Apple has emerged as the first to adopt the next-generation chip production technology for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturer TSMC ahead of its deployment early next year. The development shows how TSMC continues to meet the ambitions of American companies in the field of chips, even as Washington attempts to bring more semiconductor production to the US mainland.
Apple is testing its chip designs using TSMC's 3-nanometer manufacturing technology, and commercial production of these chips is expected to begin in the second half of next year. Process size measures the distance between transistors across the chip. The smaller the number, the more advanced the chip. But also the more difficult and expensive it is to build.
As the process size decreases, the gaps between the transistors decrease. This generally results in a more energy-efficient design and higher performance. TSMC's 5nm process technology is the most advanced chip production technology used in consumer products and is used for all iPhone 12 processor chips.
According to TSMC, 3nm technology can increase computing performance by 10 to 15 percent compared to 5nm technology, while reducing power consumption by 25 to 30 percent.
Apple's iPad is likely to be the first device with processors made using 3nm technology.
Apple adopts 3nm processor
iPhone 14 devices are expected to use the 4nm medium technology for scheduling reasons.
This remains an improvement over the 5nm chip design seen in the iPhone 12. It is expected to appear in the iPhone 13 later this year.
In some previous years, Apple moved the same chip architecture layout to new process size. This is in order to deliver a more than 20 percent increase in efficiency and performance. With virtually no changes to the actual chip design itself.
In the future, Apple is supposed to adopt a 3-nanometer manufacturing process for all of its Apple Silicon chips. That includes iPhone, iPad, and Mac. However, getting started with an iPad first makes sense from a logistical perspective.
This year's Apple A15 chip based on a 5nm process is said to be in production and ready for the iPhone 13 launch in September or October.