Apple’s main chipset manufacturer and supplier, TSMC, has reportedly begun the trials of its 3nm chipset, rekindling the speculation that next year’s iPhone 14 will use the new process on the A16 processor. A pilot production of tapeouts will mean the foundry may be on track to mass produce the 3nm chipsets next year. And reportedly, that should happen after the first half of 2022. So, there is still a chance that the iPhone 14 will use the next chip fabrication technology.
DigiTimes has reported, citing industry sources, that the trial production of the 3nm chipsets has now begun. This is good news considering previous reports hinted at some teething problems in kicking off the production. But those were just reports with no confirmation from TSMC. The only official statement that TSMC gave was back in April during its quarterly earnings call where it said the tapeouts of the 3nm chips might arrive in Q4 2021.
The timespan between the low-yield risk production and mass production or the shipping of chips to smartphone makers is usually up to a year, so there is no way the chips will be available for assembly before the first half of 2022. That sparks some hope for the Apple A16 chipset that will likely power next year’s iPhone and top-end iPad. However, the analysts are largely divisive about this schedule.
The Information previously reported that 3nm chipsets would arrive on an Apple product, such as the iPhone, iPad, or Mac, in 2023 despite some rumours that say the iPhone 14 would use the 3nm chipset. If the latter turns out to be true, considering TSMC seems on track to follow its roadmap for the 3nm chipsets, Apple may actually be able to gather more positive feedback from customers. Apple introduced the 5nm chipset with last year’s iPhone 12, while the iPhone 13 uses the same process.
Apple’s plan to phase out Intel chipsets with better in-house chipsets will rely on how TSMC manages to fast-track the production of the 3nm chipsets. But Apple will not be alone. TSMC has other customers for its 3nm chipsets, too, such as Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm. Since Intel will need the technology, Apple will try to keep TSMC’s production line reserved for iPhone and Mac chipsets.
In any case, the low-yield risk production of 3nm chipsets cannot guarantee that the mass production will begin ahead of the launch of the iPhone 14. And in such a situation, Apple will have to go ahead with the 5nm process on its next A16 chipset that will power the iPhone 14.