Word from Korea is that Samsung Electronics has agreed to provide advanced DRAM to LG Electronics and Apple for their new smartphones. The deal is said to be in the billions of dollars, and more important, reflects a warming in relations between the three companies.
Samsung has had legal issues with both companies. Apple and Samsung have been suing each other for just about everything, but recently agreed to drop a number of cases except in the U.S., where they continue to battle over patents.
The issue with LG was downright juvenile. The two Korean firms already compete in many areas, like consumer electronics, and a top LG executive was indicted earlier this month for allegedly vandalizing several high-end Samsung washing machines at a trade show in Germany last September.
"Under the agreement, Samsung will start providing LG Electronics with 100 percent mobile DRAM chips it needs for LG G4 smartphone, which will be unveiled in April. Also, Samsung will handle at least half of the amount that Apple needs for its new iPhone ― tentatively named iPhone 6S," a source familiar with the deal told The Korea Times. Samsung Electronics also provides memory for the upcoming Galaxy S6 phone.
The reference to a LG G4 and iPhone 6S shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Neither phone will hit the market any time soon; Apple traditionally launches phones in the fall, and LG is about to release the G Flex 2 shortly, so it won't release the G4 for a while to avoid cannibalizing itself.
And the timing is ideal. Just a few months ago, Samsung announced it had begun mass production of 8 gigabit LPDDR4 (low power double data rate) mobile DRAM with 20 nanometers.So it can begin mass production of the memory for a few months to get ahead of what will undoubtedly be massive need from Apple and LG.
LPDDR4 is a big deal for mobile. While DDR4 won't benefit desktops or laptops much, LPDDR4 will be a boon for mobile because it drops the power draw from LPDDR3 while increasing the bandwidth. LPDDR4 can offer twice the memory density and half the power draw as LPDDR3.
The news is a bummer for SK Hynix, Korea's other major DRAM maker, and for Micron, America's largest memory maker. Both firms would undoubtedly love to land customers like Apple and LG but for now they are shut out.
This is the second bit of news that indicates things are thawing out between Apple and Samsung. Recently, it was announced that Samsung would be the primary supplier of A9 processors for future Apple iPads and iPhones, with TSMC picking up the slack.