2022 iPhones and Macs might run on 3nm processors

Smartphones and laptops are getting more powerful every year, but those improvements do carry some costs, like power consumption and thermal output. It isn't enough to just cram in more battery or add cooling fans inside, and some strategies to counter those side effects involve shrinking down components. Processors, for example, grow increasingly smaller to squeeze out more performance and energy efficiency. That is pretty much the expectation for Apple's next iPhones and late 2022 Macs as it jumps from its current 5nm chips to a tinier 3nm process.

The numbers used to indicate the fabrication process refers to the distance between transistors on a chip. The narrower the gap, the less energy a chip needs for the same or even better performance as a larger processor. That is why chip makers are on a rather slow but critical race to shrink their silicon as much as possible, and Apple might be taking the lead next year.

According to an upcoming DigiTimes report spotted by MacRumors, Apple's chip manufacturing partner TSMC is gearing to put its 3nm process into mass production to meet Apple's product launches for the second half of 2022. This builds on a similar report back in June, but the update specifically names Apple as the beneficiary of this new technology.

This means that the iPhone 14 and late 2022 Macs could come with Apple A and M processors based on that 3nm process. The current Apple A14 and Apple M1 chips both use a 5nm process, which is actually on par or even ahead of the competition. A jump to TSMC's 3nm process is advertised to bring at least a 10% performance boost and a 20% increase in energy efficiency.

That said, there are also reports that refute the target Apple products for these new chips. One, in particular, says that the 3nm processor will be heading to a new iPad Pro model first, while the next year's iPhone will come with a 4nm process chip instead.