Apple's 3nm Processor Is About To Become A Reality

TSMC, the Taiwanese chipmaker that manufactures processors for Apple, has confirmed that it will be transitioning to the much-awaited 3nm manufacturing process by the second half of 2022, DigiTimes reports. While it was no secret that TSMC and Apple Silicon would eventually move to the 3nm process, there were concerns about TSMC meeting these targets owing to the global chip shortage and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in a recent earnings conference call, TSMC put all speculation to rest and confirmed that it is now on track to begin producing 3nm chips for Apple by the end of the year. This would be just in time to equip Apple's 2023 lineup with these new-generation processors. In case you didn't know, Apple's current-generation processors are based on the 5nm process that has been around since 2020.

Given what we know from the current timeline, it is unlikely that Apple's next-generation iPhone models — the iPhone 14 series — will move to 3nm chips. Instead, at least one report indicates the first Apple product to move to 3nm chips will likely be Apple's next-generation iPad models. At the same time, that same report suggested that these iPad models could launch in 2022, and that timing looks unlikely given the current global scenario.

What to expect from 3nm Apple chips

Apart from enabling better performance, Apple's TSMC-made 3nm chips are expected to offer significant improvements to power consumption and transistor density. TSMC expects that the move to a 3nm process will reduce power consumption figures by 25-30% and increase performance figures by 10-15% or more compared to existing 5nm designs. The DigiTimes report adds that TSMC initially plans to manufacture anywhere between 30,000-35,000 3nm wafers every month once production begins.

Apple deciding to use its next-gen iPad devices as a launchpad for its 3nm chips wouldn't surprise many, given that it did the same thing a few years ago. If you recall, the Apple A14 chip based on TSMC's 5nm technology first appeared on the 2020 iPad Air, rather than on any of that years' iPhone models. All said it is safe to assume that most of Apple's 2023 products — including the iPhone 15 series and all Apple Silicon-based Mac products — could make the transition to 3nm by mid-2023, and be in the hands of consumers by the end of that same year.

Even though Apple has a considerable lead over the competition when it comes to ARM-based processors, the company is working with TSMC to expedite development on the even faster and more efficient 2nm process. DigiTimes reports that TSMC expects chips based on the 2nm process to enter volume production by 2025.