Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Siri, Why Don’t You Have A Texas Accent?

I don’t know exactly why anyone is surprised that Samsung is making Apple’s A5 chip in Texas, but for some reason they are. Reuters reported today that the South Korean chip giant is building at a factory in Texas the wonderchip that powers both the iPhone 4S and the iPad. That’s the surprise. Rather than a factory somewhere in Asia, Samsung is cranking out the chips in the Lone Star State.

Given that Apple and Samsung have been working together for years — the first iPhone chips were Samsung made, after all — I’m not entirely sure why anyone is surprised that this Samsung fab was expanded to accommodate, among other customers, Apple.

Maybe the cybernetic voice of the iPhone’s marquee feature, the personal assistant Siri, should sport a Texan twang, rather than a non-specific accent. There’s a lot more inside the iPhone that comes from Texas than just the A5.

For one thing, the chip itself, or some significant portion of it, was probably designed in Texas to begin with. Remember Intrinsity? That’s the boutique chip design company that Apple acquired in 2010. Yes, that’s the one. Where was it based again? You guessed it: Austin, Texas.

There’s more. This is the very same factory that Samsung announced it was going to expand last year with a $3.6 billion investment. Indeed, yours truly even covered the announcement for Bloomberg News.

The previous fabs have been turning out Flash memory chips since the late 1990s. And since Samsung is the world’s largest supplier of Flash memory, and Apple is the world’s largest consumer of Flash memory, there’s a pretty good chance that the iPhone you’re carrying right now contains flash chips built in Texas. However, Apple buys flash memory from other companies too, including Toshiba and Hynix.

Then there are lots of other smaller components that come from Texas. Texas Instruments supplies the chip that drives the touch screen. As its name implies, TI is based in Dallas and has six fabs in Richardson, Texas (and many others around the world), one of which may turn out the touch screen controllers that iSuppli found in the iPhone. (TI wouldn’t confirm one way or the other if it’s made in Texas, but there’s a pretty good chance!)

And then there’s the audio codec chip from Cirrus Logic, found by market research firm iSuppli in its teardown analysis. It’s another company based in Texas, and so while the chip itself was probably manufactured in Asia, it was designed at Cirrus HQ in Austin.

And finally, don’t forget that Apple itself maintains a huge presence in Austin. The Austin American Statesman reported last year that the company was nearing a deal to lease 55,000 square feet of office space for the Intrinsity team, and is thought to employ about 2,500 people in and around Austin, most of them based at a 400,000 square foot campus.

So for all of Apple’s California good vibes, there’s a lot of Texas in every iPhone it makes.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle