Apple reportedly won‘t be able get chips made with a cutting-edge 3nm process for the iPhone 14, so it supposedly might switch to 4nm. The change would result in an iPhone that’s not as much an improvement over the current one as had been thought.
This isn’t a result of the global shortage in processors. Chip-maker TSMC is allegedly having problems with its 3nm process.
iPhone 14: 4nm isn’t as good as 3nm but better than 5nm
The latest change in Apple’s 2022 processor comes from Digitimes, which says, “Apple may use TSMC’s 4nm process technology for its next-generation iPhone processors, according to sources at backend houses.”
This apparently isn’t Apple’s first choice. It had been hoping to use a 3nm process in the upcoming A16 chip, making it even faster and more power efficient. But TSMC is reportedly struggling to get its 3nm chip production process working.
Still, both would be an improvement over the current A15, which uses a 5nm process. iPhone 13 users can attest that the A15 is a powerful chip, but iPhone 14 buyers will expect to one with better performance.
The ever-shrinking Apple processor
Apple designs the processors for iPhone, Mac and iPad but they are produced by TSMC. And 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 A9 used a 16 nm process, the A11 used a 10nm process, the A13 was made with a 7nm process and the A15 chip in the iPhone 13 uses a 5nm process.
If the A16 ends up being made with a 5nm process, it’ll be the third year in a row with the same process, something that’s never happened to iPhone before.
Maybe Mac and iPhone chips affected, too
The iPhone 14 might not be the only device affected by this change. TSMC’s 3nm production problems, if real, will also likely affect Mac and iPad processors.
All Apple computers use variations of the same processor cores. For example, the M1 Mac/iPad chip uses the same processor cores as the A14. This raises the possibility that the M2 processor, also expected in 2022, might also have too be made with a 4nm process.
That said, production for the A16 isn’t expected to begin for months, as the iPhone 14 almost certainly won‘t launch before autumn of 2022. The M2 is likely just as far away. That gives TSMC time to hopefully work out any problems.