Samsung mobile devices use iPad and iPhone chips, analyst claims

After the WWDC keynote, the mobile industry plot thickens on reports this morning claiming Samsung is fielding exactly the same ARM-based processor as Apple does inside its new crop of mobile devices.

We learned last week that Samsung is making a tablet based on the same processor as used within the iPhone, but we hadn't been told it was an exact copy of the processor.

The Samsung tablet is a larger version of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone, and is going to run the Android OS. It will be called the Galaxy Tab.

Apple has spent ample time discussing the benefits of the 1GHz A4 processor used in its new iOS devices.It even gets a nod in the latest Apple iPhone 4 video (below). Indeed, Apple has invested widely in processor technology as it builds out its range of iOS-powered devices.

Samsung manufactures the A4 processor for Apple -- now fresh reports claim the chip used inside Samsung's new Galaxy products and Apple's iPad and iPhone aren't just similar -- but the same.

It seems analysts from UBM TechInsights think the 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 chip used in Apple's products is exactly the same as what's found in the Samsung Wave S8500.

"By investigating the Samsung S5PC110A01 application processor and comparing it to the A4 application processor found in the Apple iPad using our specialized lab techniques, we were able to confirm that not only is Samsung the manufacturer of both application processors, but both application processors feature the same 1 GHz ARM CORTEX A8 core manufactured using a 45-nanometer low-power fabrication process," said Young Choi, Senior Manager of the Technical Intelligence Group, writing in a press release.

It should be noted that UBM TechInsights is a new brand that Semiconductor Insights, Portelligent and Sanguine Microelectronics is operating under. The fact that this is a new operation could go some way to explaining these claims. 

It has been commonly understood that Apple's A4 chips are based on an ARM reference design, tweaked for performance and more using technology advice from small developer (now Apple-owned), Intrinsity. That Intrinsity chip is the Hummingbird S5PC110, according to Fortune.

In April, iFixit took a close look at the iPad's A4 processor. It claimed the A4's System on Chip (SoC) has three different dies with two of those layers containing Samsung memory for a total 256MB memory.

The ARM reference design used was identified as the ARM Cortex A8. For future iPhone 4 owners, of course, the ability of this chip to push out 720p video playback is just part of the reason the iPhone 4 has such fantastic video features, and a spectacular screen to match.

UBM TechInsights says it used the best technical expertise and analysis tools and all its experience to uncover the similarities between the two processors.

"With this find, we begin to see how Samsung is successfully asserting itself as the leader in the wireless and mobile applications processor market," Choi explained in a press release.

Apple_A4_Samsung_ARM_Cortex_A8_1GHz_CPUs.jpg

The image above shows an Xray taken of both chips by the analysis firm, which UBM TechInsights claims shows both the Samsung and the Apple chip are more or less identical.

However, these revelations are certain to put the cat among the pigeons as they completely fly in the face of prevailing wisdom about Apple and its A4 processor.

After all, no less than Apple CEO Steve Jobs spent time during his keynote speech yesterday to celebrate the "wonderful" A4 processor, once again confirming it was "designed by our own team".

These claims raise more questions.

  • Has Apple licensed its tech to Samsung?
  • Do the two companies share "an understanding"?
  • Have UBM TechInsights got it wrong?
  • Will UBM TechInsights stand up to scrutiny?

What do you think?

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