TSMC Reportedly ‘On Track’ to Begin Volume Production of A14 Chips for iPhones Despite Pandemic

TSMC is "on track" to begin volume production of 5nm chips in April, despite "recent speculation" indicating that the foundry had been requested by Apple to defer production of A14 processors by one or two quarters, according to DigiTimes.


A paywalled preview of the report claims that TSMC's manufacturing lines remain fully booked for 5nm chips amid the current pandemic.

TSMC has been Apple's exclusive supplier of A-series chips since 2016, and its chips have gradually become smaller as it continues to refine its manufacturing process, benefitting performance, battery life, and thermal management on iPhones.

Apple plans to introduce four high-end iPhone 12 models with 5G support in the fall, including one 5.4-inch model, two 6.1-inch models, and one 6.7-inch model, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Due to the ongoing pandemic, however, there have been conflicting reports on exactly when Apple will unveil its latest iPhones.
Related Roundup: iPhone 12
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TSMC Expected to Begin Volume Production of 5nm-Based A14 Chips in April Ahead of iPhone 12 Models

TSMC will begin volume production of 5nm-based A14 chips for iPhone 12 models in April, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes. A-series chip production usually begins around April-May, so the process appears to be on schedule.


TSMC has been Apple's exclusive supplier of A-series chips since 2016, and its chips have gradually become smaller as it continues to refine its manufacturing process, benefitting performance, battery life, and thermal management on iPhones.
  • A10 chip: 16nm

  • A11 chip: 10nm

  • A12 chip: 7nm

  • A13 chip: 7nm+

  • A14 chip: 5nm expected
Last year, TSMC announced a $25 billion investment in its new 5nm node technology in a bid to remain Apple's exclusive supplier of processors.

Apple plans to introduce four high-end iPhone 12 models with 5G support in the fall, including one 5.4-inch model, two 6.1-inch models, and one 6.7-inch model, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. A new lower-end iPhone is also widely rumored to launch in the first half of 2020, but it is expected to have an A13 chip.
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Apple Asks TSMC to Up A13 Chip Production Due to High Demand for 11 and 11 Pro

Apple has asked Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) to increase production of the A-series chips that are used in the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max due to higher-than-expected demand, reports Bloomberg.


‌iPhone 11‌ and 11 Pro demand has been outperforming Apple's expectations, and sales have been especially strong in China, a welcome change from the drop in sales that Apple saw with the 2018 iPhone models. Apple's ‌iPhone 11‌, priced starting at $700, has been a "particular driver" for the increased demand.

Apple's TSMC A13 chip orders are set to increase again in just a few months as Apple prepares to launch a new low-cost iPhone, which will be a successor to the popular ‌iPhone‌ SE.

The upcoming ‌iPhone‌, which could launch as early as March, is said to feature an affordable price tag. The device is rumored to feature a 4.7-inch display, thick top and bottom bezels with a Touch ID Home button, and a single-lens camera, but it will be equipped with the same A13 chip used in the 11 and 11 Pro.

During a recent earnings call, TSMC reported earnings above most analyst expectations and forecasted a strong quarter ahead.

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TSMC Expected to Begin ‘A14’ 5nm Chip Production in Second Quarter

As expected, Apple chipmaker TSMC has secured orders for the "A14" processors to go in this year's iPhones and is expected to start manufacturing the chips in the second quarter, according to industry sources cited in a DigiTimes report.

The sources said Apple's 5G mmWave handsets to be released in 2020 are reportedly to each carry at least three AiP modules, which can also be packaged with FC_AiP (flip-chip) process in addition to InFo_AiP.
TSMC has been working hard to miniaturize its fabrication process to 5 nanometers – down from 7 nanometer fabrication seen in the A12 and A13 – with the aim of securing orders for Apple's processors in its iPhones for the fourth year running.

Previous successes in miniaturization have enabled the foundry to be Apple's exclusive supplier of A-series chips, beginning with the A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7/7 Plus, and continuing with the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8/8 Plus and ‌‌iPhone‌‌ X, the A12 Bionic in the iPhone XR/XS/XS Max, and the A13 Bionic in the iPhone 11 series.

Last year it announced a $25 billion investment in the new 5nm node technology in a bid to remain the exclusive supplier of the processors.

Apple is expected to release five new ‌‌iPhone‌‌ models in 2020, including a so-called ‌iPhone SE 2‌ with a 4.7-inch LCD display in the first half of 2020, followed by a higher-end all-OLED 5G lineup consisting of 5.4-inch, two 6.1-inch, and 6.7-inch models in the second half of the year.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12
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TSMC Paves Way for 5nm A14 Chip in 2020 iPhones

Paving the way for a 5nm-sized A14 chip in 2020 iPhones, TSMC has announced the release of its complete 5nm chip design infrastructure.


TSMC's continued packaging advancements coupled with Apple's industry-leading mobile chip designs is beneficial for the performance, battery life, and thermal management of future iPhones. That will continue with the 5nm process:
Compared with TSMC's 7nm process, its innovative scaling features deliver 1.8X logic density and 15% speed gain on an ARM® Cortex®-A72 core, along with superior SRAM and analog area reduction enabled by the process architecture. The 5nm process enjoys the benefits of process simplification provided by EUV lithography, and is making excellent progress in yield learning, achieving the best technology maturity at the same corresponding stage as compared to TSMC's previous nodes.
TSMC's 5nm process is already in preliminary risk production and the chipmaker plans to invest $25 billion towards volume production by 2020.

TSMC has been Apple's exclusive supplier of A-series chips since 2016, fulfilling all orders for the A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, and the A12 Bionic chip in the latest iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

TSMC's packaging offerings are widely considered to be superior to that of other chipmakers, including Samsung and Intel, so it's not surprising that its exclusivity is poised to continue with A13 chips in 2019 and A14 chips in 2020.

TSMC has been gradually shrinking the size of its dies over the years as it continues to refine its manufacturing process: the A10 Fusion is 16nm, the A11 Bionic is 10nm, and the A12 Bionic is 7nm. A13 chips will likely be 7nm+, benefitting from the process simplification of EUV lithography.


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TSMC on Course to Secure 5nm Chip Orders for 2020 iPhones

Apple chipmaker TSMC will miniaturize its fabrication process to 5 nanometers in a bid to secure orders for Apple's processors in its 2020 iPhones, according to industry sources cited in a DigiTimes report.


TSMC recently confirmed that it plans to invest $25 billion towards volume production of 5nm chips by 2020, and today's report backs expectations that those chips are likely headed for Apple's smartphones next year.
Despite its dim business and industry outlook this year, TSMC claimed it is making progress in the development of sub-7nm process technologies with plans to move a newer 5nm EUV process to volume production by 2020 well on track.
Previous successes in miniaturization have seen TSMC remain Apple's exclusive supplier of A-series chips for the last three years, beginning with the A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7/7 Plus, and continuing with the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8/8 Plus and iPhone X, and the A12 Bionic in the iPhone XR/XS/XS Max.

The A10 Fusion chip is 16nm, the A11 Bionic is 10nm, and the A12 is a 7nm chip. The "A13" 5nm chip destined for this year's iPhones is also based on 7nm technology, but is expected to be the first chip to use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV), which allows for a more microscopic chip layering process.

The Taiwanese manufacturer has been gradually shrinking the size of its dies for several years now, allowing it to offer packages that are widely considered to be superior to that of other chipmakers, including Samsung and Intel.

End users can expect Apple's mobile chip designs and TSMC's continued packaging advancements to improve performance, battery life, and thermal management in future iPhones.

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Apple Suppliers Cutting Sales Forecasts Amid ‘Extraordinary’ Decline in Chinese Demand

Major Apple suppliers in Asia have been cutting their 2019 sales forecasts and some have cited an "extraordinary" drop in Chinese demand, reports Nikkei.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), which supplies the A-series chips used in the iPhones and other devices, is forecasting a 22 percent drop in revenue for the January to March quarter. TSMC said there was a "sudden drop in demand" for high-end smartphones, also attributing its revenue decline to the U.S.-China trade war and economic uncertainty.


The same thing goes for Nidec, a company that supplies the vibration motor in the iPhone. Nidec has dropped its full-year profit outlook by upwards of 25 percent after slumps were seen in November and December.
"We have faced extraordinary changes," Nidec Chairman Shigenobu Nagamori told reporters at a Thursday news conference as the company reversed a previous forecast of a record profit. [...]

The tide shifted in November, however. "We saw big slumps in November and December," Nagamori said. "Orders, sales and shipments in all business segments around the world saw major shifts," he explained.
Apple has forecast its own decline in revenue, dropping guidance for the holiday quarter to $84 million, down from an earlier November estimate of $89 to $93 million.

Apple has asked its suppliers to cut iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max production by 10 percent for the next three months and has implemented its own reduction in hiring for certain divisions amid the slump.

The company is attempting to boost iPhone sales by dropping prices in China and offering increased trade-in values in the U.S. and other countries.

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iPhone Suppliers TSMC and Foxconn Report Strong November Revenue

Two of Apple's largest suppliers have reported healthy jumps in monthly revenue, suggesting fears of weak iPhone demand may be overblown (via Bloomberg).

Asian firms TSMC and Foxconn (Hon Hai) both posted a 5.6 percent rise in November sales, reversing a recent trend of Apple suppliers reducing production or revenue outlooks to reflect lowering demand for Apple's smartphones.


Foxconn posted NT$601.4 billion ($19.5 billion) in revenue, a record for the month of November, which puts the iPhone assembler on track for its fastest pace of annual growth in years.

TSMC, maker of Apple's system-on-chips like the A12 processor, reported revenue of $3.1 billion, a lower figure than the previous month but still considered strong overall. Executives at the chipmaker have said they expect demand for premium devices to help offset lethargy in the crypto-mining market, which it has heavily invested in.

Apple accounts for close to half of main iPhone-assembler Hon Hai's revenue and about a fifth of TSMC's, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The figures offer something of a riposte to the narrative that sales of Apple's iPhone XR and XS have been weaker than expected. For example, last week it was reported that Apple moved marketing staff off other projects to focus on bolstering sales of the latest iPhone lineup in late October.

Apple's next earnings call is in January, when investors will get an idea of how the company did over the holiday season, although Apple recently stopped reporting real unit numbers for its major product categories, so investors will have to rely on revenue and gross margin figures alone to assess performance.

Related Roundups: iPhone XS, iPhone XR
Tags: TSMC, Foxconn

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TSMC Expected to Remain Exclusive Supplier of ‘A13’ Chip Orders for 2019 iPhones

Taiwanese manufacturer TSMC will likely remain Apple's contract chipmaker next year, as the exclusive supplier of "A13" chips for 2019 iPhones, according to industry analysts cited in a report by the EE Times.

"As long as TSMC continues to offer something new at leading-edge every year and continues to execute well on yield, I could see Apple remaining sole source on foundry at TSMC for years to come," Arete Research analyst Brett Simpson said in an interview with EE Times.
TSMC has been Apple's exclusive supplier of A-series chips since 2016, fulfilling all orders for the A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. Multiple reports indicate TSMC will also be the exclusive supplier of the "A12" chip in 2018 iPhones.

TSMC's packaging offerings are widely considered to be superior to that of other chipmakers, including Samsung and Intel, so it won't be surprising if that exclusivity continues with the "A13" chip in 2019.

TSMC has been gradually shrinking the size of its dies over the years as it continues to refine its manufacturing process: A10 Fusion is 16nm, A11 Bionic is 10nm, and this year's "A12" is expected to be a 7nm chip. The "A13" will likely be a 7nm+ chip with extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV), with volume production expected to begin in the second quarter of 2019, in time for a fall iPhone launch next year.

Beyond that, TSMC recently confirmed that it plans to invest $25 billion towards volume production of 5nm chips by 2020, so there's a good chance that Apple will rely on the Taiwanese chipmaker for the foreseeable future.

TSMC's favor with Apple comes at the expense of Samsung, which was the exclusive manufacturer of iPhone processors for many years, starting with the ARM11 chip in the original iPhone through to the A8 chip in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. In 2015, Apple dual sourced A9 chips from both Samsung and TSMC.

Samsung isn't backing down easily, however, as DigiTimes last month reported that the South Korean company is developing its own InFO packaging technology. Samsung claims to have outpaced TSMC in kicking off official production of 7nm+ with EUV, seeking to win back orders from Apple in 2019.

As far as how this all impacts customers, Apple's industry-leading mobile chip designs and TSMC's continued packaging advancements are beneficial for the performance, battery life, and thermal management of future iPhones.

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Apple Supplier TSMC Recovering From ‘Debilitating’ Computer Virus

Apple supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is in recovery from a "debilitating" computer virus that hit many of its fabrication tools this past Friday evening. The company says that 80 percent of the affected tools have been restored, but it's now on a path to warn its customers -- potentially including Apple -- of delayed shipments and reduced revenue due to the virus (via Bloomberg).


TSMC builds chips for Apple's iPhone, and in late July a report from DigiTimes stated that the supplier had begun commercial production of chips manufactured using its advanced 7-nanometer process, including Apple's A12 processor for the 2018 iPhones. Now TSMC says many of its customers can expect shipment delays, although it didn't specify which customers would be affected.

The supplier says that "no confidential information" was compromised during the virus attack and as of Sunday most of its customers had been notified. TSMC believes the virus came from a "misoperation" during the software installation process for a new tool that then spread through its computer network, and one analyst thinks "all of TSMC's 12-inch wafer fabrication plants" were infected.
Mark Li, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said he thinks all of TSMC’s 12-inch wafer fabrication plants had been infected and that many customers had been affected, though the impact will be “very limited” because the company can make up for the losses during the busiest holiday quarter. TSMC makes Apple chips in its 12-inch fabrication plants.

“Long-term, TSMC’s trustworthy image is somewhat tainted but it is hard to quantify the effect now,” Li wrote in a research note Monday.
Although it's unclear how the virus will end up affecting Apple and the trio of iPhones expected to be revealed next month, Apple is TSMC's largest customer and is said to account for more than 21 percent of TSMC's revenue. Apple chose TSMC to remain the exclusive supplier of the upcoming A12 processor for the new iPhones, following rumors from last year that suggested Samsung could be returning to iPhone chip production in 2018.

Despite the fear over chip shipment delays, Apple is likely to have plans in place for any potential supply chain delays, as Bloomberg points out:
While TSMC has not indicated which customers could be affected, such a virus could potentially slow Apple’s output of new devices, cutting into the number of units sold.

Apple does prepare for last minute supply-chain hiccups like the one facing TSMC and could work through any potential problems. An Apple spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

“If the most advanced 7nm process products suffer a major impact, then concern could arise over a potential launch delay for next-gen iPhones,” SMBC Nikko analysts wrote on Monday.
Apple is expected to announce three iPhone models at an event in September: two OLED models measuring in at 5.8 and 6.5 inches and a 6.1-inch lower-cost LCD model. All three iPhones released in 2018 will support Face ID and edge-to-edge displays, with designs similar to last year's tenth-anniversary iPhone X. According to the latest supply chain analysis (which came prior to TSMC's virus attack), the OLED iPhones were predicted to have a typical September launch window while the LCD model could "possibly" be delayed to October.

Related Roundup: 2018 iPhones
Tag: TSMC

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