In 2016, the Chinese company YMTC, with the support of the parent holding Tsinghua Unigroup, began to invest heavily in the development of domestic production of 3D NAND solid-state memory chips, which technologically has so far managed to get closer to the world leaders by a generation. An important milestone in the promotion of YMTC products could be the use by Apple.
Initially, YMTC supplied its flash memory to the Chinese domestic market, where it was used in the production of personal PCs and solid-state drives, not to mention mobile devices. Last year, the production of 128-layer QLC 3D NAND memory was mastered, in this regard the “Chinese newcomer” is not so far behind the world leaders.
Agency Bloomberg citing its sources that Apple is concerned about finding alternative solid-state memory suppliers for its electronic devices after manufacturing defects in February cast doubt on Kioxia’s ability to ship the planned number of memory chips in the current period. Now Apple and its contractors are already using memories made by the same Kioxia, as well as Micron Technology and Samsung Electronics. It is believed that the losses from the Kioxia production incident will be able to offset the Korean suppliers, but this situation prompted Apple to explore the possibility of cooperation with the Chinese YMTC.
In any case, the use of YMTC memory reduces the logistical risks of the pandemic as the iPhone assembly and memory production facilities are located in China and cross-border shipments are not required for this arrangement. In addition, YMTC memory may turn out to be cheaper than foreign analogues, and for Apple, given the rising cost of many components, every penny of savings is important.
However, political considerations are likely to limit the possibility of such cooperation for the time being, particularly given the proximity of Tsinghua Unigroup Holding to the alma mater of current Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping. The path of the YMTC memory to the list of components purchased by Apple will not be short and fast – the same display supplier BOE Technology had to prove its reliability for several years. Experts believe that YMTC memory can be registered not only in the iPhone SE, but also in future high-end models like the iPhone 14, but the share of Chinese memory in the entire production program of Apple smartphones is unlikely to exceed 5%. As the sources explain, Tsinghua Unigroup’s financial troubles have not yet affected the operations of its subsidiary YMTC.