6," the 2014 model of the company’s flagship smartphone.
In addition, the report claimed that TSMC’s phase-4, -5 and -6 facilities at its Fab 14 location in southern Taiwan will be dedicated to making Apple’s A-series processors, including A9/A9X (presumably 16nm chips) that are expected to power next-generation iPhones and iPads. TSMC is scheduled to begin volume production of the A9 and A9X processors toward the end of the third quarter of 2014.
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It’s worth mentioning here that Apple has not introduced any device featuring an A7 chip. However, rumors abound that the 2013 model of the iPhone, dubbed “iPhone 5S,” will sport an A7 processor.
On Monday, MacRumors came up with a report showing new images of the upcoming "iPhone 5S" that featured the next-generation A7 processor. On inspection of the purported "iPhone 5S" photos, the chip inside the device carries an Apple model number of “APL0698,” which suggest that the chip was “intended to be branded as an A7 chip rather than a modification on the A6 chip found in the iPhone 5.”
“The original A6 chip carried a model number of APL0598, with the A6X found in the fourth-generation iPad carrying an APL5598 model number, demonstrating how Apple varies the first digit for members of a given A-series family and increments the second digit when transitioning to a new family,” said the report.
The photos also indicate that the chip for the "iPhone 5S," which is expected to be released around September or October, apparently carries 1GB of Elpida DRAM, the same capacity found in the A6 chip. Moreover, a date code of 1239 for the DRAM indicates that a portion of the chip was manufactured in late September 2012.
Examining the date codes on the chip, the report's authors determined that the device itself was assembled in December 2012, which suggests it was an early prototype.
The leaked "iPhone 5S" photos provide a close view of the rear of the handset, showing that the device has a dual-LED flash. An earlier set of "iPhone 5S" photos, leaked last week, also suggest that the next iPhone iteration will have dual-LED flash capabilities.