TSMC, which makes the Apple A-series processors which power the company's iPhones, has begun mass production of its new 3-nanometer hardware, according to Bloomberg. And the new silicon should be a lot more power efficient than its predecessors.
“Mass production of 3-nanometer chips is the fruit of decades-long collaboration with the local supply chain,” said TSMC Chairman Mark Liu, promising both an unspecified performance boost and a 35% improvement to efficiency over the company’s 5nm chips.
While the A16 chip found in the iPhone 14 Pro is often referred to as being 4nm, even TSMC itself calls this N4 tech an “enhanced version of N5 technology” in its description of 5nm chip production. That means we can probably assume that the 35% efficiency jump applies to A16 as well as A15.
Apple, of course, isn’t mentioned directly by Liu, but given the company accounted for more than a quarter of TSMC’s revenue in 2021, it’s safe to assume that it will be one of the beneficiaries of the 3nm chip's improved power management. The 3nm fabrication process has long been predicted for the A17 chip and the next generation of iPad Pros.
What this would mean in terms of battery life is up in the air, because the processor is just one power-drawing component among many in an iPhone. Add to that the fact that we don’t know the capacity of the batteries involved, and it’s really finger-in-the-air stuff.
But while performance hasn’t been mentioned, here, we would expect a big leap. Historically, A-series processors have jumped between 10% and 25% over generations, and we’d expect this to be on the higher end this time around.
That’s not just due to the the 3nm production process, but because the A16 wasn’t that big a boost over the A15. The strong rumor is that Apple was planning to be far more ambitious with A16 and then had to change plans at the last moment, retreating to something safe. While disappointing to iPhone 14 Pro buyers this time around, it hopefully indicates a significant leap for 2023’s follow-up.
While the larger iPhone 14 models — the iPhone 14 Plus and iPhone 14 Pro Max — excelled in our battery testing, landing on our best phone battery life list, the 6.1-inch iPhones came up short. The iPhone 14 Pro lasted 10 hours and 13 minutes by when we had it surf the web continuously until it ran out of power. While better than the average smartphone's time, the iPhone 13 Pro held out for two hours longer.
None of the iPhone 15 models are expected before September, of course, so we have some time to wait before we can test the theory. Even then, the expectation is that the basic iPhone 15 will inherit the A16 from this year’s Pro models, leaving the Pro models to demonstrate what 3nm can do.
Early iPhone 15 Pro rumors have included an upgrade to 8GB RAM, the introduction of haptic buttons and a possible periscope lens camera. There’s also the possibility of an iPhone 15 Ultra model replacing the Pro Max, and the expectation that all handsets will finally ditch Lightning for USB-C thanks to incoming EU regulation.