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Rumor: TSMC inks deal to build 20nm 'A8' chips for Apple starting this year

A new report claims that Apple and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. have actually sealed the deal on a three-year agreement to supply A-series chips for future iPhones and iPads.

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

Rumors of an agreement between the two companies have continued to crop up for years, but a report published on Monday by DigiTimes not only claims a deal has been made, but gets into specifics about the terms of the contract. In particular, TSMC and its integrated service partner Global UniChip are said to be planning to supply A-series chips built on 20-nanometer, 16-nanometer, and 10-nanometer process nodes.

The report claims TSMC will begin limited trial runs of manufacturing 20-nanometer "A8" chips as soon as this July, though production won't ramp up substantially until September. It's expected that devices utilizing the so-called "A8" chip would debut in 2014.

In addition, it was said that TSMC's phase 4, 5 and 6 facilities at its Fab 14 location in southern Taiwan will be solely dedicated to building A-series chips for Apple.

It should be noted that DigiTimes is notorious for reporting rumors from the technology industry supply chain that prove incorrect. However, the publication does on occasion relay accurate claims on Apple and other companies.

For years, reports have claimed that Apple was interested in forging a partnership with TSMC — a move that would allow the iPhone maker to cut Samsung out of its supply chain. Currently, Samsung is the sole supplier of Apple's custom A-series chips, while also being Apple's chief rival.

Monday's report does align with a rumor that surfaced earlier this year, in April, which claimed that TSMC would build 20-nanometer chips for Apple's 2014 iPhone model. However, for years reports have claimed that TSMC was on the verge of joining Apple's supply chain.

There's even been speculation that Intel could begin manufacturing A-series chips as Apple looks to broaden its supplier base. Intel is currently the sole supplier of processors for the company's Mac lineup.

Apple'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-generation iPad and A6X in the fourth-generation model, while the A6 chip debuted last year in the iPhone 5.