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TSMC's Apple love has AMD considering move to Samsung for 3nm production

TSMC's Apple love has AMD considering move to Samsung for 3nm production

Categories: Financial
Posted: November 22, 2021
TSMC is the largest independent foundry in the world as it attracts all of those companies that design chips but are fabless (which means that they have no production facilities). That includes Apple, which happens to be TSMC's largest customer. And there is no question that TSMC takes care of its largest customer.

AMD is considering leaving TSMC and having Samsung Foundry manufacture its 3nm chips

 
In August, TSMC announced that it was raising prices by as much as 20% However, Apple is reportedly going to face a mere 3% price hike. And in the midst of a global chip shortage, Apple was still able to announce two new high-end chips, the M1 Pro and the M1 Max with 33.7 billion and 57 billion transistors respectively. And while the tech giant supposedly had to cut iPad production by 50% in order to have enough chips for the iPhone, TSMC tries hard to keep its largest customer in the chips.

Some of TSMC's other customers might not be terribly happy that Apple is being fawned over by the foundry. One of those firms is AMD, the graphics and semiconductor company. According to the guru of 3D, AMD is considering a switch to Samsung when its chips are built by TSMC using its 3nm process node. Whether this has anything to do with AMD's potential shift away from TSMC, the company is providing the GPU for the upcoming Samsung Exynos 2200 chipset.

TSMC is allegedly making sure that it reserves enough wafers for Apple to receive the large number of 3nm chips it previously ordered. The problem is that it appears as though there might not be enough wafers left to fill AMD's needs. For those unfamiliar with how chips are made, the wafer goes through several processes until the circuitry design is deposited on the surface of the wafer, which is then cut up to yield thousands of chips from each wafer.

But we digress. Besides and, Qualcomm is another company that will have to decide between TSMC and Samsung when it comes to the 3nm process node. Currently, the upcoming Snapdragon 898 (or the Snapdragon 8 Gen1, rumored to be the new name of the component) is expected to be built by Samsung Foundry with the "plus" version of the chip possibly being made by TSMC.
 

A recent report says that TSMC is back on track for 3nm volume production to take place in the second half of 2022

 
According to Counterpoint, Apple this year will be responsible for 53% of the industry's 5nm wafer shipments which gives it the clout that it wields over TSMC. Qualcomm is next with a 24% slice of the 5nm wafer pie. Only two foundries are currently able to manufacture chips using a 5nm process node with those two being TSMC and Samsung. If the latter has enough 3nm capacity to persuade AMD and Qualcomm to use its 3nm process node, Samsung Foundry could see a huge jump in revenue next year.
 
Still, there are many balls up in the air to juggle. The global chip shortage is obviously an issue. And there is still the question of whether TSMC and Samsung will be able to follow their roadmaps. TSMC, for example, was supposed to originally start volume production of the 3nm process node in the second half of next year which would have made it possible for Apple to have the A16 Bionic produced using 3nm in time to be used in the iPhone 14 series.
 
At one point, TSMC said that because of the complexity of 3nm, it would delay volume production by a year and there was speculation that the A16 Bionic and the iPhone 14 lineup would have to use 4nm or possibly even stick at the current 5nm process. But a recent report from Digitimes said that TSMC is back on track although at this stage anything is possible.
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