TSMC stays on track to make 3-nanometer chips for iPhone 14

By

Apple A14 processor
Apple’s chipmaker thinks long-term. It’s already prepping for the A14, A15 and maybe even the A16 iPhone processors.
CGI: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s long-term plan to begin producing 3-nanometer processors in 2022 remains on schedule. This company manufactures all Apple CPUs, and the 3nm process is expected to be used to make the A-series chips for future iPhones, iPads and perhaps Macs as well.

In the near term, TSMC is already making chips for the iPhone 12. And the company is close to perfecting the process that’ll make the chips for 2021 iPhones.

TSMC looking ahead to the 2022 iPhone

The Taiwanese foundry said Tuesday that it’s on course to begin volume production of 3nm processors in the second half of 2022, according to Digitimes.

This might be in time for the iOS handset launching that year, whether it be called iPhone 14 or something else. If production of 3nm chips doesn’t start until later in 2022, they might not be ready for use in Apple’s A series until 2023, however.

Apple’s chipmaker lays groundwork for 2021 iPhone processor

TSMC already began making 5-nanometer chips, and the A13 at the heart of this autumn’s iPhone is expected to be the first A-series CPU made with a 5nm process.

Not resting on its laurels, the company is reportedly on track to have an improved version of the process ready before the end of 2020. This will almost certainly be used to manufacture the A14 chip in 2021.

It’s on track to begin volume production of new 5nm Plus processors in the fourth quarter of this year, according to Digitimes. The first of these will go to AMD, however.

TSMC makes ever-shrinking iPhone processors

Much of TSMC’s research and development budget goes into shrinking the distance between processor components. Packing these into less space means faster performance and less wasted heat, saving power.

The Apple A12 Bionic chip used in the 2018 iPhone XS, XS Max and XR was the first in this series with just 7nm between components. Last year’s A13 chip in the iPhone 11 is produced using an improved version of the 7nm process. Each new iteration brings improvements to multicore and graphics performance.

Even as TSMC upgrades from 7nm chips to 5nm ones, rival Intel won’t get a 7nm processor on the market until 2021. This could play a part in Apple’s much-rumored plan to switch Mac from Intel chips to ARM-based ones made by TSMC.