Regardless of how you feel about the “boring” iPhone 7 design, it’s more than likely the next-gen iPhone series will offer an amazing mobile experience. Under-the-hood changes including processors and RAM could make the iPhone 7 faster than ever, and the device may sport a type of mobile processor that nobody else has. Sure, Apple’s next-gen A10 chip is probably going to be faster than its predecessor. That’s a given, considering Apple’s way of doing things. But the A10 might be the first one to be built on a 10nm process. Comparatively, the A9 and its rivals are made on 14/16nm tech.
TSMC is rumored to be the sole provider of A10 chips for the iPhone 7 series. Last year, the Taiwanese company shared A9 orders with Samsung, which sparked a Chipgate controversy soon after the iPhone 6s launched. Some tests showed the Samsung chip performed slightly worse than TSMC version, affecting battery life in the process. Apple quickly refuted those claims, and real life tests revealed that both A9 chips performed equally.
Meanwhile, a report from Digitimes says that Samsung and TSMC are going to compete in the 7nm process segment. Buried in the post is a tiny detail that indicates 10nm chips from TSMC might be ready for the iPhone 7 series this year. That would make the chip even faster and more energy efficient than its predecessor.
TSMC’s chairman Morris Chang told reporters that Samsung will be TSMC’s most important competitor in the 7nm processor business, while the relationship with Intel, also interested in 7nm processors, will be a complementary one.
The company’s co-CEO Mark Liu said at TSMC’s annual technology forum in May that the foundry’s 7nm process reached 30-40% yield for 128MB SRAM, and that it’ll be the first company to have its 7nm tech certified. TSMC will move 7nm process technology to risk production in 2017, and then to volume production in 2018.
But Liu also let it slip that 10nm process will hit volume production by 2017. TSMC did not reveal what companies it’s mass producing 10nm chips for, but it’s likely that Apple is one of its top clients.
Assuming that reports are correct about TSMC’s exclusive deal to manufacture the iPhone 7 processors this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Apple move its A10 processor to 10nm technology. It’s either that, or Apple would have to stick to the same tech used in the iPhone 6s, and find other ways to make the chip more powerful and efficient.