Samsung has always been Apple’s partner in the manufacture of iPad, iPhones and iPod touch touch processors. Due to the legal dispute between them, however, Apple decided to try to get away from the South Korean a bit and approached TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company). Currently, both Samsung and TSMC manufacture the A9. What nobody imagined, however, is that there would be some difference between the chips produced by them.
As it always does, Chipworks decided to dissect the iPhone 6s to take a look at the A9 and was surprised to find that the processors manufactured by Samsung and TSMC have different sizes – despite being intended for the same product: iPhones 6s and 6s Plus. While the South Korean one has 96mm² (APL0898), the Taiwanese one has 104.5mm² (APL1022).
With that, some doubts are in the air. Do they both use the same manufacturing process (16 nanometers) or is Samsung using more advanced technology (14 nanometers)? Does this differentiation in size (and, who knows, in the manufacturing process) influence the performance of the chip? Is Samsung’s processor more energy efficient?
Using two or more vendors is quite common, but this possible differentiation in the manufacturing process and the possibility of them delivering different performances is quite strange (although it is not impossible – we have already had cases like the MacBook Air that Apple used SSDs from. Toshiba and Samsung with different performances, as well as displays from LG and Samsung which also presented different problems).
Chipworks will analyze the two units of new iPhones with different chips to better understand all of this. We’ll keep an eye out!
Update · Sep 29, 2015 at 16:29
Some people claimed that this differentiation of the chips would be linked to the model of the device (while the 6s would be equipped with the Samsung processor, the 6s Plus would have the one manufactured by TSMC). Because the developer Hiraku Wang ended this theory.
He created an application that is able to determine whether an iPhone has a Samsung or TSMC chip and shared data collected from users (approximately 2,500) who installed the app. In total, at least with this sample, there are more chips from TSMC (58.96%) than from Samsung (41.04%). Note that the division of these A9 chips between iPhones 6s and 6s Plus is not at all similar.
Although it is relatively easy to check which A9 processor your iPhone 6s has, we do not recommend that you do this test as it is necessary to install a business profile for its app to run and collect data. The problem is that other information can also be sent without you knowing it. To install profiles of this type, it is essential to know the developer or the company in question – as we do not know Wang, we cannot encourage this. Therefore, go at your own risk.