Apple and Samsung are fierce competitors when it comes to the smartphone and tablet space, but their relationship, like any other modern relationship, can best be described as “complicated”. Last summer The Economist published a piece that broke down how much the individual components that make up an iPhone actually cost; they also listed who made said parts. The startling conclusion that threw many people aback was that more than 25% of the bill of materials for the Jesus Phone goes to Samsung. Samsung makes the processor, the memory chips, and the RAM inside the iPhone; and starting with the new iPad, they also make the screen as well. That’s easily the most expensive component. Since Apple started selling the first generation iPad, and then several months later the iPhone 4, they’ve depended on Samsung’s 45 nanometer technology to build their processors. When the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S came out we weren’t too surprised to hear that the A5 inside also used a 45 nanometer chip since everything out on the market at the time was also using 45 nanometer technology. The A5X however, it’s just been confirmed that it’s using 45 nanometer transistors. That’s … frankly a little bit weird.
Qualcomm’s S4 Snapdragon, which is set to power just about every Android superphone set to be released this year, is built on a 28 nanometer process. Samsung’s Galaxy S III is likely going to use a new Exynos chip built on a 32 nanometer process. So what does the A5X being built on a 45 nanometer process tell us? First, 28 nanometer chip production isn’t mature enough to deliver parts in volume, at least today. Second, Samsung is making sure that the first 32 nanometer chips to roll out of their factories are going to go inside Samsung devices, not Apple devices. Third, we have serious doubts that the A5X is going to be at the heart of the sixth generation iPhone when just about every other smartphone on the market in Q3 2011 will be using either 28 nm or 32 nm chips.
Is any of this important to consumers? Yes and no. Chip geeks such as this author love these kind of tidbits, but your typical man on the street just wants solid performance paired up with fantastic battery life. The battery in the new iPad is 70% larger than the battery in the iPad 2, yet it delivers the same amount of runtime. Do you honestly think Apple wants to make the battery inside the next iPhone 70% larger, thus making the iPhone heavier and thicker, just to have the same amount of battery life?
[Image Credit: iFixit]