Apple has reportedly changed its battery suppliers for the iPad and MacBook lines to Amperex Technology Limited and Tianjin Lishen Battery, both Chinese firms, after Samsung SDI (Samsung’s battery-producing subsidiary) stopped supplying Apple, the China Business News reports. If accurate, this would be just the latest in a series of rifts between the two companies.
Samsung is a crucial component partner for Apple and will remain so at least in the near future, according to CEO Tim Cook on Apple’s most recent quarterly conference call. But recently, rumors have been swirling that the supplier relationship between Samsung and Apple is in the process of eroding. In the past couple of months, we’ve seen reports that Samsung had increased processor prices for Apple (which the company denied) and also claims that Apple was terminating the display supply relationship with the Korean company (also later denied).
The two companies are locked in a global patent battle and are each other’s primary competition in the global smartphone race. In light of the strained relationship, it’s natural that people should expect their supply chain arrangements to suffer, too. And there has been tangible proof; Apple did indeed remove crucial design components for its A-series processors out of Samsung’s hands and in-house, which reduces Samsung to just a manufactory partner. Apple has also reportedly been grooming TSMC and others to take over chip production in the future.
But for all the reports, there seems to be little hard evidence that the relationship is indeed collapsing. Put simply, Samsung has capacity that Apple can’t find elsewhere, and Apple has a very lucrative contract with Samsung, meaning changing their relationship quickly isn’t easy or beneficial to either.
This battery supplier report is just the latest in a series of indicators that the relationship between the two could be undergoing a slow but inevitable shift, but don’t expect to see Apple and Samsung walk away from each other entirely for quite a while yet.