ARM, TSMC partner on 7nm manufacturing process possibly destined for 2018 'iPhone 8'

in iPhone
Apple chip manufacturer TSMC is reportedly partnering with chip design firm ARM on a new, 7-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process, likely to be used in producing iPhone and iPad processors within the next few years.

The technology should enter early production in 2017, The Register said. It may take some time to scale into mass production on a level a company like Apple requires. Notably, the companies are hoping that 7-nanometer chips will be used not just in smartphones and tablets, but in network and datacenter hardware.

Apple's current A9 processors are ARM-based designs using either 14- or 16-nanometer production, depending on whether they're built by Samsung or TSMC, respectively. TSMC is expected to start rolling out 10-nanometer parts later this year, though probably not on a scale necessary for this year's flagship iPhones, which should arrive in September. Instead they may continue to use 16-nanometer chips.

Shrinking processor circuitry allows device makers to increase performance and power effiency without losing internal design space.

The earliest possible Apple product that could sport a 7-nanometer chip is likely an "iPhone 8" in 2018. The company might have to settle for a 10-nanometer design, depending on TSMC's progress.

There is also no guarantee that TSMC will remain an Apple supplier, as it was only brought into A-series manufacturing a few years ago. Reports have suggested, though, that TSMC may be the sole producer of "A10" chips for 2016 iPhones.


  • Reply 1 of 6
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 32,949member
    I don't know how it would be possible to see 7nm production in 2018. Where does this come from? TSMC is on 16nm for the second year, which is expected. We see 2 years of production from a new process size. The second is a more refined process, which is what we'll be seeing this year. 

    In 2017, likely late 2017, we'll see their new process shrink, which might be 10nm, but may be 12nm, or so. To move from 16nm to 10nm would be a big leap, as TSMC is a mid process house, that is, their step is always about a half step behind. But even if we do see 10nm in mid to late 2017, that would mean that 7nm wouldn't come until sometime mid to late 2019, assuming there aren't more problems.

    I just don't see this in 2018. That doesn't seem possible.

    And, in addition, while FinFet made 22nm work, and is essential for 14nm and 10nm, 7nm is the last shrink in which it will work, and it will be very difficult. There is no known step beyond that for another shrink beyond 7nm. That could be it.
  • Reply 2 of 6
    mtbnutmtbnut Posts: 197member
    Apple stock will take a hit tomorrow, as pundits and analysts were expecting 6.9nm for 2018.
  • Reply 3 of 6
    Semiwiki has a good synopsis. TSMC is aggressively developing the new nodes and plan on taking 70% of the FinFet chip market this year, essentially leaving Intel in the dust. 

    10 nm is being taped out now. It isn't totally inconceivable to see TSMC delivering a 7 nm product in late 2018. 

    Apparently, TSMC is developing two separate processes, one for mobile and one for high performance CPUs. While the speculation seems to be that other companies may be looking at the high performance, node, I have a suspicion that Apple itself might be introducing a high performance desktop class ARM CPU in the not too distant future. 

    Taking on Intel in high performance CPUs is no small matter and TSMC wouldn't be developing a separate process for a theoretical "server" market. I have a strong suspicion that Apple will be utilizing the high performance process. 

    We could potentially be seeing something very special coming out in the not too distant future. It is pure speculation on my part, but I will be the first in line to purchase an ARM powered Mac. I have no interest in another machine with an expensive, power hungry chip with pitiful GPU performance. 

    Just wait until those Nvidia and AMD GPUs are manufactured in the 16 nm, 10 nm and 7 nm TSMC nodes. Intel is about to take it in the shorts and in major fashion. 
  • Reply 4 of 6
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Seems TSMC has recovered the blow Samsung gave them a few years back (possibly through espionage seemingly).

    My feeling is that that Apple will be making a ARM laptop within two years.
    They've been screwed by Intel for far too long and the only reason Apple is not able to completely kick the Surface's ass is because relying
    on Intel makes them too much on an equal footing with others in the market (they can't differentiate from others through integration).;

    They need to work on their software more than their hardware to get there.
    The Ipad Pro is basically a test run for this future device which will really hurt Intel. Apple is buying a lot of Intel's most expensive chips.
    edited March 2016 brakken
  • Reply 5 of 6
    jony0jony0 Posts: 342member
    foggyhill said:
    Seems TSMC has recovered the blow Samsung gave them a few years back (possibly through espionage seemingly).
    I remember vaguely that they simply poached the key designer who was now unhappy after being passed over for a promotion, or something like that, not sure.
Sign In or Register to comment.