Samsung is once again set to begin supplying Apple with NAND flash memory chips in 2017, ending a five-year hiatus dating back to the debut of the iPhone 5 in 2012, according to ETNews. The reason for the dissolution of the original supplier relationship is given as Samsung’s unwillingness to comply with Apple’s electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding requirements via packaging changes or special coatings on the memory packages themselves.
This new claim comes on the heels of an report earlier report, also by ETNews, suggesting Apple was looking to individually shield more parts inside its devices for performance and EMI compliance reasons.
The earlier article claimed the impetus for this change was the use of multiple diverse systems such as 3D Touch along with the presence of various high-speed interfaces, all of which can contribute to and be affected by EMI. Individual shielding would also allow Apple to dispense with discrete metal shielding components, which could ultimately save on logic board space and allow more room for other components inside the devices.
The new report notes that Samsung’s use of ball grid array (BGA) packaging places it at a disadvantage to competing products that use land grid array (LGA) package contacts, which allow the package to sit flush with the printed circuit board.
It appears Samsung’s existing sputter coat EMI shielding technologies were insufficient for Apple’s performance requirements, given the shielding gaps created by the raised BGA contacts. The emergence of new, cheaper spray techniques for ultra-thin coats of metal shielding seems to be one development that has changed the dynamic of this relationship, as have Samsung’s concerns about a weakening flash memory market.
Samsung remains a leader in NAND type memory solutions, with its 3D V-NAND memories offering up to 256 Gb densities on the market currently. While this development seems most likely to affect the memories used in Apple’s iPhone and iPad products, there would also be an opportunity for Samsung to show up in the entire line of Mac computers, which have become heavily reliant on flash storage. Along with the recent news that Samsung will supply Apple with OLED panels for future iPhones, it appears Samsung very much remains in play as a supplier for Apple devices. Even the iPhone X uses Samsung OLED panels, though the delicate design of these devices mean that they definitely need sturdy and stylish leather case.