Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is already looking beyond the A15 chip that will come with this year’s iPhone 13. According to a Friday report, the world’s biggest chip fab is “fast advancing” its 4-nanometer and 3-nanometer processes ready for mass manufacturing.
Digitimes reports that TSMC’s 4-nanometer process will move into risk production in the third quarter of 2021. Risk production is a smaller production run of new hardware to sort out any problems. If there are none, TSMC can then progress to volume production. The same report also claims that TSMC’s 3nm production process will commence volume production in the second half of 2022.
It’s not clear which of these will make it into next year’s iPhone. This year’s handsets are expected to be made with the same 5nm process as last year’s A14 chip. The number of nanometers refers to the size of the transistors — with the smaller the size meaning the more can be packed onto a piece of silicon. In theory, that means more powerful chips. As I’ve written previously:
“A good analogy is writing with a sharp pencil compared to a blunt one. In both cases you can write information, but a sharp pencil is far more efficient than a blunt one. Apple’s current A14 Bionic chips have 11.8 billion transistors, an increase of approximately 38%. Apple’s previous A13 Bionic chip, by comparison, had 23% more transistors than the A12.”
Not much has been rumored for next year’s iPhone upgrade. (Not all that surprising given that this year’s update hasn’t been announced yet.) According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple will ditch the “mini” iPhone (which has sold poorly), but stick with four iPhone models. These will include higher-end 6.7-inch and 6.1-inch iPhones like the current Pro lineup, and lower-end models in the same sizes. Apple could also offer a massive 48MP wide-angle lens for the high-end iPhone Pro models.