2020 iPhone should get a boost from TSMC’s cutting-edge 5nm processors

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The Apple A12 Bionic processor is powerful but the the A13 is coming soon and the A14 is already on the horizon.
Photo: Apple

The company that makes all Apple’s chips is nearly ready to make 5 nanometer processors, down from the 7nm ones it’s manufacturing now. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s innovation reportedly will bring notable performance gains to next year’s iPhone and iPad.

The 2021 models should get a boost as well. And it’s even possible these chips will appear in future Macs.

Although Apple designs its own A-series processors for iOS devices, Taiwan-based TSMC actually makes them. The companies’ cooperation has ensured that iPhone and iPad offer high-end performance for many years.

For iPhone processors, nanometers matter

TSMC pours money into research to shrink the distance between processor components. Packing these into less space means better performance and less wasted heat, saving power.

The Apple A12 Bionic chip in the 2018 iPhone XS, XS Max and XR was the first in this series made with a 7nm process. The 2019 A13, reportedly using an improved version of this process, is in production and headed for the iPhone 11.

Not one to rest on its laurels, TSMC has already completed trial production of chips using a 5nm process, according to a report from ITHome. This change reportedly will bring a 15% increase in performance, irrespective of other gains that come from improving the chip designs. The A14 chip will almost certainly use this process when it debuts in the 2020 iPhone and iPad models.

TSMC is pushing ahead with R&D into using an improved 5nm process in 2021 chips.

A change in Mac processors?

TSMC’s 5nm process could even be used in future macOS laptops and desktops. Unconfirmed reports point to the end of Intel in Macs, perhaps as early as 2020.

Insiders often cite TSMC’s advanced chip-production capabilities as one of the reasons for this possible change. Intel is still moving its processors from 14nm to 10nm. The company remains years away from offering 7nm ones.