Apple can start designing its 5nm A-series chips

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Apple's A12 Bionic chip was great. Next year's chip will be, err, greater.
Photo: Apple

If you thought the 7-nanometer iPhone’s A12 Bionic chip was impressive, you haven’t seen anything yet! Apple supplier TSMC has reportedly reached a major milestone with the development of its 5-nanometer chips.

As per a previous report, Apple plans to use the next-gen chips for its 2020 iPhones. These could potentially debut with Apple’s first 5G handset.

According to today’s report, TSMC has announced delivery of the complete version of its 5nm design infrastructure. Writes Digitimes:

“This full release enables 5nm systems-on-chip (SoC) designs in next-generation advanced mobile and high-performance computing (HPC) applications, targeting high-growth 5G and artificial intelligence markets.”

“TSMC’s 5-nanometer technology offers our customers the industry’s most advanced logic process to address the exponentially growing demand for computing power driven by AI and 5G,” said Cliff Hou, VP of R&D and technology development at TSMC. “5-nanometer technology requires deeper design-technology co-optimization. Therefore, we collaborate seamlessly with our ecosystem partners to ensure we deliver silicon-validated IP blocks and EDA tools ready for customer use. As always, we are committed to helping customers achieve first-time silicon success and faster time-to-market.”

Coming soon to a phone near yout

The A12 Bionic chip was either the first or second phone in the world to pack mobile chips made using the 7-nanometer process. While Huawei showed off its 7nm Kirin 980 first, Apple shipped its 7nm iPhones before Huawei. In Fast Company‘s recent rundown of innovative companies, the A12 chip was singled out as being Apple’s biggest feat of 2018.

Reaching smaller number in terms of nanometers is no guarantee of performance boosts. However, being able to reduce the size between transistors means being able to pack more of them on. This can then greatly improve performance.

TSMC’s latest development doesn’t mean that Apple’s 5nm chips are ready. What it does mean is that companies like Apple can now proceed to develop and validate their 5nm designs. TSMC, for its part, will provide the technology files, process design kits (PDKs), tools, etc. for them to go about doing this.

The 2019 iPhones will reportedly be made using the same 7nm process as last year’s iPhones.