Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, a company that has fabricated the A-series chips in Apple’s iPhones and iPads for years, has officially started volume production of chips using its next-gen 7nm process. Anandtech says that TSMC president C.C.Wei formally announced the news on a conference call with financial analysts last week, corroborating a report from Digitimes that indicated the same thing.
Although Apple keeps its manufacturing contracts strictly secret, it’s widely believed that TSMC’s first 7nm chip production run will be the A12 processor that Apple will use in its 2018 iPhones. Moving to a 7nm process is a big step forwards for mobile computing, allowing better efficiency and more power in the same-sized processor.
Anandtech‘s report suggests that moving to a 7nm process (from the current 10nm process) “will enable chip designers to shrink their die sizes by 70% (at the same transistor count), drop power consumption by 60%, or increase frequency by 30% (at the same complexity).” Assuming those numbers are correct, that means that we can expect this year’s A12 processor to be significantly faster and more power-efficient than the A11 chip found in 2017’s iPhones.
The size of Apple’s orders have historically enabled it to get top priority from manufacturers, which explains why Apple will be the first to take advantage of the new 7nm process, which will translate into tangible benefits in its new phones. Apple’s legendary design is often quoted as the reason why its devices outperform the competitors, but the real truth is that volume and scale allow it to take advantage of new technologies cheaper and sooner than its competitors, which enables the company to keep its competitive edge. Qualcomm, the chip designer that supplies the bulk of processors for high-end Android phones, is not expected to have its 7nm chip in consumer devices until later this year, or potentially 2019.