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TSMC reportedly making Apple A6 chips

by Scott Bicheno on 15 July 2011, 10:57


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News agency Reuters has cited a single, anonymous source for the revelation that giant chip fab TSMC has started trial manufacturing the next generation of Apple's self-designed SoC (system on chip), presumed to be called the A6.

The story stresses that this is not an indication that Apple has committed to moving its chip manufacturing away from Samsung just yet, and that whether or not TSMC gets actual orders from Apple will depend on the yield from this trial run.

"TSMC has got all the authorisation and details ready. Whether Apple puts in a formal order will depend on the yield rate," said the Reuters source.

It has been increasingly presumed that Apple will move its chip manufacturing away from Samsung as the legal dispute centering on Apple allegations that Samsung copied its designs in the Galaxy range of mobile devices gets increasingly acrimonious.

There was a round of speculation about Apple switching to TSMC earlier in the year, but we opined at the time that GlobalFoundries (GF) was the more natural move due to its links to the Common Platform Alliance, of which Samsung is also a member. This, in theory, would make such a move smoother.

If TSMC does succeed in winning this business, that will represent a major blow to GF, which recently lost its two most senior executives. Apple is surely the most prized account for any semiconductor fab, and GF has made no secret of targeting the SoC space for new business.

We can only guess what the designs inside the A6 will be. Apple launched the A5 a year after the A4, so if it is to continue that trend the A6 would need to be ready to ship by early 2012. That's probably too early for the ARM Cortex A15 CPU core, but Apple should be able to manage four Cortex A9 cores if it feels like it.

Until we see anything to the contrary, we'll stick with our earlier speculation that the A6 will contain an Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX544 GPU, although it might just stick with the 543 - as found in the A5 - for now.


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