Sometimes, manufacturing chips for high-end smartphones must feel like playing the lottery, at least based on rumors going back and forth between Samsung and TSMC when it comes to key collaborations with Qualcomm or Apple.
The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is still the world’s largest dedicated pure-play semiconductor foundry, mostly thanks to Apple’s business. But in recent years, Samsung has been eating away at TSMC’s industry domination in addition to dethroning Intel as the long-standing heavyweight champion of the chipmaking world.
A vast majority of flagship Android devices released in recent years use SoCs built by Samsung and then designed and marketed by Qualcomm, including the Snapdragon 835, 821 and 820.
Despite rampant speculation not so long ago, the Snapdragon 845 processor is also a result of a partnership between Qualcomm and Samsung. But after splitting A9 production with arch-rival TSMC for 2015’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the chaebol wasn’t invited back by Apple for A10 Fusion and A11 Bionic SoCs. And now, contrary to the previous gossip, it looks like TSMC will score exclusive rights over A12 manufacturing as well.
The Apple A12 is obviously expected to power all three of the iPhone X sequels due out sometime in the fall, not to mention a possible A12X derivation for 2019 iPads which TSMC may also get to produce and make additional profit.
Samsung could well lose Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 contract too, and it’s all because of TSMC’s faster 7nm adoption rate. Both the A11 and Snapdragon 845 are based on 10-nanometer process nodes, which TSMC will reportedly be able to shrink to 7nm later this year, greatly improving raw speed and energy efficiency.