Apple Expected to Use TSMC's Advanced 5nm+ and 4nm Technologies for Future iPhone Chips, Likely Macs Too

While the A14 Bionic chip in iPhone 12 models was the first chip in the smartphone industry to be manufactured based on a 5nm process, Apple and its chipmaking partner TSMC are reportedly pushing ahead on even smaller nodes.

a14 bionic chip video
Taiwanese research firm TrendForce today reported that Apple plans to use TSMC's next-generation 5nm+ process for the A15 chip in 2021 iPhones. TSMC's website says the 5nm+ process, which it refers to as N5P, is the "performance-enhanced version" of its 5nm process that will deliver additional power efficiency and performance improvements.

Looking farther ahead, TrendForce believes it is highly likely that the A16 chip in 2022 iPhones will be manufactured based on TSMC's future 4nm process, paving the way for further improvements to performance, power efficiency, and density.

These continued process advancements should result in future iPhones continuing to provide industry-leading performance among smartphones, while the power efficiency gains could contribute to longer battery life. And considering that TSMC also manufactures Apple Silicon chips, including the 5nm-based M1 chip, these process advancements will likely extend to Apple's chips in future Macs — perhaps an "M1X" or "M2" chip or so forth.

Rumors suggest that future Apple Silicon Macs will include new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with an all-new form factor as early as Q2 2021, in addition to a redesigned 24-inch iMac and a smaller version of the Mac Pro.

Related Roundup: iPhone 13
Buyer's Guide: iPhone 13 (Don't Buy)
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Top Rated Comments

ohbrilliance Avatar
23 months ago

Also water is wet.
Water is not wet. It makes other things wet by sticking to it.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pjoh7 Avatar
23 months ago
This is revolutionary. The reason 5 nm took so long is because traditional 193 nm ArFi DUV lithography (the process by which light is used to pattern wafers using photoresist) needed multiple patterning to achieve 10 nm. Now that EUV, which has been in development by ASML for over 25 years is finally ready, we can finally scale down to sub 7 nm, without the need for multiple patterning. Even more exciting is when ASML will release their high-NA EUV tools next year, we'll be seeing bigger jumps and node shrinks.

ASML is one of the most important companies on planet earth now, and few even know it exists.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Vanilla35 Avatar
23 months ago
M2 chip here we come! My future mac :D
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmaier Avatar
23 months ago

I’m curious, how far can they go with shrinking nodes? Is sub-nanometer a thing? If it isn’t, how does the industry move on from silicon?
Yes, they can go sub-nanometer. They can keep going until quantum effects prevent the ability to shut of the transistor gate. As they get smaller they will modify the gate geometries (which they’ve already done once, when they moved to FINFETs instead of MOSFETs) in order to provide a stronger electrical field to shut off the gate. At some point they may have to go to vertical transistors, like bipolar devices, where the layer thicknesses are the critical dimensions (since those are easier to control). At the point where they can finally go no further, they may have to switch to semiconductors with heterojunctions (e.g. GaAs or InP) in order to increase carrier mobility without shrinking the gates further. Or they can use bandgap engineering with silicon (which already occurs - most process now use germanium to modify the bandgap).

It will be quite awhile before things hit a dead end.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
=Alb= Avatar
23 months ago

I’m curious, how far can they go with shrinking nodes? Is sub-nanometer a thing? If it isn’t, how does the industry move on from silicon?
I remember many years ago, when maybe they where at 120nm, that the physical limit was supposed to be around 8-10nm. I don't know what to believe today. A silicon atom is 0.2 nm.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KPOM Avatar
23 months ago
The M1 is just the beginning. I see a bright future for Apple Silicon Macs.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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