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Despite legal battle, Apple keeps Samsung inside iPhone

Apple has little choice but to keep going to Samsung to get its core iPhone electronics despite legal battles between the two companies raging across the globe, according to sources and a news report.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Despite a globe-spanning, bruising legal battle with Samsung, Apple has little choice but to keep getting key parts for its iPhone from the electronics maker, according to sources and a news report.

Apple's A5 processor, expected to be in the next iPhone, is still made by Samsung.
Apple's A5 processor, expected to be in the next iPhone, is made by Samsung. Apple

Those key parts include the iPhone 5's expected main processor, the A5, as well as system memory and flash memory--components that together make up the electronic core.

Sources who track the chip industry say that Apple must stick with Samsung for the time being. Some rumors had claimed that Apple would switch to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) for a so-called "shrink" (smaller version) of the A5 for the iPhone 5.

That's simply not doable, sources tell CNET. TSMC has not perfected the advanced manufacturing processes needed to make an A5 for the iPhone and, maybe more importantly, it's prohibitively difficult to jump to a different manufacturer for the same chip design.

"They don't have a choice. They can't switch [from Samsung] at this stage," said one source, familiar with the dynamics of the cell phone chip industry supply chain, referring to the A5.

A report yesterday in the Korea Times also said that Samsung will supply the A5 and memory components. (And another report claims to show a photo of the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4s' internals. While a second report claims to show the iPhone 4s.)

The same Korea Times report said Samsung Electronics is seeking a "complete ban" on sales of the Apple iPhone 5 in Korea, in retaliation to patent lawsuits by Apple against Samsung. Because of legal wrangling like this, Apple is expected in the future to turn to TSMC, and possibly other chip manufacturers, for chips beyond the A5, such as the A6.

And the report in the Korea Times goes on to make an interesting claim. The iPhone 5 will include silicon for near-field communication (NFC), a technology that allows wireless payments, enabling an iPhone to serve as an electronic wallet, among other uses. But other reports say NFC may not appear until a later version of the iPhone.

Other expected iPhone 5 features include better graphics silicon inside the A5, such as the Imagination PowerVR SGX543 graphics used in the iPad 2, and an 8-megapixel camera, an improvement over the 5-megapixel camera in the iPhone 4.

Updated at 11:40 p.m. PST: with possible photo of iPhone 4s from Macpost.