Apple may need Samsung’s help with iPhone memory chips, here’s why

Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC) is one of China’s top NAND flash chipmakers. Earlier this year, Apple was planning to buy 128-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips from YMTC to use in the iPhones that will be sold in the Chinese market. The Cupertino giant had further plans to purchase up to 40% of the memory chips needed for all iPhones from the Chinese supplier. However, the iPhone maker had to put its plan on hold as YMTC and 30 other Chinese entities were recently added to an “Unverified” list of companies by the US. These are the companies that U.S. officials have been unable to inspect. Moreover, the country’s trade restrictions might result in the Chinese supplier, YMTC getting blacklisted in early December.
According to a report by DigiTimes, Apple will now have to turn towards Samsung Electronics for the memory chips that will be used in iPhones in 2023. The report suggests that Apple might keep Samsung as an alternative supplier if the US imposes export controls on YMTC.
Why the US is imposing trade controls on certain Chinese companies
The Biden administration has imposed export controls on China to slow the country’s technological and military advances. The US is planning to cut off Beijing’s supplies of certain semiconductor chips made anywhere in the world with US equipment.
Under these restrictions, US-based companies are forbidden from sharing any design, documents, technologies, or specifications with companies that are on the Unverified List without a licence.

The US has offered 60 days for the companies to provide the necessary information. The companies that fail to do so, will be added to the country’s export control blacklist.
The U.S. Commerce Department is investigating YMTC over whether it violated Washington’s export controls by selling chips to the already blacklisted Huawei.
How Samsung can help Apple
Samsung has been the main supplier of DRAM chips for iPhones for a long time. Supply chain sources have cited that the Korean company will reportedly restart supplying NAND flash memory chips for iOS devices from its plant in China’s Xian next year. This plant produces 40% of Samsung’s total 3D NAND flash capacity, ranging from 128 to 176 layers.

The sluggish NAND flash market demand has forced chip makers to impose production cuts. However, unlike its rivals, Samsung has not done the same. The entry into Apple’s supply chain might also be one of the reasons for the Korean company to reduce production.
Moreover, the report adds that Samsung is expected to be able to afford quote cuts and output increases, which will further strengthen the company’s position in the memory chip market.

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