X-Rays prove that Apple is dual-sourcing the A9 chip inside the iPhone 6s from TSMC and Samsung

X-Rays prove that Apple is dual-sourcing the A9 chip inside the iPhone 6s from TSMC and Samsung

Ever since July, rumors claimed that both TSMC and Samsung have received orders to manufacture Apple A9, the chip that powers the iPhone 6s series. As it turns out, a recent report from reverse engineering experts from Chipworks has confirmed these rumors.

X-Rays of two Apple A9 chips obtained from distinct models of the exact same phone revealed that Apple has dual-sourced from Samsung and TSMC. While the Samsung-made Apple A9 occupies a die surface of 96mm2, the one made by TSMC is slightly larger, at 104.5mm2. Note that Apple's custom-designed A9 chip has the exact same structure and components, it's just the manufacturing technology that varies. 

While Samsung has the ability to make chips using the 14nm node technology, TSMC is slightly behind the fab upgrade schedule and currently makes its chips using the 16nm node technology. Both use the FinFET non-planar architecture.

We wouldn't fret over a 10% increase in die size, but the point is that both performance and battery life are theoretically improved as the semiconductor fabs migrate towards a smaller fabrication node. Interestingly, Chipwork says that the they've noticed differences in the benchmark scores yielded by the Samsung and TSMC-made variants of the Apple A9. 

Unfortunately, the experts from Chipworks have yet to publish the results of these benchmarks. We're very interested to see if there's any notable difference between the performance of a 14nm-made chip and the 16nm one, especially since these are the exact same chips, but made on different semiconductor fabrication equipment.

Previous rumors suggested that Samsung will get the majority of Apple A9 and Apple A9X orders, and that TSMC will get a smaller slice of the deal, but it's probably too early for this to be confirmed. Furthermore, we don't know if Apple will also dual-source the faster A9X, the chip that powers the 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro.

We're keeping a close eye on the matter and we'll let you know as soon as the benchmark results are out. In the meantime, drop us a comment and let us know if you're expecting to see a big difference between the Samsung and the TSMC versions of the Apple A9.

source: Chipworks

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23 Comments

2. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

Will miket1787 defend his realm against others like Techie? Will the duel between Taters come to rest? Will QWERTYphone finally end his reign for triumph? Find out next time on a very, very exciting episode of: PhoneArena Ball Z! Airing every day, 24/7. Peace out!

10. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Nice One M8 Made My Day.

16. Obie-Wan

Posts: 108; Member since: May 24, 2012

Lol-ed so hard, you my friend, made my day. :')

19. combatmedic870

Posts: 982; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

Lmfao!!!!!!

31. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

What the hell. Are you my biggest fan or what?

36. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

Yeah. I got all your arguments printed out and stamped on my wall...it looks quite nice actually, like a mural.

8. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

I would be choked if I got the s**ttier tmsc one, that said I am guessing they are pretty much the same just like Qualcomm versions of Note and Galaxy S devices pretty much perform more or less the same. Exynos devices are usually smoother but Qualcomm ones are good enough.

9. VonRondo

Posts: 5; Member since: Jun 06, 2012

Hmm. I wonder if the reported overheating problems with the 6s and 6s plus are isolated to one of the manufacturers. I think the SnapDragon 810 SoC's came from TSMC and we all know the problems with the 810.

11. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Makes You Wonder If Samsung Or TSMC Is Responsible For The Over Heating iPhones.

13. j2001m

Posts: 3060; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

It will be the tsmc if it's linked to CPU, no way with the Samsung due to it being smaller

33. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

BOTH. My S6 Edge+ gets very hot, but its also clocked above 2Ghz. For the iPhone to get that hot clocked at a lower speed has to be a fab issue I would guess. My guess would be TSMC chips are likely the blame, but that's because Samsung has been making chips far longer and have had far less problems. After all, when Samsung did the biggest majority of chips fpr Apple, none of the previous iPhone gens had heating issues.

14. tedkord

Posts: 17043; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Alright, I'm going to say it. No fair telling us there's a difference in performance without giving details. Poor form.

17. Raghavkumar

Posts: 20; Member since: Sep 28, 2015

I wasn't happy when Sammy double sourced the camera sensors for galaxy s6. But now The mighty Apple is double sourcing the very processors. That's ridiculous for a company with 200 billion dollars on cash! At least it would have made sense if both had the same die area and fabrication process. On the very face Samsung made iPhone processors should at least in theory work better. May be apple will be throttling the Sammy chips more than the tsmc's for a equal real life performance.

18. mudcat62

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 15, 2015

Apple is getting away from Samsung chips. I personally think Apple should buy Samsung. They are a good manufacturing company for Apple designs.

20. combatmedic870

Posts: 982; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

Apple couldn't buy samsung dude...Samsung is a huge multi billion dollar company just like Apple.

23. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

Bruhhhhhh Apple buying Samsung doesn't work in the same sentence. You can start another 100 years war of debate with that statement!

27. mitchytan92

Posts: 92; Member since: Mar 02, 2015

Go youtube watch the video "How BIG is Samsung? (They Have a Military Department!)" I cannot post links here yet :/

35. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

34. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Samsung is 3 times the size of Apple, it would eb the other way around if anything. Apple doesn't have that much money. Samsung Electronics alone made 206 Trillion Won. Has 3 times the amount of employees.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samsung_Electronics Come on, at least be real. Consider also Samsung LTD the parent companyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samsung The parent company has nearly half a million employees w/revenue of 305B-USD.

25. Helmesdeep

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 29, 2015

Dude Samsung I multi zillion dollar corporation..... Apple is in one league ( more or less- trading market value in favor of apple) with Samsung electronics ..... Samsung makes ships, buildings (highest in the world -both khalifa- Abu Dhabi) , tanks air defence ,army supplies, hospitals.......and lot more.... So Samsung is like a small corporated country .... Money goes around and around.....

26. johanbiff

Posts: 415; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

would be cool to see if there is any powerconsuptions diffrence, A tsmc chip VS samsung..who`s got the best battery life.

28. sam3k

Posts: 130; Member since: May 02, 2013

Smh why would anyone want samsung and apple to merge, if something like that should happen it would be bad for us consumers, they would have such a stranglehold on the market, and I don't see any competition from the likes of LG, Sony, htc, or Huawei, it would be a monopoly , controlled by sapple!!

29. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Its obvious the 14NM will be faster. Samsung is better than TSMC. That is why Apple can't drop them for making stuff.

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