iPhone 7 Chip Manufacturer Counts Cost of Earthquake Damage

The sole company responsible for manufacturing the processor in Apple’s upcoming iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus has reduced its shipping estimates after its facilities were damaged in an earthquake (via DigiTimes).

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) suffered the damage to its plants on February 6 when a 6.4-magnitude quake struck the southern part of the country.

Initially, TSMC reported that the damage incurred would reduce the amount of chips it could ship by less than 1 percent. However, this morning the company revised that estimate and said shipment numbers could be affected over the 1 percent mark, but stopped short of giving a specific number.

Mockup of iPhone 7 case showing flush rear camera and no antenna bands across rear

Despite the earthquake, TSMC stated it is confident of hitting target revenues of $5.9-6.0 billion in the first quarter of 2016. Whether the damage will affect production of the iPhone 7 chip, which is expected to begin in June, remains unclear.

TSMC reached a deal with Apple only last week to become the sole manufacturer for the iPhone 7’s processor, partly thanks to its 10-nanometer manufacturing process. Apple used both Samsung and TSMC to manufacture the chips for the iPhone 6s, perhaps in a bid to lower risks, but the arrangement caused some controversy after benchmarks indicated performance variances between the companies’ processors.

The processor in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus is likely called the A10. Both devices are expected to debut in September. Leaks of the phones’ design suggest that it may have a flush rear camera and a lack of antenna bands on its back. Other rumors indicate that the 7 Plus may feature a dual-lens camera system and that it may be waterproof and not have a headphone jack.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
Tags: TSMC, A10
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Earthquake damage hits Apple’s A-series chipmaker

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) might be on course to take over 100 percent of Apple’s A10 chip orders, but that’s not to say that it’s entirely without problems right now. According to a new report, a recent earthquake which hit one of TSMC’s factories in southern Taiwan caused more damage than initially thought: with […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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Apple may give Samsung the boot for iPhone 7 chip orders

After the “chipgate” event of the iPhone 6s — in which Samsung-manufactured A9 processors were rumored to perform worse than those built by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) — a new report suggests that Apple may give its South Korean frenemy the boot, and award 100 percent of its iPhone 7 A10 chip orders to TSMC. […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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Rumored A10 Production Win for TSMC Could Be Tied to Device Packaging Advances

According to a recent report from Taiwan’s Commercial Times, via EE Times and a separate research report from KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo, Taiwan-based TSMC may have won sole production rights on the A10 chip slated for the next-generation iPhone 7.

This is in contrast to the split production of the A9 processor between Samsung and TSMC featured in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Apple’s decision to revert back to TSMC as a single supplier, as was seen in A8 chip production, could be motivated by advanced device packaging techniques offered by TSMC that may not have equivalents in Samsung’s packaging offerings.

The Commercial Times report mentions TSMC’s integrated fan-out wafer-level packaging (InFO WLP) technology as one of the key inclusions in the production contract. InFO WLP is one of many competing 3D IC technologies that promise higher levels of component integration in a single package with better electrical characteristics.

Among those improvements is the possibility for higher-width memory buses that support lower-power operation necessary for mobile devices, which for consumers means better performance and efficiency. 3D IC technologies are just beginning to emerge in the consumer space, with AMD‘s use of High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) in its Fiji XT line of discrete graphics cards being one of the first implementations.

According to a paper abstract from TSMC engineers, InFO WLP also allows for better thermal performance as well as superior performance for radio frequency (RF) components such as cellular modems. We reported last year about Apple hiring more engineers to potentially bring RF component development in house, so this packaging technology could serve as additional motivation to Apple for packaging in the future. Even if Samsung could offer Apple a comparable technology, the challenges of verifying a design on two new manufacturing flows may be a motivating factor for Apple to stick with one supplier for its next processor.

In the near term, the thermal advantages and potential increased memory bandwidth are the more immediate sources of improvement for Apple’s potential next chip. Many 3D IC technologies have seen slow adoption due to increased costs and processing steps, but the simpler InFO WLP technology offers an easier, cheaper entry point for Apple, which also has the luxury of uncommonly high margins on its devices.

Comparison of packaging technologies offered by TSMC

TSMC’s InFO WLP differs from many competing 3D IC solutions in that it does not require an additional silicon interposer along with the existing package substrate used for component integration. Though they do not feature active components, silicon interposers are made on silicon wafers just like the application processors featured in mobile devices, making them a costly addition to the device assembly.

InFO WLP allows multiple flip chip components to be placed side-by-side on a package substrate resembling a traditional assembly, but with the ability to interconnect to one another through the package substrate. This is in contrast to traditional methods which feature stacked packages (package on package, or PoP) interconnected with tiny wires. As mobile memory technologies advance, with LPDDR4 being the latest iteration, electrical signaling becomes an increasing technological challenge which begins to make 3D IC technologies more attractive for enhanced performance.

The list of included components would not be limited to memory, however, so future device teardowns will be interesting as mobile devices begin to include these technologies. More information on TSMC’s packaging technologies can be accessed via this PDF.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7 (2016)
Tags: TSMC, A10 chip
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Apple Responds to YiSpecter Malware, Says Fix Was Implemented in iOS 8.4

Over the weekend, security site Palo Alto Networks detailed a new iOS malware that’s able to infect non-jailbroken Apple devices using enterprise certificates and private APIs. It originated in Taiwan and China and was installed through several methods, including hijacking traffic from ISPs, an SNS worm on Windows, and offline app installation.

Called YiSpecter, the malware is able to download, install, and launch apps, doing things like replacing existing apps, displaying advertisements in legitimate apps, changing Safari’s default engine, and uploading user information to remote servers.

A popup ad that was able to install YiSpecter on iOS devices
In response to the detailing of YiSpecter, Apple has released an official statement to The Loop explaining that YiSpecter is only able to target iOS users who are running an older version of iOS that have also downloaded content from untrusted sources.

„This issue only impacts users on older versions of iOS who have also downloaded malware from untrusted sources. We addressed this specific issue in iOS 8.4 and we have also blocked the identified apps that distribute this malware. We encourage customers to stay current with the latest version of iOS for the latest security updates. We also encourage them to only download from trusted sources like the App Store and pay attention to any warnings as they download apps.“

Apple implemented fixes for YiSpecter in iOS 8.4, so iOS 8.4.1 and iOS 9 are immune to the malware. Users who want to avoid being targeted by YiSpecter should make sure to upgrade to the latest version of iOS and as always, should avoid downloading apps from unverified sources.



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Early tests show iPhone 6s is nearly two times faster than rest of the industry

The iPhone 6s is so fast, not only does it destroy the iPhone 6 in speed tests, it tops the iPad Air 2 and every other Android device on the market, according to some initial benchmarks. Apple’s engineers managed to make some huge GPU improvements on the iPhone 6s thanks to new process technology that […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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Apple sold record 13 million iPhone 6s units this weekend

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have sold a record 13 million handsets in their first three days on the market, according to Apple. “Sales for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have been phenomenal, blowing past any previous first weekend sales results in Apple’s history,” said Tim Cook. Reviews for the iPhone 6s have […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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