Apple is expected to start receiving 3nm chips from TSMC later this year, but they will arrive too late to be used in the iPhone 14 series which will be unveiled in less than six weeks. And once Apple starts employing 3nm chipsets next year, you won’t find them inside all iPhones until 2024. For those not familiar with this nomenclature, 3nm is the latest process node used to produce the most advanced chips available at this time. The lower the figure, the higher the transistor count in a particular chip. The more transistors in a chip, the more powerful and energy-efficient it is.
The new iPhone 14 Pro models will be powered by the A16 Bionic which will be manufactured by TSMC using the latter’s 4nm process node. The non-Pro models will reuse the 5nm A15 Bionic which is found under the hood of all iPhone 13 series phones. With 15 billion transistors in each chip, the A15 Bionic is no 98-pound weakling. But Apple has traditionally used the latest chip to power all of the newest iPhone models when released.
TSMC will start shipping 3nm chipsets later this year
While many consumers have no idea which Applications Processor (AP) powers their phones, some might feel that they are getting ripped off by paying a higher price for a new phone with a chipset one generation old. The A15 Bionic is still powerful enough so that those blissfully unaware of their iPhone’s specs probably won’t notice any issues. Since Apple won’t use 3nm chipsets in all iPhone models until 2024, the odds favor Apple repeating this next year with the iPhone 15 Pro models using 3nm A17 Bionic chips and the non-Pro models powered by the 4nm A16 Bionic.
Even when Apple does get around to putting 3nm chips in both Pro and non-Pro versions of the iPhone 16 in 2024, different versions of these chips still could be used to differentiate the expensive iPhone models from the more affordable ones. This seems to be a strategy that is here to stay.
Apple isn’t the only chip designer that TSMC is making 3nm chips for. By 2024 the world’s largest independent foundry should be rolling out 3nm silicon for AMD, MediaTek, Qualcomm, and others.