In brief: According to Shanghai-based research company Cinno, Apple is the world's biggest consumer of 3D NAND. The iPhone maker makes its own storage controllers. However, recent disruptions in the tech supply chain have prompted the company to look for alternative suppliers of 3D NAND memory for lower-end iPhones.
Apple is reportedly considering alternative suppliers of NAND memory for the iPhone to diversify its supply chain and create more resilience when confronted with unexpected disruptions.
Bloomberg notes that the Cupertino giant is exploring partnerships with Micron Technology, Samsung Electronics, and Yangtze Memory Technology Co. (YMTC). The hunt for additional suppliers seems to be motivated by lessons learned during the pandemic and a recent incident affecting Western Digital and Kioxia NAND fabs in Japan.
The incident, caused by contamination issues at critical stages in the production pipeline, resulted in the loss of over 6.5 exabytes of advanced 3D NAND. Apple designs its own storage controllers for all of its devices but depends on a steady supply of NAND from companies like Kioxia and SK Hynix.
China's YMTC would be an interesting choice, as the company is the only Chinese manufacturer capable of making 128-layer 3D NAND memory. Discussions are reportedly in the early stages, but if an agreement is reached, YMTC will supply around five percent of 3D NAND orders for the iPhone SE and three to five percent of the NAND needed for the upcoming iPhone 14.
Such a partnership would help China move one step closer to developing a robust local ecosystem for advanced semiconductors, one that could allow the country to achieve technological self-sufficiency over the next decade. Adding Apple to YMTC's list of clients depends on whether or not it can guarantee a steady, dependable volume of chips for the iPhone tech giant. The financial benefits are hard to ignore in an industry where research and development costs are rising.