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Apple to use TSMC’s next 3-nm chip tech in iPhones and Macs next year

Apple aims to be the first company next year to use the latest version of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s latest chip-making technology, which it plans to use in some of its iPhones and Mac computers, he said. A source briefed on the matter told Nikkei Asia.

The A17 mobile processor, currently in development, will be mass-produced using TSMC’s N3E chip manufacturing technology and will be available in the second half of next year, according to three people familiar with the matter. The A17 is slated to be used in his premium entry into the iPhone lineup due for release in 2023.

N3E is an upgrade to TSMC’s current 3-nanometer manufacturing technology and is just getting started. Started using this yearApple’s next-generation M3 chip for Mac products is also set to use the upgraded 3nm technology, two sources added.

Nanometer size refers to the distance between transistors on a chip. Fewer numbers allow more transistors to be packed into a chip, making them more powerful, but more difficult and costly to manufacture.

At a recent tech symposium in Hsinchu, Taiwan, TSMC said the N3E offers better performance and energy efficiency than the first version of the technology. Industry sources say the upgraded production technology is designed to be more cost-effective than its predecessor.

This article is Nikkei Asiais a global publication with a uniquely Asian perspective on politics, economics, business and international affairs. Our correspondents and outside commentators around the world share their views on Asia. And the Asia300 section details the 300 largest and fastest growing listed companies in 11 economies outside Japan.

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Apple, TSMC’s biggest customer and biggest driver of new semiconductor technology, remains its most loyal partner when it comes to adopting the latest chip technology. The US tech giant will be the first company to use his 3-nm technology in TSMC’s first generation, which will be used in some of its upcoming iPads, Nikkei Asia previously reported.

Intel previously told TSMC it hoped to secure 3nm production by this year or early next year and be among the first wave of Apple-like adopters, but has since delayed orders until at least 2024. three sources told Nikkei Asia. .

However, 2023 could see Apple using TSMC’s cutting-edge chip-making technology for the second year in a row for only a portion of its iPhone lineup. In 2022, only the premium iPhone 14 Pro series will feature the latest A16 core processor manufactured by TSMC’s 4nm process technology. The standard iPhone 14 series uses the older A15 that was used in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro models released in late 2021.

On the other hand, semiconductor manufacturers are competing to develop more advanced production technologies than ever before. TSMC and Samsung each hope to mass-produce his 3nm technology first this year. This technology is suitable for all types of central and graphics processors used in smartphones, computers, servers, and artificial intelligence computing.

Meanwhile, according to SemiAnalysis chief analyst Dylan Patel, Apple is likely to introduce significant differences between its premium and non-premium models using varying levels of production technology. . The biggest difference so far has been the screen and camera, but this could be expanded to include processors and memory chips, he said.

Analysts estimate that moving from the 5 nm family, which includes 4 nm chips, to 3 nm chips will see at least a 40% cost increase for the same area of ​​silicon.

TSMC, Intel and Apple declined to comment.

Version of this article was first published in Nikkei Asia on September 14, 2022. ©2022 Nikkei Inc. All rights reserved.

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