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Apple flash storage supplier warns of NAND contamination

One of Apple’s main flash storage suppliers has revealed a large-scale contamination incident at its production facilities, with TrendForce warning that this could see NAND chip prices rise by up to 10%.

It’s currently unknown whether any Apple products will need to be recalled …

Apple uses Kioxia (formerly known as Toshiba) NAND chips in many of its products, including the iPhone 13, M1 Pro/Max MacBook Pro, and iPad Pro.

In the iFixit teardown of the iPhone 13 Pro, for example, the company found a single Kioxa-branded NAND chip, while in the 16-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro with 256GB storage it identified two Kioxia KICM225UZ0460 128GB NAND chips (highlighted in the photo above).

The Verge reports that Kioxia, which partners with Western Digital, identified the problem at two of its Japanese plants.

[The company says] it has lost at least 6.5 exabytes (6.5 billion gigabytes) of flash storage due to contamination issues at its NAND production facilities. The contamination could see the price of NAND — the main component of SSDs — spike up to 10 percent, according to market research firm TrendForce.

Any potential NAND shortages or price fluctuations could affect the PC market over the next few months, which had another big year in 2021 despite global chip shortages and demand for GPUs.

The contamination of materials used in the manufacturing processes appears to have been detected in late January at two plants in Japan, with Western Digital’s joint venture partner, Kioxia (previously Toshiba) […]

Western Digital and Kioxia’s partnership amounts to around 30 percent of the NAND flash market, according to TrendForce […]

It’s not clear what caused the contamination, whether products on the market will need to be recalled, or when production will resume. 

It seems unlikely that Apple would increase retail prices of its devices. The company tends to negotiate purchases a long way in advance, and although it will likely have to pay more for future NAND contracts, this is likely to be a short-term issue lasting only a few months. The most likely scenario is that Apple just absorbs the cost.

It would be a concern if any products needed to be recalled, and we’ll likely need to wait a little longer to find out.

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