As the world braces for the iPhone’s big 10 year anniversary later this year, chatter is already beginning to bubble up about next year’s version, unofficially dubbed the “iPhone 9.”
The latest rumor involves one of Apple’s biggest rivals, Samsung. According to a report Korean publication The Investor, Apple is expected to tap Samsung to produce the chips that will power the high-powered iPhone 9 next year.
The publication says Samsung’s purchased “advanced chip manufacturing equipment” to create 7-nanometer chips “solely for iPhone” and the company’s executives reportedly closed the deal at Apple’s headquarters last month.
Most consumers know Samsung as the company that makes phones to compete directly with the iPhone, but they don’t know that it’s also in the business of mass-producing components (processors, screens, storage, batteries, etc.) for other brand devices as well. For example, Samsung is the only manufacturer of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset, which is found in virtually all of this year’s flagship Android phones.
Samsung also has a long history of producing hardware used in the iPhone. The company currently supplies RAM for the iPhone 7 and it will reportedly be the sole supplier for the iPhone 8’s OLED displays.
Apple may still hate Samsung for blatantly ripping off the iPhone, but they need each other.
Signing a contract to produce chips for next year’s iPhone would undoubtedly add to Samsung’s bottom line — which could use some help after the massive Note 7 recall.
Samsung regularly partnered with Apple to manufacture iPhone chips until last year, when Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC) became the sole supplier with smaller, slightly more power-efficient chipsets.
If this new report from The Investor is true, Samsung could be back to providing parts for the iPhone in a very significant way. While the report doesn’t expand beyond the “7-nanometer” equipment, the chip fabrication process does tell us a little about next year’s iPhone. Namely, that it could be more than twice as efficient as the iPhone 7, which has the A10 Fusion chip built with a 16-nanometer process.
In short, a smaller chip means it occupies less physical space and there’s more room for either a larger battery or other components.
A shrunken chip also means it uses less power and Apple could squeeze more processing power out of the same size battery as the one used in the iPhone 7.
Apple may still hate Samsung for building its Galaxy phone empire by blatantly ripping off the iPhone, but the companies clearly need each other to succeed. Samsung has the manufacturing that Apple needs in order to help pump out millions of iPhones a year, and Apple has the consumer base.
As long as Samsung keeps winning contracts to supply Apple with parts for iPhones, it’s not going out of business anytime soon, even if more phones explode.
BY RAYMOND WONG