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Apple snub delays Samsung's fab plant project

The Apple-Samsung war may have a casualty. Samsung has reportedly delayed building a planned logic fabrication facility as it digests the possibility of losing out on future chip orders from Apple.

Samsung "is likely to put off the construction" of its Line-17 fab in Hwaseong, South Korea, DigiTimes has reported. The Taiwanese tech journal cited unnamed industry sources as saying that Samsung "will no longer be the sole supplier of Apple-designed chips that power [next-generation] iPhone and iPad devices.

Apple has turned to Samsung to supply it with ARM-based application processors of Apple's own design that have been used in several generations of iOS-based devices. But of late, the two companies have been squaring off in courts around the world over patent disputes involving Apple's iDevices and Samsung's Android-based smartphones and tablets.

That's led to speculation that Apple would seek to limit Samsung's huge role in its supply chain for future devices. Indeed, teardowns of the recently released fouth-generation iPad and iPad mini have revealed that memory once supplied by Samsung is now being provided by other suppliers, at least in some cases, though it appears that the AX-series chips in those tablets and the new iPhone 5 are still being fabbed by the South Korean company.

DigiTimes reported that the total bill for Line-17's construction has been estimated at between $3.7 billion and $5.5 billion (around £2.9 billion). The facility, which would have capacity to produce 80,000 12in wafers on the 20nm and 14nm process nodes per month, had been targeted to begin volume production in the first quarter of 2014, according to the tech journal.

Samsung announced plans to build the fab this past June and had planned to complete construction by the end of next year. But uncertainty about future Apple orders has prompted Samsung "to consider slowing the pace of its logic-IC capacity expansion," according to sources cited by DigiTimes.