Samsung counters Apple reports with 2Gbyte memory
Korean firm lost $10bn in value on reports that Apple would rely more heavily on Elpida for memory supplies
Published: 18 May, 2012
Amid damaging rumors that Apple was looking elsewhere for its massive memory requirements, Samsung announced that a new manufacturing process allows it to squeeze 20% thinner memory chips into a 2Gbyte package.
The Korean giant announced that it had started to make low power chips using a 20nm process and LPDDR2 (low power double-data rate 2) technology. That could double the current 1Gbyte limit for system memory in smartphones and tablets.
"As large screen tablets and smartphones equipped with quad-core CPUs lead rapid growth of the mobile market, there is greater demand for more energy efficient and higher capacity memory products that guarantee longer battery life, as well as faster processing speed," Samsung said in a statement. Production will enter volume in the second half of this year.
The timing of the announcement may well have aimed to counter the depressing effects on Samsung's share price of reports that Apple was placing large memory orders with rival Elpida, which is likely to be acquired by US-based Micron Technology. The rumor, reported in Taiwanese paper DigiTimes, wiped $10bn off the Korean firm's market value.
Against the backdrop of the rising competition and legal battles between the world's two largest smartphone makers, Apple has been trying to reduce its significant reliance on its Korean rival for device parts including screens, memory and processing manufacturing. It has transferred some of the production of its A5 series CPUs to TSMC and is investing in partners like Sharp for the RetinaDisplay touchscreens, though it remains a major customer of Samsung too.
Given that Apple is the biggest purchaser of memory chips and Samsung is their largest manufacturer, it is hard for the pair to avoid one another, but DigiTimes reported that Apple had placed "huge orders for mobile DRAM" chips with Elpida, pushing Samsung's shares down by 6% and fellow Apple memory supplier Hynix's stock by almost 9%, its sharpest fall in nine months.
DigiTimes often reflects grievances of Taiwanese manufacturers, but its report carried some credibility, especially because Apple had used some Elpida chips in the latest iPad. Elpida filed for bankruptcy in February, claiming $5.6bn in debt, and Micron said last week that it was in negotiations to acquire the firm, which could give it a major role in the Apple supply chain.