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Tuesday, April 02, 2013, 05:20 am PT (08:20 am ET)

Rumor: Apple's expiring chip contract with Samsung will lead to TSMC-built 'A7' chips

Apple's future "A7" chips for 2014's "iPhone 6" will be built by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. once the existing contract with Samsung expires, a new rumor claims.

Chips

All of Apple's iDevice chips to date have been manufactured by Samsung in Austin, Tex.


The details come from Taiwan's Economic Daily News, and were highlighted by Japanese blog Macotakara on Tuesday. The report claims that Apple plans to utilize a so-called "A7" processor built on a smaller 20-nanometer process next year.

That advanced chip is rumored to be built by TSMC, and not Samsung, Apple's longtime chip producing partner. Currently, Samsung is responsible for the fabrication of all of Apple's A-series chips to date, including the latest A6 chip in the iPhone, and the beefier A6X found in the fourth-generation iPad.

The rumor, if true, suggests that Apple's anticipated "iPhone 5S," a next-generation handset expected to debut this year, will not feature a full-fledged next-generation "A7" processor. Conversely, the report's anticipated branding of the chip could be incorrect, and TSMC could in fact be working on a 20-nanometer chip for Apple that could be known as an "A8," or something else entirely.

The company's first custom A-series chip, the A4, debuted in the first-generation iPad in 2010, and launched in the iPhone 4 later that year, while the A5 was introduced in the iPad 2 and later came to the iPhone 4S in 2011. Since then, new iPad models have had enhanced chips with an "X" moniker, like the A5X in the third-gen iPad and A6X in the fourth-gen model, while the A6 chip debuted last year in the iPhone 5.

TSMC officials have high hopes for their forthcoming 20-nanometer chip production process, as CEO Morris Chang has predicted the smaller chips, set to debut in 2014, will outsell the company's existing 28-nanometer chips in the first two years. That bullish belief has helped to fuel speculation that Apple plans to adopt TSMC's 20-nanometer chips for its iPhone and iPad starting next year.

Apple has long been rumored to be interested in switching its mobile chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC, but those predictions have yet to become a reality. Apple was once Samsung's largest customer, but the iPhone maker is said to be interested in removing Samsung from its supply chain as the two companies have become bitter rivals.