Apple's 'A12' chip reportedly in production using 7nm process from TSMC

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2018
Chip producer TSMC may enjoy its highest profits this year for production of the next-generation "A12" processor, with a report claiming the manufacturer is ramping up volume production on its 7nm process lines in order to cope with the orders for the Apple-designed chip destined for 2018 iPhone models.

tsmc factory


Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is about to start fulfilling orders for A12 processors using its 7-nanometer production process, according to sources of DigiTimes. The 7-nanometer chip would be the first A-series design to use the process, shrinking the die size down from the 10-nanometer process used to produce the A11 Bionic, used in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.

The act of shrinking the die offers a number of performance improvements and other benefits, all by increasing the density of the chip to fit more transistors into a smaller space. For consumers, this typically includes a reduction in power usage that can help increase battery life, lower heat production, and boost processing capacity.

Manufacturers, like TSMC, stand to benefit from being able to produce more chips per wafer, in theory reducing the cost of production on a per-chip basis.

TSMC is reportedly the sole producer of A12 chips, after apparently securing all of orders for the component from Apple earlier this year. Samsung was rumored to be competing with TSMC for A12 production, but it is thought TSMC's technological edge in 7-nanometer production helped it acquire all of the available orders over its chip-production rival.

The chip producer previously lowered its revenue growth forecast for 2018 from between 10 percent and 15 percent to just 10 percent, citing weaker smartphone demand in the second quarter and uncertainty in the cryptocurrency markets. In terms of revenue, the report source believes the firm will see 20 percent of its earnings in 2018 derived from 7nm processes, which could help the company post better-than-projected revenues and profit in the second half of the year.

While Apple is a major customer for TSMC, it is also expecting to enjoy high revenues from orders made by other firms. Chip production for Qualcomm will apparently take place later this year as well, which will help increase TSMC's revenue ratio for the smartphone segment to hit a high of 40 percent this year.

It is believed TSMC is also preparing to future-proof its production lines in anticipation of other chip-shrinking developments. TSMC is said to be preparing to start construction on a 5-nanometer facility this year, while a 3-nanometer factory may begin construction in 2020.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    brakkenbrakken Posts: 677member
    Good-bye Samsung :D I'm very impressed with how quickly TSMC went from unheard-of to top-of-the-line. It is a testament to their resourcefulness. It's also a clear illustration of SS's shortsightedness! If only LG could get their act together with displays, but I think Japan Display would be the better alternative. If they survive the year.
    netmage1983racerhomie3acejax805jony0
  • Reply 2 of 39
    I’m wondering whether die shrinking will see the same end as the MHz race - feels quite likely to me. And the big question is: What’s next? While race will be on next for the years to come?
  • Reply 3 of 39
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,462member
    I’m wondering whether die shrinking will see the same end as the MHz race - feels quite likely to me. And the big question is: What’s next? While race will be on next for the years to come?
    The other side of this is that Apple can afford to fab larger die for iPhone and iPad, an advantage of the higher ASP the iPhone generates, and fine tune the design in synergy with iOS and ecosystem.

    A virtuous cycle of iPhone marketing and development.
    netmage2old4funjony0
  • Reply 4 of 39
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,706member
    Wait one damned minute! Weren’t we just treated to a gloom and doom report saying TSMC was lowering its revenue estimates by $1 BILLION because iPhone sales have collapsed into the toilet. Now this article says, “Chip producer TSMC may enjoy its highest profits this year for production of the A12 processor...” What am I supposed to believe? The gloom and doom article caused AAPL to tank overnight. Wall Street apparently believes it’s all over for Apple. I’m getting really tired of this Yin and Yang horse manure. 

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/04/19/apple-shares-drop-on-iphone-chipmaker-tsmc-forecasting-1b-less-in-revenue


    edited April 2018 rob53chabigRayz2016propod1983anton zuykovacejax805jony0
  • Reply 5 of 39
    7nm is going be quite a massive improvement in terms of energy efficiency and to a lesser degree, on more power!  Even with OLED screens and more RAM inside, overall, it should be cooler inside the A12 chassis.
    edited April 2018
  • Reply 6 of 39
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,736member
    lkrupp said:
    Wait one damned minute! Weren’t we just treated to a gloom and doom report saying TSMC was lowering its revenue estimates by $1 BILLION because iPhone sales have collapsed into the toilet. Now this article says, “Chip producer TSMC may enjoy its highest profits this year for production of the A12 processor...” What am I supposed to believe? The gloom and doom article caused AAPL to tank overnight. Wall Street apparently believes it’s all over for Apple. I’m getting really tired of this Yin and Yang horse manure. 

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/04/19/apple-shares-drop-on-iphone-chipmaker-tsmc-forecasting-1b-less-in-revenue


    The revenue estimates were for the second quarter based on forecasts for the A11.  The higher profits are for the year based on forecasts for the A12.

    Both can be true.
    cropr1983caladanian
  • Reply 7 of 39
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,808member
    Is this marketing hype or in fact TSMC able to move to true 7nm chip node fabrication ? If true than impressive.
  • Reply 8 of 39
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,988member
    crowley said:
    lkrupp said:
    Wait one damned minute! Weren’t we just treated to a gloom and doom report saying TSMC was lowering its revenue estimates by $1 BILLION because iPhone sales have collapsed into the toilet. Now this article says, “Chip producer TSMC may enjoy its highest profits this year for production of the A12 processor...” What am I supposed to believe? The gloom and doom article caused AAPL to tank overnight. Wall Street apparently believes it’s all over for Apple. I’m getting really tired of this Yin and Yang horse manure. 

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/04/19/apple-shares-drop-on-iphone-chipmaker-tsmc-forecasting-1b-less-in-revenue


    The revenue estimates were for the second quarter based on forecasts for the A11.  The higher profits are for the year based on forecasts for the A12.

    Both can be true.
    And both can be false. The problem is AAPL continues to be the most manipulated stock ever. It used to be the stock market was a way to grow an investment, now it's simply another way to gamble--win some lose some but in the end someone always wins. Killing AAPL because someone says TSMC is lowering its revenue estimates doesn't necessarily mean they are or it's only because of Apple supposedly doing or not doing something. 

    When I see a headline for a news article (and I use that term loosely) that says, Apple stock may fall on 'materially' weaker iPhone sales, but then it is time to buy" my statement about manipulation is correct. Hammer a stock with potentially false or degrading information so it goes down, then buy and watch it rebound. Classic case of stock manipulation.
    edited April 2018 chabiglkruppracerhomie3acejax805
  • Reply 9 of 39
    thrangthrang Posts: 760member
    crowley said:
    lkrupp said:
    Wait one damned minute! Weren’t we just treated to a gloom and doom report saying TSMC was lowering its revenue estimates by $1 BILLION because iPhone sales have collapsed into the toilet. Now this article says, “Chip producer TSMC may enjoy its highest profits this year for production of the A12 processor...” What am I supposed to believe? The gloom and doom article caused AAPL to tank overnight. Wall Street apparently believes it’s all over for Apple. I’m getting really tired of this Yin and Yang horse manure. 

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/04/19/apple-shares-drop-on-iphone-chipmaker-tsmc-forecasting-1b-less-in-revenue


    The revenue estimates were for the second quarter based on forecasts for the A11.  The higher profits are for the year based on forecasts for the A12.

    Both can be true.

    But only one will tell the more truthful in a larger-picture context. The manipulation of AAPL is grotesque at times...
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 10 of 39
    croprcropr Posts: 904member
    rob53 said:
    crowley said:
    lkrupp said:
    Wait one damned minute! Weren’t we just treated to a gloom and doom report saying TSMC was lowering its revenue estimates by $1 BILLION because iPhone sales have collapsed into the toilet. Now this article says, “Chip producer TSMC may enjoy its highest profits this year for production of the A12 processor...” What am I supposed to believe? The gloom and doom article caused AAPL to tank overnight. Wall Street apparently believes it’s all over for Apple. I’m getting really tired of this Yin and Yang horse manure. 

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/04/19/apple-shares-drop-on-iphone-chipmaker-tsmc-forecasting-1b-less-in-revenue


    The revenue estimates were for the second quarter based on forecasts for the A11.  The higher profits are for the year based on forecasts for the A12.

    Both can be true.
    And both can be false. The problem is AAPL continues to be the most manipulated stock ever. It used to be the stock market was a way to grow an investment, now it's simply another way to gamble--win some lose some but in the end someone always wins. Killing AAPL because someone says TSMC is lowering its revenue estimates doesn't necessarily mean they are or it's only because of Apple supposedly doing or not doing something. 

    When I see a headline for a news article (and I use that term loosely) that says, Apple stock may fall on 'materially' weaker iPhone sales, but then it is time to buy" my statement about manipulation is correct. Hammer a stock with potentially false or degrading information so it goes down, then buy and watch it rebound. Classic case of stock manipulation.
    The first one isn't false.  TSMC issued a press release that they are expecting a lower Q2 due to weakening smartphone business.  Whether this lower Q2 is due to lower A11 volumes or not has not been said explicitly but it is the only reasonable explanation.  No other smartphone vendor has enough business with TSMC to explain the projected drop of sales
    edited April 2018
  • Reply 11 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,381member
    I’m wondering whether die shrinking will see the same end as the MHz race - feels quite likely to me. And the big question is: What’s next? While race will be on next for the years to come?
    I’m very sceptical of 3nm. Even 5 nm is thought, in a number of chip engineering research groups to be just 50/50.
    netmage
  • Reply 12 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,381member

    tmay said:
    I’m wondering whether die shrinking will see the same end as the MHz race - feels quite likely to me. And the big question is: What’s next? While race will be on next for the years to come?
    The other side of this is that Apple can afford to fab larger die for iPhone and iPad, an advantage of the higher ASP the iPhone generates, and fine tune the design in synergy with iOS and ecosystem.

    A virtuous cycle of iPhone marketing and development.
    And that is a major advantage Apple has. Estimates of chip cost from Microprocessor Reports is that Apple new chips each year cost between $34-38, whereas the top chips for Android cost between $24-28. That’s a whopping difference..
  • Reply 13 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,381member

    wood1208 said:
    Is this marketing hype or in fact TSMC able to move to true 7nm chip node fabrication ? If true than impressive.
    Ah, well... the problem is that none of these processes are truly what they are called anymore. Intel’s is the closest. These other manufacturers are hedging their numbers. The ability to lay down a 7nm line doesn’t mean that transistor density will equal a 7nm process. It’s more likely that it’s closer to a real 10-12nm process in density.

    but last year, estimated for Apple’s SoC density was well over what the indistry was doing, including that of other TSMC customers. Apple has been spending a whale of a lot of,money in recent years in basic chip technology. It’s possible they’ve got some proprietary tech used only for their own chips.
  • Reply 14 of 39
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,019member
    TSMC 7nm is looking great. Either 60% lower power at the same performance, or 40% added clock speed overhead. Excited for it with Zen+ and Navi on the PS5 as well. 5-7x the CPU performance and 11-14tflops on the GPU is my guess, looking at Ryzen + IPC and clock speed (assuming 3GHz with the lowered power of 7nm). 

    It's hard for me to believe following this space most of my life, but we're upon the convergence with Intel foundries. Even though the naming is still whack, 7nm brings them in line with Intel 10nm.  By 2020 it should be even more even, which bodes well for an ARM Apple in house Macbook switch...
    edited April 2018 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 15 of 39
    19831983 Posts: 1,154member
    In just a few years time we’re likely going to start moving to sub-nanometer transistors...I wonder if that’ll cause some technical headaches?
    edited April 2018
  • Reply 16 of 39
    dinoonedinoone Posts: 55member
    The A12 will be the first microprocessor family to incorporate hardware-level patches to Meltdown & Spectre vulnerabilities

    There is another major advantage for Apple in the TSMC-made A12: it will be the first family of processors, with various speed and internal L2 cache size depending on the final use, incorporating hardware-level patches to Meltdown & Spectre vulnerabilities and to Xerub full decryption key for Apple's Secure Enclave Processor (SEP) firmware.

    Therefore all the 2018 iPhones and all 2018 releases of A-chip based Apple devices, namely iPads, iPods touch, Apple TVs, HomePods, etc., if they deploy a version of the A12, will be the first in each field to incorporate hardware-level patches to Meltdown & Spectre vulnerabilities, therefore promising a much higher level of privacy and security then its competitors as a selling point.

    To the point of making Apple the first hardware provider in 2018 to pass the new security thresholds imposed by large organizations (incl. governments) when sourcing digital technology after the Meltdown & Spectre vulnerabilities exposures. But it's clear that Apple cannot emphasize this now or else it would jeopardize current sales.

    Such a step would be economically prohibitive for most low-profit smartphone makers which, btw, cannot make their own chips (except one or two) and cannot effort to deploy a truly current chip throughout all their models.

    Btw, when the iPhone SE was introduced in 2013, it included the same A9 processor of the top-of-the-line iPhone 6 just introduced. The inclusion of an A11 or, better still, an A12 in the forthcoming iPhone SE2 would be coherent to what Apple did in 2013.
    edited April 2018 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 17 of 39
    melgross said:

    wood1208 said:
    Is this marketing hype or in fact TSMC able to move to true 7nm chip node fabrication ? If true than impressive.
    Ah, well... the problem is that none of these processes are truly what they are called anymore. Intel’s is the closest. These other manufacturers are hedging their numbers. The ability to lay down a 7nm line doesn’t mean that transistor density will equal a 7nm process. It’s more likely that it’s closer to a real 10-12nm process in density.

    but last year, estimated for Apple’s SoC density was well over what the indistry was doing, including that of other TSMC customers. Apple has been spending a whale of a lot of,money in recent years in basic chip technology. It’s possible they’ve got some proprietary tech used only for their own chips.
    When we talk about a 7nm die, etc. what exactly is being measured?  Obviously 7nm is significantly smaller than 10nm, but what does this mean?
  • Reply 18 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,381member
    1983 said:
    In just a few years time we’re likely going to start moving to sub-nanometer transistors...I wonder if that’ll cause some technical headaches?
    Not possible.
  • Reply 19 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,381member

    dinoone said:
    The A12 will be the first microprocessor family to incorporate hardware-level patches to Meltdown & Spectre vulnerabilities

    There is another major advantage for Apple in the TSMC-made A12: it will be the first family of processors, with various speed and internal L2 cache size depending on the final use, incorporating hardware-level patches to Meltdown & Spectre vulnerabilities and to Xerub full decryption key for Apple's Secure Enclave Processor (SEP) firmware.

    Therefore all the 2018 iPhones and all 2018 releases of A-chip based Apple devices, namely iPads, iPods touch, Apple TVs, HomePods, etc., if they deploy a version of the A12, will be the first in each field to incorporate hardware-level patches to Meltdown & Spectre vulnerabilities, therefore promising a much higher level of privacy and security then its competitors as a selling point.

    To the point of making Apple the first hardware provider in 2018 to pass the new security thresholds imposed by large organizations (incl. governments) when sourcing digital technology after the Meltdown & Spectre vulnerabilities exposures. But it's clear that Apple cannot emphasize this now or else it would jeopardize current sales.

    Such a step would be economically prohibitive for most low-profit smartphone makers which, btw, cannot make their own chips (except one or two) and cannot effort to deploy a truly current chip throughout all their models.
    Perhaps the first mobile SoC family. Both and and Intel have announced they will have some solutions later this year.
  • Reply 20 of 39
    KITAKITA Posts: 160member
    I'm curious as to see if this pans out. A report earlier this month indicated Samsung completed development of their 7 nm process 6 months early. 

    Korean source - http://www.sedaily.com/NewsView/1RY509L5TV ;
    English source - https://www.gizmochina.com/2018/04/08/samsung-completes-7nm-process-development-6-months-early-may-be-used-on-snapdragon-855/

    The report also indicated that Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 would be using Samsung's 7nm process with an early 2019 release.
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