2018’s iPhones and iPads could use a pretty powerful new processor architecture. Apple manufacturer TSMC is reportedly on track to deliver the first prototypes chips using a 7nm architecture in the second quarter of 2017. Following the delivery of prototypes, the manufacturer will then be ready to enter full production in early 2018.
At this point, production is dependent on the completion of “Tape Out,” which is the last step in developing these new chips. During that process, the photo-mask of a chip is completed, and is then ready to be sent to a production plant.
TSMC isn’t the only manufacturer slated to produce the Apple-designed chips. Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Xilinx will all help produce Apple’s chips for 2018. TSMC is said to already have 15 customers for chips using the 7nm process, but it may be looking for as many as 20, according to reports.
So why shrink a chip’s die down? Well, a chip with a smaller die size consumes less power, meaning that less heat is generated, permitting a better performance per watt. So with the same amount of power applied, a chip can perform better with a smaller die.
The news comes shortly after delays were reported from TSMC in the production of 10nm chips, an issue that some speculated could lead to delays in the launch of the iPhone 8. TSMC refuted the claims that it was experiencing delays, and has since said that the 10nm process is totally on track, and that it would make up less than 1 percent of its revenue in the first quarter of 2017, despite orders from the likes of Apple and Qualcomm.
TSMC won’t stop at a 7nm process — it will begin production of chips with a 5nm process at some point in 2019, and is expected to start delivering chips with a 3nm process by 2022.