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Taiwan IC test interface vendors quitting iPhone AP supply chain

Taiwan's IC test interface solutions providers including Chunghwa Precision Test Tech (CHPT) and WinWay Technology reportedly may almost fully retreat from the supply chain for iPhone APs in 2023 probably due to increasingly thin profit margins for related orders, according to industry sources.

The Taiwanese vendors used to land orders for wafer probe cards and final-test sockets needed to support both engineering tests and mass production of iPhone processors, but they will not even take engineering-test orders for new iPhone APs for next year, the sources said.

WinWay has in recent years teamed up with US-based automatic test equipment (ATE) vendor Teradyne to serve the engineering test demand for iPhone APs by supplying customized IC test sockets, while CHPT has also indirectly cut into the iPhone supply chain by offering high-end test boards through Italy's leading probe head maker Technoprobe, the sources continued.

But while Teradyne has secured ATE orders for 2023 iPhone APs, a Korean maker reportedly has replaced WinWay to supply customized IC test sockets, the sources said.

Apple and TSMC have enforced extremely tight cost control on the development and production of iPhone APs over the past year, driving down related profit margins to the levels unacceptable to test interface solutions providers, the sources noted, adding this has prompted them to diversify into non-handset HPC chips solutions to secure stable profitability.

The sources said CHPT, WinWay and other domestic peers are all strengthening their deployments to serve the test interface demand for Apple's M series processors or HPC chips, AI chips and SSD controllers from other major chipmakers, in response to sluggish demand for handsets and other consumer electronics devices.

In particular, as AMD and Nvidia continue to adopt sub-5nm process nodes for their HPC chips, they require highly customized IC test sockets from the beginning of their R&D, providing a solid growth momentum for Taiwanese suppliers, the sources stressed.