The tech press sometimes goes a little wild when it comes to speculation about next-generation smartphones and, more importantly, next-generation processors for mobile devices. One such rumor was that the next-generation Exynos system-on-chip slated for introduction in the upcoming Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) Galaxy S5 would have the following characteristics:
- Built on Samsung's 14-nanometer FinFET process
- Be 64-bit capable
Of course, these rumors began to fly shortly after Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced the iPhone 5s with a custom-designed system-on-chip sporting a custom-designed 64-bit ARM processor. The sites promulgating this particular rumor didn't even bother to point out that Samsung had yet to ramp its 20-nanometer process, let alone the much more complex 14-nanometer FinFET process. Today, we have confirmation that this rumor was fake, fake, fake!
Clue No. 1: The leaked specs say Snapdragon 800/Exynos 5
Leaked benchmarks showing the two Galaxy S5 models both say the same thing: the Galaxy S5 will be powered by 28-nanometer silicon. In the case of the higher-end version with the quad HD display, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 -- built on TSMC's (NYSE:TSM) 28-nanometer process -- will be used. In the lower-end version with a full HD display, Samsung seems to be employing yet another iteration of its Exynos 5 chipset, which is 32-bit Cortex A15 based.
This immediately shoots down the notion that the Galaxy S5 will sport 14-nanometer FinFET silicon and the rumor that it will be 64-bit capable. Sorry, but it looks like Apple gets to keep that marketing bulleting all to itself for now -- unless Intel's 64-bit Merrifield platform sees some real traction.
Clue No. 2: Samsung's problems ramping 20-nm for Apple
As far as non-memory chips go, Apple represents by far the majority of Samsung's chip business. According to BlueFin, a boutique research group, Apple is dual-sourcing its chips at TSMC and Samsung at the 20-nanometer generation. It seems, however, that while TSMC is having a fine and dandy time with the ramp of these chips for Apple, Samsung is experiencing crippling yield issues.
If Samsung is having issues ramping 20 nanometers, which don't use the difficult-to-build FinFET structure, then how on Earth could it possibly have gotten a 14-nanometer FinFET Exynos 6 chip out in time for the next-generation Galaxy S? It would seem that Samsung will need to first sort out its issues at 20 nanometers and get that node in high-volume production before we start even thinking about 14 nanometers.
Foolish bottom line
Don't believe everything you read, and always make sure to do a "sanity check" for too-good-to-be-true claims. The tech press likely confused the fact that Samsung had taped out a 14-nanometer test chip with the unlikely scenario of it actually going into production on a commercially viable, high-yielding system-on-chip that needs to live for much longer than the 5 minutes the test chips probably live. The Galaxy S5 will have 28-nanometer silicon, and the odds are good that it won't be 64-bit.