Skip to main content

Production of 3nm chips for 2022 Apple devices to ramp up this year

Faster and more power-efficient chips are on track to launch next year. According to a new report, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC, is slated to begin production on a new 3nm process later this year, with volume production to commence in 2022.

The new 3nm chips could arrive in products like the A-series processors on Apple’s iPhones and iPads as well as the M series chipsets on new, next-generation Macs, including a MacBook Pro. This information corroborates earlier leaks suggesting that Apple could migrate its products to 3nm chips in 2022.

Get your weekly teardown of the tech behind PC gaming
Check your inbox!

Apple’s current M1 processor, found on the Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, is among the first to utilize a 5nm process, allowing the Cupertino, California tech giant to claim strong performance gains while extending battery life on mobile devices even further compared to older products based on processors from Intel.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Moving from the 5nm chipset today to a 3nm process next year could give new devices up to 30% better battery efficiency and 15% performance improvements compared to the M1 Macs. Apple already claims up to 20 hours of battery life on the 5nm-based M1-powered 13-inch MacBook Pro today, for reference.

Because of Apple’s commitment to purchase silicon produced by TSMC’s fabs, the company has committed to expand manufacturing of its 3nm chips to 55,000 units in 2022, according to MacRumors, citing a paywalled DigiTimes report. And TSMC could scale the production rate even further to 105,000 units a month in 2023.

In addition to working on building out capacity for the next-generation 3nm process, TSMC is also making more 5nm wafers to meet global demand. The company plans to make 105,000 wafers for 5nm chips per month for the first half of 2021, up from 15,000 wafers monthly in the fourth quarter of last year. In the second half of the year, TSMC could expand to 120,000 wafers monthly and reach 160,000 wafers monthly by 2024, the same report noted. These chips not only serve Apple, but other clients including AMD, Marvell, Broadcom, and Qualcomm.

With TSMC expanding chip manufacturing capacity, there’s hope that shortages in the CPU and GPU space will begin to ease up, particularly with Ryzen processors and Radeon graphics from AMD, though this current silicon is based on a 7nm process. In addition to making processors and graphics cards for PCs, AMD also makes its chips available for consoles, so a boost in TSMC production yields could help keep the hard-to-find Microsoft Xbox Series X and Sony PlayStation 5 in stock on store shelves.

When it comes to the next-generation iPhone — referred to as the iPhone 13 series according to current leaks — Apple could be using an enhanced 5nm node called 5nm+. The N5P node could help Apple squeeze additional efficiency and performance out of the 5nm node before it transitions to 3nm. It’s believed, however, that Apple could use a 4nm node from TSMC before migrating to 3nm.

Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
Apple has a bunch of new products coming, but not this year
Tim Cook Apple Unleashed

Apple may have a lot coming our way in 2023, if the latest rumors are to be believed. We could see everything from a 15-inch MacBook Air to an M3 iMac to a VR headset. While this is exciting, it may mean that the end of the year will be left more bare, with no Apple event scheduled for October.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman dropped the report about the apparent lack of an Apple event in his weekly newsletter, Power On, over the weekend. Gurman is considered a highly accurate source for reports on future Apple products, so when he says there will be no Apple event next month, you can depend on it.

Read more
Apple’s A17 chip could have a huge 3nm upgrade, but only for some iPhones
Camera array of the iPhone 14 Pro

With the introduction of new smartphones at the Far Out event earlier this month, Apple set the stage for a nasty surprise. The company kept the next-generation A16 Bionic processor limited to the pricier iPhone 14 Pro models, while the vanilla iPhone 14 was restricted to the same A15 Bionic chip as the iPhone 13 quartet. If you felt stung by the controversial product decision, there’s more bad news.

According to Nikkei Asia, Apple has locked TSMC’s upgraded 3nm fabrication technology for designing the next-gen A17 Bionic. Work on the next-gen A-series processor has already begun at Apple, but once again, the upgraded smartphone chip will be limited to only the Pro models in the iPhone 15 series that will debut a year from now.

Read more
This reliable leaker has some bad news about Apple’s M2 Pro chips
A digital illustration of the Apple M2 chip with a blue and purple color scheme.

We previously reported on rumors of Apple's upcoming M2 Pro chip using TSMC's 3nm processes this fall, but it seems those rumors were wrong. Reliable sources now say Apple is sticking with 5nm processes for the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips.

The first report comes from reliable industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who posted several leaks on Twitter yesterday. He said the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros with M2 chips will keep their current 5nm processes, with mass production slated for late 2022.

Read more