Kuo: TSMC roadmap indicates this year’s iPhone ‘A16’ chip will stick to a 5nm fab, same as A14 and A15
The official roadmap for TSMC’s silicon processes shows that its 3-nanometer and 4-nanometer fabs won’t be ready for full production until 2023, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo noted on Twitter today.
This is yet another sign that the A16 chip included with the iPhone 14 will continue to be manufactured using a 5-nanometer technology. Also, we think that the iPhone 14’s base versions will continue to employ the A15 chip, and only the higher-end models would have an A16 chip.
ShrimpApplePro already asserted this on Twitter.
The performance and power efficiency improvements that may be made for that generation are typically constrained by maintaining the same manufacturing level. While having the same 5nm node as the A14 chip, the A15 chip nonetheless provided respectable performance and efficiency gains of 10% over the A14 chip.
Kuo has often expressed pessimism about Apple’s roadmap for processor upgrades. Also, he has stated that the next MacBook Air, due to be unveiled this autumn, would continue to employ the same M1 processor as the outgoing model. It could take until the next year before the “M2” processor becomes quick and more sophisticated.
Of course, Apple could just modify the present processor slightly and give it a new moniker, say M2, to boost sales for promotional purposes.
The iPhone processor using the same process size for three years in a row is unusual. One important factor that has allowed Apple to continue to outperform the competition in terms of performance is the fact that its processors have historically been at the forefront of process node migrations. But, it appears that TSMC, Apple’s partner in chip silicon fabrication, is unable to push the technological envelope this year. This may be because of the continuous chip shortages.
Also, it doesn’t appear realistic that any other smartphone manufacturing facility will be able to provide sub-5nm fabrication this year.