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Monday, August 25, 2014, 09:18 am PT (12:18 pm ET)

Rumor: TSMC, Apple working on 16nm FinFET process for 'A9' chips

A Monday morning report from the Republic of China indicated that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is in the process of accelerating the rollout of its new 16-nanometer FinFET fabrication process in a possible bid to wrest control of Apple's A9 manufacturing from rival chipmakers.

Apple's A7 SoC is manufactured by Samsung and powers the iPhone 5s, Retina iPad mini and iPad Air.
Source: iFixit


The report, from the Chinese-language Economic Daily News, directly contradicts earlier whispers that Samsung had won Apple's orders for the A9. Samsung's next-generation process moves the needle to 14 nanometers.

TSMC is said to be in the midst of capacity planning that would see the firm churn out some 50,000 wafers each month. It is unclear what wafer size the plant would use in production, though its current 16-nanometer test lines utilize 12-inch wafers.

Apple and TSMC have long worked together to produce smaller parts — the Taiwanese company produces the silicon for the iPhone 5s's Touch ID sensors, for instance — but the production of more important components, like Apple's A-series chips, has been left to Samsung. Tensions between Apple and its South Korean competitor are believed to have given TSMC a boost, however, with the latter reportedly beginning shipments of chips destined for the so-called "iPhone 6" in early July.

The world's other major chip foundries, including Intel and former AMD subsidiary GlobalFoundries, are also thought to be chasing Apple's business. Thanks to its push into custom silicon and the massive popularity of the iPhone and iPad, Apple is now one of the largest fabrication customers on earth.