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2021 iPhones will use enhanced 5nm chips; 2022 ones move to 4nm(ish)

Market intelligence firm TrendForce is out with a new report, in which it predicts that the A15 chip in Apple’s 2021 iPhones will stick with a 5nm process, but will move to an enhanced ‘5nm+’ version.

The A16 chip for the 2022 iPhones are expected to move to a 4nm process, though the company does add a rider to this …

TrendForce notes that Apple’s iPhone 12 models are so far the only smartphones to use TSMC’s advanced 5nm process capabilities.

With regards to the 5nm process technology, which is the most advanced node at the moment and which entered mass production in early 2020, Apple remains the sole client utilizing TSMC’s 5nm process after U.S. sanctions prohibited chip shipment to Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon.

It goes on to look at what it expects in the next couple of years.

Looking ahead to 2021, in addition to Apple’s 5nm+ wafer input for the A15 Bionic SoC, trial production will also kick off for a small batch of AMD 5nm Zen 4 CPUs […]

Furthermore, based on current data, Apple is highly likely to continue manufacturing its A16 SoCs with the 4nm process technology (a process shrink of the 5nm node).

TSMC refers to 5nm+ as N5P, and describes it as a performance-enhanced version which will combine greater power with improved power efficiency to improve battery-life (or, as might be more likely with Apple, permit smaller-capacity batteries).

The A16 chip is expected to use what’s known as a process shrink, or die shrink, version of the 5nm+ version. Rather than being an entirely new chip process, this is a way to shrink the size of an existing chip without any major changes to its design. This gives more chips per wafer, which reduces manufacturing costs.

However, although it isn’t a true step down in process size, the reduced size of the chip does increase power efficiency, and reduced heat creates scope for improved real-life performance as the chip can work harder before thermal throttling is required.

There’s no specifics on what is expected from Apple’s M1 chip roadmap for Macs, but we can expect the same overall development progress, each generation of chip boosting both performance and power efficiency.

Photo: Laura Ockel on Unsplash

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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