Future iPhones could feature ARM-based chips from Intel suggests analysts. This follows an interesting change of heart from the chip maker this week (via Fortune).
Up until this point, Intel has been offering chipset only based on their own architecture. Now, the company has announced that it will also be producing ARM-based chips. This would put them on the grid versus TSMC and Samsung to fight for Apple’s iPhone and iPad chip business.
Traditionally, TSMC and Samsung manufacture Apple’s ARM-based A-series chips for its iOS devices. However, recent reports say the company will shift to solely TSMC for the iPhone 7, and possibly iPhone 8.
Since Apple is more than likely going to shift to TSMC for all of its manufacturing for the A10 (iPhone 7 chip), some analyst believe having Intel on board will help with diversifying the supply chain. This would avoid being dependent on a single supplier. Plus, it would allow the company to get better pricing for both its iOS and Mac devices.
“Apple likes diversification in case there is a supply issue,” Counterpoint Research director Neil Shah says, noting that Tim Cook is known as a supply chain guru. “Apple can also use it as leverage to bargain Intel chip pricing for its Macs and so forth.”
Intel may be dipping its toes into murky waters, though. Apple is known to drive hard bargains with its suppliers.
“We believe these updates were modest positives and estimate the key customer win that could really move the needle would be a foundry win at Apple,” UBS analyst Stephen Chin wrote on Wednesday. “Another uncertainty is how aggressive could Intel be with its foundry pricing to win new customers.”
Fortune agrees, and there are some other unknowns, as well.
ARM has licensed limited capabilities to Intel, so highly-customized designs such as Apple’s may not be included. Also, Intel expects to start making 10 nm scale chips next year, but it has already had scheduling setbacks and its latest high-end PC chip family, known as Kaby Lake, is being made at the older 14 nm scale.
Given the amount of time required, we don’t expect Intel to be jumping into the game until 2019 at the very least.