Apple aims to be the first company to use an updated version of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s latest chip-making technology next year, with plans to adopt it for some of its iPhones and Mac computers, Apple said. to Nikkei Asia informed sources on this subject.
The A17 mobile processor currently in development will be mass-produced using TSMC’s N3E chip fabrication technology, which is expected to be available in the second half of next year, according to three people familiar with the matter. The A17 will be used in the premium entry to the iPhone lineup due for release in 2023, they said.
N3E is an upgraded version of TSMC’s current 3-nanometer production technology, which only begins to be used this year. The next generation of Apple’s M3 chip for its Mac offerings is also expected to use the upgraded 3nm technology, two sources added.
Nanosize refers to the distance between transistors on a chip. The smaller the number, the more transistors can be squeezed onto a chip, making them more powerful but also more difficult and expensive to produce.
N3E will provide better performance and power efficiency than the first version of the technology, TSMC said at a recent technology symposium in Hsinchu, Taiwan. Industry sources said the improved production technology is also designed to be more cost effective than its predecessor.
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As TSMC’s largest customer and primary driver of new semiconductor technologies, Apple remains its most trusted partner when it comes to embracing the latest chip technology. The US tech giant will be the first to use TSMC’s first-generation 3nm technology, using it for some of its upcoming iPads, Nikkei Asia reported earlier.
Earlier, Intel told TSMC it wanted to secure 3nm production by this year or early next year to be part of the first wave of adopters like Apple, but it has since postponed orders. to at least 2024, three people told Nikkei Asia. .
However, 2023 could mark the second year in a row that Apple has only used TSMC’s most advanced chip manufacturing technology for part of its iPhone lineup. In 2022, only the premium iPhone 14 Pro line adopted the latest A16 central processor, which is produced by TSMC’s most advanced 4nm process technologies available today. The standard iPhone 14 line uses the older A15, which was used in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro models released in the second half of 2021.
Meanwhile, the race is on among chipmakers to deploy ever more advanced production technologies. TSMC and Samsung each hope to be the first to put 3nm technology into mass production this year. This technology is suitable for all types of central and graphics processors for smartphones, computers and servers, as well as those used in artificial intelligence computing.
Apple, meanwhile, will likely use the different levels of production technology to introduce greater differences between its premium and non-premium models, according to Dylan Patel, chief analyst at SemiAnalysis. Previously, the biggest differences were in displays and cameras, but that could be expanded to include processors and memory chips, he said.
According to the analyst’s estimate, there is a cost increase of at least 40% for the same silicon area when moving to 3nm chips from the 5nm family, which includes 4nm chips.
TSMC, Intel and Apple declined to comment.
A version of this article was first published by Nikkei Asia on September 14, 2022. ©2022 Nikkei Inc. All Rights Reserved
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