Apple reportedly has decided to scale down the die size by 40-50% for VCSEL chips used in 3D face ID sensors for new iPhone and iPad devices to be rolled out later in 2021, a move that will help the vendor sharply cut production cost but may reduce total wafer output for such chips, according to industry sources.
Device makers may be heading towards inventory correction next quarter, as they revisit their production plans amid weakenig demand in some major markets. Taiwan-based chipmakers have seen some clients slow down the pace of orders. But many still believe demand will remain robust and component and material shotages will persist - which provides motivation for Nan Ya PCB to expand production capacity. Cryptominers' demand for graphics cards has been extremely strong. But as they only need graphics cards to support their mining, they are expected to dump other PC peripherals and motherboards that have come with bundle purchases of the grahics cards.
Taiwan-based IC design houses have seen terminal customers start slowing down their pace of orders, and are aware that downstream device makers will be revisiting their production plans and closely monitoring chip inventories they hold over the next quarter, according to industry sources.
Smartphone-use antenna makers are gearing up for a likely boom in demand for 5G AiP (antenna in package) modules that they expect will be triggered by Apple's release of new mmWave-enabled iPhones in the second half of 2021, according to industry sources.
HDI PCB manufacturers have turned cautious about their sales performance in the second quarter, as orders from Chinese handset clients are slowing down along with their sales declines in China and India markets, according to industry sources.
Taiwan-based IC design houses may post disappointing revenues for the second quarter of 2021, as a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in India has led to an overall deceleration in sales of handsets, tablets and other consumer technology products locally, according to industry sources.
Tight capacity and strong demand have been sending foundry service quotes rising. UMC has plans to raise its 28nm process quotes by almost 13% in July, and will adjust them upwards again in first-quarter 2022. MediaTek has received sufficient support from TSMC, and the chip vendor is also looking to employ the foundry house's advanced InFO_PoP packaging technology for new handset chips. Notebook panel prices have also been rising, and the upward pricing trend is expected to continue through the end of 2021.
MediaTek is developing new flagship handset SoCs with performance specs comparable to Apple's A series APs for iPhones, and may also adopt TSMC's advanced InFO_PoP packaging technology for the new chips, according to industry sources.
Taiwan's shipments of small- to medium-size LCD panels are expected to edge up 3.7% sequentially but decline 15% on year in the second quarter of 2021, after reaching 188 million units in the previous quarter, Digitimes Research estimates.
Backend service providers face as much as a 50% shortage of packaging materials from until June as a result of production issues at Japanese suppliers. MediaTek is prioritizing shipments for 5G chips, telling its Chinese handset clients that it is cutting output for 4G offerings amid tight foundry supply. Despite tight foundry capacity, TSMC has promised more support for the car industry. Demand for automotive chip probing services is expected to stay brisk throughout the year.
Shipments of smartphone application processors for use by China-based handset vendors reached 212 million units in the first quarter of 2021, increasing 0.2% from a quarter earlier, according to data compiled by Digitimes Research.
MediaTek expects to post another sequential increase of 10-18% in revenues for the second quarter, with revenues to fall between NT$118.8-127.5 billion (US$4.22-4.53 billion) under the exchange rate of US$1 to NT$28.2.
The chance of mmWave chips mounting a major challenge to the title of being the leading 5G mobile solutions will remain until at least the second half of 2022 due to tight capacity at foundry houses, according to industry sources.
Unisoc is expected to roll out its new-generation 6nm 5G chip solution some time between late second-quarter and early third-quarter 2021, while Xiaomi and Oppo also have plans to introduce their in-house developed 5G solutions by the end of this year, according to industry sources.
Qualcomm has joined forces with Microsoft, Chunghwa Telecom (CHT), Acer, Asustek, ECS, Inventec and Taipei Computer Association (TCA) to set up "Enterprise Digital Transformation Action Front" seeking to offer total solutions for 5G private networks and 5G commercial notebooks to accelerate enterprises' digital transformation.
Qualcomm and MediaTek are both considering adopting fan-out PoP in the production of their flagship smartphone application processors, following in the footsteps of Apple utilizing TSMC's InFO_PoP technology to package its iPhone chips, according to sources at backend houses.
MediaTek is expected to post sequential revenue growth of over 10% or even 20% in the second quarter of 2021, after seeing its revenues grow 12.06% sequentially to NT$108.033 billion (US$3.88 billion) in the first quarter.
Industry-wide shortage of foundry capacity has sent fabless IC design houses scrambling for support. They are now diversifying their foundry service suppliers in order to secure support. Foundry houses and fabless IC firms may be eager to increase their spending on capacity expansions or R&D, but backend services firms are more conservative, giving priority to raising capacity utilization and expanding capacity for mature processes. But Taiwanese backend firms are helping Apple develop dual-band 5G AiP modules that may be featured in upcoming iPhones.
Demand for mmWave AiP modules is set to pick up significantly in the second half of 2021 as Apple is expected to boost the adoption of such modules in its new Phones, which in turn will drive up shipments of BT-based AiP substrates from main suppliers, according to industry sources.
Apple is stepping up development its own dual-band 5G AiP (antenna in package) module, which, along with Qualcomm's solutions, may be featured in its next-generation iPhones, according to industry sources.