The Apple A12 processor, the heart of the 2018 iPhone, is reportedly already being manufactured. It’s being produced by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which has made Apple’s chips for years.
Even though the next iPhone isn’t expected until fall, TSMC isn’t getting a head start. It takes about three months to convert silicon into a microprocessor.
The replacement for the A11 Bionic — almost certainly called the A12 — will be the first Apple processor to use a 7nm process. TSMC produced the chip in the current iPhone and iPad with an older 10nm process. This is a measurement of the distance between components of the microprocessor. Packing these into less space means better performance and less waste heat, saving power.
Advantages of a 7nm Apple A12
TSMC doesn’t give specifics about the chips it manufactures for Apple, but it speaks openly about the benefits of its new 7nm process. “Compared to its 10nm FinFET process, TSMC’s 7nm FinFET features 1.6X logic density, ~20% speed improvement, and ~40% power reduction.”
These are the improvements that would come if TSMC manufactured the A11 with its 7nm process. But, naturally, that’s not what’s going to happen. Apple will make other improvements to its 2018 design, leading to additional performance increases.
So the 20 percent speed improvement, and 40 percent power reduction, are the minimal performance improvement to be expected.
2018 iPhone rumors point to three models
These powerful new chips are expected to go into three models. One will be an iPhone X replacement with a 5.8-inch display, with the A12 chip being one of its most significant improvements over the current version. Then there’s the rumored 6.5-inch model sometimes called the iPhone X Plus. And third is cheaper 6.1-inch iPhone that’s been rumored.
As mentioned, the 2018 iPhone models are expected to launch this fall. Just don’t expect them to be cheap.