A few days after a report said that iPhone parts suppliers are expecting Apple to reduce orders for the current quarter, one of Apple’s most important clients went on record to say that sales of high-end smartphones will decline flat this year.
That client is TSMC, which happens to be the exclusive provider of the powerful A11 Bionic chip inside the iPhone X and iPhone 8. The Taiwanese giant will also mass-produce the A12 chips that will power 2018 iOS devices, including iPhone X and iPhone 8 successors.
TSMC’s co-chief executive of TSMC said during the company’s earnings call for the December quarter that shipments of flagship smartphones will decline this year, but mid-range and entry-level phone sales will increase.
“In terms of shipment units, high-end smartphones are decreasing for this year,” C.C. Wei said, according to Nikkei. “Mid-to-low-end smartphones will increase by several percentage points. For TSMC, overall wafer revenue for mobile phones will be flat compared with 2017.”
The mobile business accounted for roughly half of TSMC’s $33 billion revenue last year, and Apple is one of the company’s most important clients.
Even though the mobile market is expected to weaken this year, TSMC is confident it’ll continue to see growth in 2018. Bitcoin will be making up for lower smartphone sales, outgoing TSMC Chairman Morris Chang said.
TSMC will make some of the chips that are used in Bitcoin and altcoin miners, or computers whose sole purpose is to “mine” for cryptocurrencies. Bitmain is one of the companies that make such miners, controlling 70% to 80% of the Bitcoin mining market. Bitmain accounted for 3% to 5% of TSMC’s revenue in the third quarter of the year, comparable to NVIDIA’s share, according to estimates.
But TSMC is advancing cautiously with chip orders for miners, because of the high volatility of cryptocurrency, which means it won’t add extra capacity for digital currency mining.
Apple, meanwhile, is expected to launch four new iPhones this year, including an iPhone SE successor in March, and three iPhone X versions in September. Two of the new iPhone X models will supposedly be high-end handsets, while the third is expected to be a cheaper model.