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iPhone 6s Chipgate: Apple And Consumer Reports vs. The Internet

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Various "gates" have unleased the wrath of Apple device owners unto their beloved company. However, some recent reports are trying to overrule previous findings and tests that launched the latest Apple scandal, "chipgate."

First, there is last year's "bendgate" scandal with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which is something that caused controversies, but nothing that a careful handling of the devices couldn't address. Then, earlier this year, the aged "staingate" issue, which pertains to the 2012-2014 MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks' Retina displays' anti-reflective coating, erupted. To quell the amassed anger of affected parties and avoid a class-action lawsuit Apple issued a notification through email last Oct. 16 and offered to replace the affected screens for free.

One that could be brewing the biggest storm the company has faced is "chipgate," which points to the discrepancy between the A9 SoCs for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus that Apple outsourced from TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) and Samsung. Note that Apple only designs the chips and has no foundries to manufacture them with and thus, 13 million A9 chips that Cupertino needed were outsourced to both.

Determine the Manufacturer: TSMC or Samsung

An easy way to determine which manufacturer made the chip running on a particular Apple device is through the free iOS app called Lirum Device Info Lite. For the iPhone 6s, if Lirium identifies the chip as N71mAP, then it was made by TSMC and if it displays N71AP, then it is from Samsung. The same is true for the iPhone 6s Plus. TSMC's chips will have N766mAP and Samsung's will be displayed as N66AP.

So what's the big deal if they came from different manufacturers?

One of the first ones to tell highlight the different chips running on Apple's latest iPhone models is Chipworks, which reported that TSMC's A9 chip is bigger than that of Samsung's by about 8.5 mm2. This is courtesy of TSMC using a 16nm FinFET process while Samsung used its 14nm LPE FinFET technology.

However, the issue grew bigger because of a Reddit post by user pw5a29, who said that he happened to have "2 6S Pluses (64GB) on hand with one being a TSMC chip and the other a Samsung chip." The Redditor then proceeded to discuss the difference in battery consumption.

"The TSMC chip was able to last for almost eight hours," wrote pw5a29. "While the Samsung chip was only able to achieve approx. 6 hours."

Some have raised issues on the testing method that pw5a29 used since one iPhone had a SIM card and data was also running while the other one did not have any. In the interest of science and getting to the truth of this issue, a lot of Apple-centric and tech-oriented communities, publications and YouTube channels have tested this out.

Ars Technica published its comparison of the TSMC and Samsung chips. And although there was hardly any difference for tasks that only utilized 50-60 of the chips' compute power, TSMC's still edged Samsung's A9 SoC. The bigger discrepancy came when processor-taxing apps like Geekbench 3 are run.

YouTuber Jonathan Morrison also reported a 5-7 percent difference in battery life, which depended on tasks performed, in favor of TSMC. Austin Evans also did his own testing and revealed a significant battery life advantage for the TSMC on heavy phone usage.

"Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3 percent of each other," said Apple.

Consumer Reports has recently published an article that supports Apple's claim. So who do you believe, Apple and Consumer Reports or the other three?

Below is Marques Brownlee explaining, in a calm and collected manner, that while it is advantageous to score a TSMC chip, the "chipgate" issue is hardly an issue for average users. 

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