Apple relying on Samsung for manufacturing its A7 chip

Apple has yet again chosen Samsung as the fabricator for its A7 chip, according to information uncovered by the experts at Chipworks.

Samsung has been involved in many legal battles with Apple in recent times, but that hasn't stopped the company from being the preferred chip-maker of the Cupertino-based company for its tablets and smartphones. Apple has been reported to be working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company for its ARM-based A-series of chips from time to time, however, it doesn't seem that TSM has been given the green signal for the latest devices. Although Apple has been planning to reduce its reliance on Samsung for components such as flash memory and RAM, all of its SOCs to date have been manufactured by Samsung.

A7 is the chip that powers Apple's flagship iPhone, the 5s. According to Chipworks, the A7, which is based on an advanced 28nm manufacturing process, is manufactured by Samsung's chip foundry. The A7 system-on-chip consists of a dual-core CPU. In addition to the CPU, iPhone 5s also has a "M7" co-processor, manufactured by NXP, which processes motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass.  The iSight camera module used in the iPhone 5s is found to be a custom Exmor-RS sensor made by Sony. Some other parts of the device include a touchscreen controller from Broadcom, multi-band 4G LTE modem and RF power management chip by Qualcomm. 

A detailed teardown of the internals of the iPhone 5s can be found at iFixit and the SOC related research is posted by Chipworks.

Source: Chipworks via CNET | Image via Chipworks

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22 Comments

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Nah, Samsung is just testing their prototype with the sheep and then will release a better version inside their phones.

Albert said,
... and this is news? come on. even 'unprofessional journalism' have higher standards.

And this is a comment? Come on, bro. You can do better than that.

0/10

That's is why I don't get why Apple is lauded so much for their phones when they don't even manufacture one component for it. They just buy all the parts in bulk from different manufacturers and hire a company in rural China with dreadful working conditions to package it into a shiny glittery case made by yet another company and voila, all of a sudden has Apple magic and they're charging three times for it.

They don't manufacture them - but they design them. The A7 is a custom built in house chip from Apple, which Samsung happen to manufacture for them.

The logic board inside an iPhone isn't "bought off the shelf" somewhere like you might with a PC logic board - it's custom designed by Apple and the blueprints given to someone to manufacture them. I doubt there is a smartphone company that designs and manufactures the entire phone themselves. The Gorilla glass on all of these phones comes from Corning..The snapdragon processors in most of them are from Qualcomm

Apple doesn't have the assets (factories, workers, logistics) to start manufacturing millions of ARM processors - and it makes absolutely no sense for them to plough billions of money into doing that which would be a fairly big risk, when there are plenty of companies out there who will do it for them (TMSC, Samsung)

AsherGZ said,
That's is why I don't get why Apple is lauded so much for their phones when they don't even manufacture one component for it. They just buy all the parts in bulk from different manufacturers and hire a company in rural China with dreadful working conditions to package it into a shiny glittery case made by yet another company and voila, all of a sudden has Apple magic and they're charging three times for it.

By this logic AMD chips aren't even AMD after all since AMD is fabless and Global Foundries and TMSC "make" their chips. But in the end AMD is still the one who actually designs them.

The difference is that AMD designed the entire processor architecture, whereas Apple licensed the ARMv8 architecture but implemented custom processor cores.

Well doesn't really matter since the end idea is still the same. None of them actually build their chips and Apple still did design their cores themselves.

ManMountain said,
The difference is that AMD designed the entire processor architecture, whereas Apple licensed the ARMv8 architecture but implemented custom processor cores.

You're underplaying how much of a task having custom processor cores is (and how much of a difference it can make between different manufacturers doing this). Samsung's Exynos processors, early Nvidia Tegra's are also ARM licensed processors. They are definitely not the same, as any benchmarks will tell you (generally the iPhone's processor outperforms it's competitors)

AnandTech have a good article about Apple's first custom core (rather than a fully licensed arm core) the A6:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/...ne-5-a6-not-a15-custom-core

DomZ said,
They don't manufacture them - but they design them. The A7 is a custom built in house chip from Apple, which Samsung happen to manufacture for them.
Designing a SoC like the A7 is like playing with blocks, Apple may modify or deign some peripheral stuff, but the main components are all ready to go. The M7 is a re-branded of the shelf co-proc from a Dutch manufacturer, the LTE modem is by Qualcomm, the camera sensor by Sony and I could go on.

There are _no_ components in the iPhone which are built or manufactured by Apple. There is no technology in the iPhone which is invented or conceived by Apple. Apple is good at picking good tech and combining it into a good product, then they are very good at selling these products as if they are the second coming.

The only thing that is Apple would be iOS and even that is for a large part built around bought/licensed inventions and/or code.

Some of you guys are doing two things...

1) Acting as if someone here, or even Apple, is making the claim that Apple manufactures everything in their phone.

2) Acting as if Apple gets on Newegg and starts ordering the parts needed for their new phone.

Ha ha...ha ha...ha...

Sourcing the manufacturing of components that a company designs out to other companies that manufacture said components is something that I think is safe to say that all companies do. Since you guys aren't bringing up this fact, and only targeting Apple, I think it's also safe to assume that you think Apple is the only one that does this, and this is somehow bad.

I'm bringing the Nokia Lumia up, which is also a phone that is lauded, because both Asher and Paul claim to own Lumias. I know it's fun to pretend that Nokia hand makes everything that goes into their phones with love, but they use Qualcomm processors, and an OS made by Microsoft. I highly doubt that they manufacture the USB connectors, or batteries that all say that they are made in China. Haven't I seen wireless charging before Nokia started doing it? Did they invent that? I could go on.

paulheu said,
There is no technology in the iPhone which is invented or conceived by Apple.

Then explain the Lightning connector. Who conceived that? Explain all of the patents of invention that Apple holds on the iPhone. Go on, explain/twist away.

omgben said,
Some of you guys are doing two things...

1) Acting as if someone here, or even Apple, is making the claim that Apple manufactures everything in their phone.

2) Acting as if Apple gets on Newegg and starts ordering the parts needed for their new phone.

Ha ha...ha ha...ha...

Sourcing the manufacturing of components that a company designs out to other companies that manufacture said components is something that I think is safe to say that all companies do. Since you guys aren't bringing up this fact, and only targeting Apple, I think it's also safe to assume that you think Apple is the only one that does this, and this is somehow bad.

I'm bringing the Nokia Lumia up, which is also a phone that is lauded, because both Asher and Paul claim to own Lumias. I know it's fun to pretend that Nokia hand makes everything that goes into their phones with love, but they use Qualcomm processors, and an OS made by Microsoft. I highly doubt that they manufacture the USB connectors, or batteries that all say that they are made in China. Haven't I seen wireless charging before Nokia started doing it? Did they invent that? I could go on.

Then explain the Lightning connector. Who conceived that? Explain all of the patents of invention that Apple holds on the iPhone. Go on, explain/twist away.

While most of your talk is true the end is a bit off. While you brought Nokia into it then they do hold a lot of patents on things in their phones which they don't manufacture themselves, the same as every mobile company out there.

Honestly, I feel like this isn't even a real argument anymore, but more of an attempt to downplay what Apple does. If you don't like Apple, that's totally cool, but I'm rather annoyed that someone would just start posting a bunch of misleading information just because they don't like a company.

Apple's manufacturing process of iPhones is not much different from other manufacturers. Heck even Samsung outsources most of the manufacturing processes to third-party vendors. Cases are made by outsourced vendors, batteries are made by outsourced vendors, among all other major components in their phones. Even the final assembly is done by many of their 1st-tier vendors. Same with LG. Same with Nokia.

The modified A7 architecture is licensed from the ARMv8 design, so I'd imagine Samsung amongst others will also make this hardware for themselves and incorporate into their devices.

Shouldn't bother anyone. Until the time Apple's able to build their facilities for producing everything within this country, I see no problem with making arrangement with other companies, regardless of competition.

I hope there is no "Y2K" type "bug" in the Samsung chips that makes them stop working on say 1/1/2014, although all Apples date/time problems have been software bugs to date!