iPhone 14 performance upgrade could be held back by chip woes

iPhone 14 performance upgrade could be held back by chip production woes

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Apple might get cutting-edge 3nm processors in 2022
TSMC might be unable to provide Apple with a 3nm A16 chip for the iPhone 14.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

TSMC is reportedly struggling to get its 3nm chip production process working. And the problems might force TSMC to make the A16 processor for the upcoming iPhone 14 with the current 5nm process. That would mean the chip won’t be as much an improvement over the A15 as it otherwise would be.

The production problems, if real, will also likely affect Mac and iPad processors, as all Apple computers use variations of the same processor core.

iPhone 14 and TSMC 3nm production woes

There has been no official announcement of problems from TSMC, but The Information reports, “TSMC is struggling with its latest cutting-edge manufacturing technique, which shrinks the size of transistors on chips to 3 nanometers.” It cites “two people briefed by TSMC on the project” as its source.

Production for the A16 isn’t expected to begin for months, as the iPhone 14 almost certainly won‘t launch before autumn of 2022. That gives TSMC time to hopefully work out the problems.

Apple ❤️ TSMC

One of the reasons iPhone 13 offers benchmark scores about 50% faster than the Samsung Galaxy S21 is Apple’s long-running partnership with TSMC. The iPhone chips are designed in Cupertino but made by TSMC because it has the expertise to produce the cutting-edge processors.

The Taiwanese company has been able to shrink the components of Apple’s chips every year or two, allowing them to work faster while generating less waste heat. The A15 chip in the iPhone 13 uses a 5nm process. Before then, the A13 was made with a 7nm process, the A11 used a 10nm process, the A9 used a 16 nm process.

But today’s unconfirmed report indicates that the A16 could also be made with a 5nm process. That’ll be the third year in a row with the same process, something that’s never happened to iPhone before.

The result could be the A16 not offering a big performance gain over the A15. The Information warns that might “cause some customers to put off upgrading their devices for another year and give Apple’s competitors a bit more time to catch up.”