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Press Releases
Apple to Start Mass Producing Self-Designed Mac SoC, Projected to Cost under US$100, in 1H21, Says TrendForce



According to the latest investigations by TrendForce, Apple officially unveiled its self-designed Mac SoC processors based on the ARM architecture in June, with the market release of the first Mac device with Apple Silicon (which broadly refers to chips designed by Apple) scheduled to take place by the end of this year The first Mac SoC, projected to cost under US$100, will be mass produced with TSMC’s 5nm process technology The low cost of the Mac SoC makes it an extremely cost-competitive option According to TrendForce, Apple’s current plan for its wafer input at TSMC indicates that the foundry will still be mainly producing chips for iPhone and iPad devices in 2020 Mass production of the A14 Bionic SoC for the new iPhone devices that will be released later this year is now underway, while production of the A14X Bionic SoC for the new iPad devices that will be released in 2021 is scheduled to begin in small volumes in 3Q20 TrendForce expects wafer input for Mac SoC to begin in 1H21, meaning the actual adoption of Mac products featuring the latest Mac SoCs is expected to occur in 2H21 With adoption of 5nm process technology, Apple Silicon takes on Intel’s mainstream CPUs in the battle for performance Initially, ARM-based SoCs were able to become mainstream in the smartphone market because of their unique advantage in power consumption However, the ARM family of processor architectures as a whole has also made huge leaps in computing performance in the recent years It is now sufficiently strong in both computing speed and power efficiency to have opportunities to challenge the Intel family in the high-performance computing segment As well, TSMC is one to two generations ahead of Intel with respect to process shrink TSMC’s technological lead in the market could be an additional reason as to why Apple has now decided to begin phasing out Intel CPUs from Mac devices Nevertheless, the most crucial factors that drive Apple’s decision are the cost consideration and the desire to further build out its ecosystem Although Apple still needs TSMC to manufacture its self-designed processors, the production cost of a Mac processor made with TSMC’s 5nm node is currently estimated under US$100, which is considerably more cost-effective compared to the 10nm Intel Core i3 processors, priced around US$200 to US$300 on the market On the other hand, Intel’s CPUs scheduled to be released in 2021 will still be based on the 10nm node With Apple Silicon advancing to the 5nm node, the future Mac SoCs will be packed with a lot more transistors while maintaining the same chip size thanks to process shrink They thus will have a chance to successfully compete against the mainstream products offered by Intel in terms of computing performance and power consumption

Press Releases
U.S. Department of Commerce’s Cancellation of Preferential Treatment for Hong Kong to Impact Semiconductor Industry’s Geographical Concentration and Manufacturing Strategies, Says TrendForce



The US Department of Commerce announced on June 29 that the newly instituted Hong Kong national security law by the Chinese government will increase “the risk that sensitive US technology will be diverted to [the Chinese government]”; the Department therefore put a temporary stop to the preferential treatment the US had afforded to Hong Kong TrendForce indicates that, as Hong Kong is a major site of chip warehousing for manufacturers and distributors worldwide, the US government’s withdrawal of preferential treatment is meant to directly curtail the risk that companies may export products that contain sensitive information, through Hong Kong, to China This action is thus expected to drastically change the current geographical concentration of semiconductor products and the production strategy of chip manufacturers On April 27, 2020, the US Department of Commerce expanded its export control actions in an effort to prevent China, Russia, and Venezuela from acquiring US products and technologies “that could be used in development of weapons, military aircraft, or surveillance technology through civilian supply chains” Of the actions that were announced, the Expansion of Military End Use/User Controls (MEU) and the Removal of License Exception Civil End Users (CIV) have been put into effect, with the Elimination of License Exception Additional Permissive Reexports (APR) Provisions (which, according to the Department of Commerce, "proposes to eliminate certain provisions of a license exception for partner countries involving the reexport of NS- (national security) controlled items to countries of national security concern to ensure consistent reviews of exports and reexports of US items”) still under review even though the US was originally to confirm the details, including implementation date, by June 29, 2020 Although the Elimination of License Exception APR Provisions has yet to be finalized by the Department of Commerce at the time of this press release’s publication, TrendForce believes that the US government’s temporary suspension of preferential treatment, including export license exceptions, for Hong Kong, is essentially equivalent to finalizing the Elimination, at least in terms of intended consequences According to TrendForce’s analysis, because Hong Kong had been afforded preferential treatment in the past, the region saw the emergence of a substantial semiconductor spot market and became a warehousing hotbed for many chip manufacturers However, with the cancellation of preferential treatment, changes in the geographical concentration of semiconductor products and chip manufacturing strategies are likely to take place as a result As such, related actors in the semiconductor supply chain already began investigating possible scenarios and making corresponding strategic adjustments in response to the tightening of the Export Administration Regulations in April However, with the drastic shifts in international relations, not only must companies now take into consideration the time required to apply for a special export license should they wish to export tech products, such as semiconductor components, to China through Hong Kong, but these companies must also take other factors into account These factors include the products’ manufacturing processes and shipping routes, as well as the parties to whom the products will be delivered Companies wishing to ship tech products must take great care in planning every detail, in order to avoid violating the export regulations TrendForce stresses that Taiwanese semiconductor companies occupy an important position in the global foundry, OSAT, and IC design industries Therefore, in the face of the US government’s increasingly stringent export regulations towards China, TrendForce believes that Taiwanese companies need to be more careful than ever, so as to avoid being impacted by the export controls under the US-China trade war

Press Releases
Epistar and Lextar to Seize Commercial Opportunities in Micro LED and Mini LED through Formation of New Holding Company, Says TrendForce



On June 18, 2020, Taiwan-based LED manufacturers Epistar and Lextar announced their plan to jointly establish a holding company through share conversion TrendForce’s LEDinside research division offers the following comments regarding the two companies’ partnership: Epistar and Lextar are able to avoid overlapping their investments through sharing their production capacities with each other With the rise of Micro LED and Mini LED commercial opportunities, leading manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung are placing high hopes in the future of these two emerging display technologies and forecasting a high demand for Micro/Mini LED suppliers’ production capacities However, as Taiwanese LED manufacturers have suffered continuous financial losses over the past few years, most of them can no longer afford to expand their production capacity on a large scale to meet demands from end-product brands Furthermore, the recent surge in CAPEX by Chinese LED chip manufacturers and LED packaging companies, as well as their partnership with domestic panel manufacturers, has alarmed Taiwanese LED companies to the hypercompetitive state of the LED industry By forming a holding company, Epistar and Lextar are now able to jointly bear the enormous burden of investing in new equipment, in turn lowering their operational risk and helping them gain a foothold in the market for new types of displays TrendForce estimates that Epistar and Lextar will collectively account for 1243% of the global LED chip production capacity after the formation of the holding company Supply chain integration allows Epistar and Lextar to collectively pursue client orders Epistar’s production capacity is primarily focused on LED epitaxy and LED chip fabrication, whereas Lextar specializes in LED packaging and modules The partnership between the two companies will result in a total vertical integration throughout the entire LED industrial supply chain Given that both companies have been actively investing in Mini LED backlight R&D, the collaboration between Epistar and Lextar will serve to reduce their competition with each other over client orders as Mini LED backlight demand from panel manufacturers and branded end-product OEMs skyrockets

Press Releases
NOR Flash ASP to Potentially Drop in 2H20 as Inventory Pressure Mounts, Says TrendForce



According to the latest investigations by the DRAMeXchange research division of TrendForce, NOR Flash buyers found that their inventories were low and stepped up their procurement efforts as they anticipated the growing risk of COVID-19 causing disruptions in the supply chain These efforts sustained the uptrend of NOR Flash prices from 1Q20 to 2Q20 NOR Flash ASP climbed by around 5% QoQ in 1Q20 and increased even further, by about 10% to 20% QoQ in 2Q20 Since NOR Flash buyers have been stocking up as a precaution against potential problems in the supply chain, their inventories are now quite sufficient As well, although various governments have gradually begun to restart their economies due to economic pressures from extended lockdowns, retail consumer demand has yet to make a decent recovery The outlook on NOR Flash prices in 2H20 is therefore bleaker; TrendForce expects NOR Flash prices to take a downturn in 3Q20 As uncertainties in 5G demand grow, SLC Flash ASP, which is highly correlated with NOR Flash ASP, is expected to further decline in 2H20 TrendForce indicates that there has historically been a high degree of correlation between the prices of NOR Flash and SLC Flash With regards to the supply and demand of SLC NAND, the demand for consumer electronics has been weakening since April On the other hand, the market for networking devices, which also constitute a significant source of SLC NAND consumption, benefitted from the build-out of 5G infrastructure in China, and the visibility of related orders extends to the end of 3Q20 Nevertheless, the 5G infrastructure projects in Europe and North America are facing delays due to the pandemic’s impact Additionally, the US government has announced more export restrictions against Huawei and added FiberHome to the Entity List, effective since June 5 Although FiberHome can rely on its existing inventory to maintain operations for the time being, the latest sanctions by the US will bring uncertainties to the anticipated progress of China’s 5G infrastructure build-out in 4Q20 TrendForce thus forecasts a minor decline in SLC NAND prices in 3Q20, with the decline expanding in 4Q20 due to the lack of demand Chinese manufacturers have noticeably ramped up both quantity and quality of NOR Flash memory because of its wide scope of applications In the aspect of manufacturing technologies, the mainstream process for high-density NOR Flash products has advanced from the 65nm node to the nodes in the 50nm class, while low-density NOR Flash products are still being manufactured with the 65nm or the nodes of the earlier generations Turning to applications, one of the most popular uses of NOR Flash in the recent years is TWS Bluetooth earphones (or earbuds) Each piece of Apple AirPods contains a 128MB NOR Flash chip, while the density of NOR Flash chips used in other TWS Bluetooth earphones ranges between 16MB and 64MB On the other hand, IoT-related hardware also represents a considerable source of NOR Flash consumption Since IoT-based devices are, for the most part, closed embedded systems, they do not require much memory NOR Flash chips are therefore particularly well-suited for this application because they are concentrated in the lower end of the density range, including 8/16/32MB As well, yet another significant application for NOR Flash can be found in AMOLED panels A major issue associated with AMOLED panels is the mura effect (that is, uneven screen lighting), which is eliminated via de-mura codes The codes that compensate for the mura defect and ensure a consistent quality for panels from the same batch are stored in a NOR Flash chip, usually 4/8MB in density In terms of the global top three NOR Flash suppliers by revenue, Macronix leads the pack in not only market share but also process technology It is currently manufacturing with the 55nm node and has a production capacity of around 20,000 wafers per month Macronix’s product lines for NOR Flash are very comprehensive and cover the entire density range With respect to strategy, Micronix aims to benefit from the future demand related to the construction of 5G base stations To that end, it has developed the 512MB chip as one of its main offerings Such high-density solution is also very rare in the NOR Flash market Windbond as the second leading supplier trails closely behind Macronix and currently manufactures with the 58nm and 90nm nodes Windbond has a production capacity totaling about 18,000 wafers per month Third-place GigaDevice, based in China, has made great strides with respect to raising output and product quality in recent years Furthermore, GigaDevice is already recognized for its R&D capability as it has managed to capture orders for NOR Flash chips used in Apple AirPods GigaDevice has a production capacity of around 9,000 wafers per month Its wafer input is distributed between its foundry partners SMIC and HLMC Worth mentioning is the fact that GigaDevice is a majority shareholder of CXMT, meaning it now possesses the capability to pursue R&D of both DRAM and NOR Flash and is expected to play a key role in the development of China’s semiconductor industry

Press Releases
PPG Demand to Double Given Accelerating Improvements in Wearables Health Monitoring Functions, Says TrendForce


Consumer Electronics / LED

According to the latest investigations by TrendForce, despite the slight slowdown in wearables shipment (including smartwatches and smart wristbands), the increasing demand for improved health monitoring functions has galvanized a strong momentum in the market for wearables-related components For instance, to raise the accuracy of health monitoring functions, wearables manufacturers are projected to utilize more green LEDs and infrared LEDs while also increasing the size of photodiodes, in turn doubling the demand for PPG TrendForce indicates that most wearables measure biometric data, such as heart rate, blood oxygen, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, as well as sweat content, through a type of optical technology known as photoplethysmography (PPG) PPG design consists of a transmitting end and a receiving end PPG transmitters measure heart rate via detecting the amount of blood flowing through the user’s wrist for a given duration, generally by using green LEDs paired with infrared LEDs On the other hand, pairing infrared LEDs with red LEDs will allow these transmitters to obtain blood oxygen levels by measuring the difference between oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin for a given duration Most PPG receivers are designed to feature low dark current photodiodes, which provide fast response times and are capable of receiving the total energy emitted from the LED Apple Watch 4, for example, contains four to five times as many photodiodes as does Apple Watch 3 TrendForce projects PPG revenue to grow from US$381 million in 2019 to $6333 million in 2020, a 662% increase YoY PPG product design is expected to shift from a discrete optical sensor design to a modular one, allowing suppliers to deliver optical components with fewer manufacturing errors and greater ease of integration to wearables brands Major companies in the PPG supply chain include OSRAM Opto Semiconductors, Lite-on, DOWA, Epistar, Epileds, and Opto Tech Owing to the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical and healthcare-related applications are likely to see increasing priority in terms of product development going forward As well, given that wearables are equipped with health monitoring functions, wearables manufacturers will aim to improve their products’ biometric functions such as accuracy Fitbit, for instance, has integrated blood oxygen monitors into several of its products The company is currently collaborating with several academic institutions to develop health screening functions capable of detecting diseases in their early stages On the other hand, Samsung has announced blood pressure monitoring applications for its smartwatches Aside from these two companies, major wearables brands are also actively targeting blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring as potential features in their lineups These features are expected to become key upgrades for the next generation of wearable devices

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