Apple might be designing the A10 Fusion chip that goes into the iPhone 7, but it’s TSMC that manufactures it for the company, and the Taiwanese giant is rumored to be the only supplier of iPhone 8 chips next year. TSMC is fighting for the lucrative Apple deal with Samsung — the two shared A9 chip production for the iPhone 6s last year — and seems committed to keeping Apple as a client. To do so, TSMC is ready to invest almost $16 billion in new facilities that will build the chips of the future, and which should help Apple make the iPhone even better.
Next year, Apple is rumored to have a TSMC-produced A11 processor inside the iPhone 8, built on 10nm process technology. TSMC’s competitors including Samsung will also manufacture 10nm chips that will go into iPhone 8 rivals next year, including the Galaxy S8 and other high-end mobile devices.
But TSMC confirmed it’s already looking to develop 5nm and 3nm chips in the future.
“We’re asking the government to help us find a plot that is large enough and has convenient access so we can build an advanced chip plant to manufacture 5-nanometer and 3nm chips,” TSMC’s Elizabeth Sun told Nikkei Asian Review. The company said on Wednesday that it wants to build a $15.7 billion facility in the country, where these advanced mobile chips will be used.
TSMC is looking to start 10nm chips production in early 2017. The new facility will start mass-producing 5nm and 3nm chips as early as 2022, so there’s plenty of waiting for such mobile components.
After 10nm, TSMC, and its rivals are looking to manufacture 7nm chips that should be used in future iPhone and Android devices.
The smaller the process, the faster and more energy efficient the chips are, so it’s likely that Apple and other handset and tablet makers will look towards TSMC, Intel, Samsung, and other chip manufacturers for more advanced chip designs.
“We are now on 10nm node, but we can’t comment what we are going to do in the future… We will continue to evaluate, and when there is an advantage, we will do it,” Qualcomm senior vice president Raj Talluri said in a press conference in Taipei on Wednesday.
Samsung will make Qualcomm’s 10nm chips for next year, including the Snapdragon 835 that will power the Galaxy S8. But Qualcomm is said to have hired TSMC to make a 7nm chip in the future. These chips are set to arrive in the first quarter of 2018.
Nikkei also points out that Intel will start making 10nm chips in the second half of 2017 and Samsung will make 7nm chips in late 2018. Intel and Samsung are yet to announce plans to develop 5nm and 3nm chips down the road.
Aside from the iPhone, TSMC is also targeting other types of products, including AI, machine learning, and self-driving cars which will require powerful chips in the future.