The iPhone 6s is the fastest smartphone you can buy today, thanks to a combination of hardware innovation and software optimization. Driving performance is a fast and energy efficient chip, the Apple A9, built by TSMC and Samsung. But the future of the Apple chip – and all mobile chips that will power high-end Android handsets in the following year – is even brighter.
ARM and TSMC have announced a 10nm FinFET test chip that shows “impressive power and efficiency gains relative to TSMC’s 16FinFET+ process technology.” That chip will likely be the basis of the Apple processor that will power future iOS devices. The question is, will TSMC make the 10nm in time for the iPhone 7 launch? Or will we see it only in iPhone 7s (or iPhone 8) next year?
The 16nm/14nm A9 chip in the iPhone 6s is what allows Apple to both increase performance but also maintain battery life expectancy while introducing additional feature and keeping battery size virtually unchanged.
TSMC is also expected to mass-produce the A10 chip that’ll power the iPhone 7, but it’s not clear whether it’ll be a 10nm chip. Some reports in the past months claimed that TSMC is working on 10nm chips for Apple’s iPhone 7.
The final design of ARM’s first “multicore, 64-bit ARM v8-A” was completed in the fourth quarter of 2015, wit TSMC expected to provide 10nm silicon in April or May of 2016. Recent reports also claimed that Apple has started iPhone 7 production, at least a month earlier than in previous years. Successive rumors claimed that the iPhone 7 will be more complex to produce than its predecessors. Does that complexity include the 10nm chip that TSMC is developing?
Interestingly, in its announcement, ARM doesn’t specify any availability dates for the new 10nm chip. Given that Apple is rumored to have chosen TSMC over Samsung to make next-gen iPhone chip, with 10nm process technology being one of the factors, it might make sense to assume that Apple will be at the forefront of this next-gen mobile chip revolution.
The 10nm chip actually includes a yet-to-be-announced Artemis CPU core, AnandTech explains, which is a 4-core cluster. The new 10nm Artemis processor is expected to achieve 11-12% higher performance at each process’s respective nominal voltage, the tech site explains, or a 30% reduction in power usage at the same frequency. More specific details about the new ARM multicore 10nm mobile chip are available over at AnandTech.