Qualcomm designs some of the best chips being used in mobile devices today, but they don’t actually make them. That job is outsourced to dedicated fabrication plants, commonly referred to as fabs. TSMC has been making practically all of Qualcomm’s chips since the beginning of time, but according to DigiTimes, that’s soon going to change.
The Taiwanese supply chain rumor website that most journalists have a love hate relationship with say Qualcomm is going to move 20% of their 28 nanometer HKMG (high-κ dielectric) orders from TSMC to Global Foundries. Which of their chips use fancy pants HKMG transistor? There’s only one, actually, the Snapdragon 800.
Why switch from TSMC to GF? DigiTimes says it’s purely a financial decision, which kind of makes sense, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow since switching your chip production from one fab to another isn’t as easy as say emailing a PDF to your colleague so he can print it on his printer because your printer is out of ink.
One possible theory is that Apple went to TSMC, said we want all your 28 nanometer HKMG capacity for our 2014 chips, and they said OK, but you’ll have to pay more than Qualcomm, to which Apple replied “No Problemo!”.