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5nm chips: Apple will lead the way this year, with Samsung a distant 3rd

A new report today says that Apple will be responsible for more than half of all 5nm chips made this year, and that Samsung will be in a distant third place at around 5% of the latest smaller-process chips. The A14 chip was Apple’s first use of a 5nm process.

Apple will also be in large part responsible for Qualcomm coming in second, at around a quarter of the likely production …

The Counterpoint Research report opens by noting that 2020 was a good year for chipmakers, and that 2021 is likely to be the same.

The semiconductor industry’s foundry sector delivered above-expectation revenue growth in 2020. With tightening supplies from most global vendors, we expect 2021 to continue this momentum […]

Technology migrations in leading-edge nodes (7-nanometer and 5-nanometer) appear to be accelerating to meet the demand from 5G smartphones, game consoles and AI/GPU in cloud servers.

In 2020, the foundry industry revenue reached about $82 billion, representing a 23% YoY growth. Despite this high base of 2020, the double-digit growth will persist in 2021. We forecast a 12% YoY growth with a total revenue of $92 billion.

It then looks at 5nm processes specifically, and predicts that Apple will be by far the largest customer of the most advanced chips. Apple’s A14 chips are already made using a 5nm process, and the iPhone maker is expected to switch to an enhanced ‘5nm+’ process for this year’s phones, before moving to 4nm next year.

Based on our estimates, the total wafer shipment volume of 5nm will account for 5% of 12-inch wafers in the global foundry industry in 2021, up from less than 1% in 2020. Apple is the top customer (with all orders to TSMC) in 5nm this year (see Exhibit 1), including both for iPhones (A14/A15) and the newly released Apple Silicon

Counterpoint expects Qualcomm to be the second largest player in 5nm chips, partly due to Apple.

Qualcomm will be the second-largest 5nm customer as the iPhone 13 may adopt its X60 modem.

The US chipmaker may not benefit from Apple’s orders for long, however, as Apple is said to be close to its goal of developing its own modem.

Samsung is said to be running 6-9 months behind Apple chipmaker TSMC, and to hit 5% thanks to a combination of limited use in its own devices and greater supply to external customers like Qualcomm.

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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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