iPhone could switch to Intel chips over TSMC and Samsung by 2018, experts say


Apple could potentially put Intel processors inside iPhones as early as 2018, according to industry experts. Nikkei Asian Review published a new report today that highlights comments made by semiconductor analysts who believe Intel’s recent embrace of ARM could mean new competition to TSMC and Samsung sooner than previously expected.

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We reported on Intel’s announcement that it will soon produce ARM-based chips in addition to chips based on its own architecture last week. At the time, we mentioned that new iPhones featuring Intel processors likely wouldn’t debut until 2019 at the earliest.

Given the lead-times involved in such contracts, it is not expected that Intel would be in a position to produce A-series chips any earlier than 2019.

But analysts mentioned in Nikkei’s report believe Apple could adopt Intel’s ARM-based chips as early as 2018:

Intel’s recent pledge to expand its business making chips for others highlights its ambition to snatch chip orders for Apple’s popular iPhones from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. as early as 2018, industry experts said.

One person cited said Apple is already engaged with Intel on the subject and that Intel “aims to grab one or two top-tier customers from TSMC.” Apple’s current chip business for iPhones is divided between TSMC and Samsung.

The report also notes that Intel could have a home court advantage over Asia-based Samsung and TSMC as Apple is pressured to work with US-based companies. Intel’s headquarters is based out of Santa Clara, California.

Apple tends to want to diversify its supply chain, however, to avoid production issues and not rely on a single supplier. Reports this year have claimed that trend may break this year and next year, though, as Apple is believed to be relying mostly on TSMC for A10 and A11 chips.

Competition and patent disputes with Samsung also make it a less-than-ideal partner for Apple, not to mention the short-lived controversy last fall around the differences between TSMC and Samsung A9 chips in the iPhone 6s.

Apple already relies on Intel’s standard chips for their Mac line, although many have long assumed that Apple has been testing ARM-based alternatives that would offer it more control like its iPhone chip production.

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Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.