On October 15, Patently Apple posted a report titled "TSMC still on Track with Mass Production of 3nm Processors in H2 2022 and an Enhanced Version for 2023." Then last week Digitimes reported that Apple could adopt a 4nm chip from TSMC for the 2022 iPhone. But hours later Tech Taiwan posted a report that denied this report.
Responding to the latest rumors that its 3nm process is experiencing difficulties and thus facing delays, TSMC has emphasized that everything stays on course, denying that its N3 technology was facing production challenges. According to a claim made by the media The Information, due to TSMC’s technical challenges, Apple’s A16 bionic chips intended for iPhone 14 wouldn’t be manufactured at TSMC’s 3nm node. Consequently, as claimed by the media, for the first time Apple’s A-series chips would be stuck on the same process node family for three consecutive years.
According to C. C. Wei, TSMC’s CEO, the 3nm process was scheduled to enter risk production in 2021, with volume production expected in the second half of 2022. TSMC’s 3nm technology will be last process node using the FinFet transistor architecture, offering a 70% logic density gain and 15% speed gain compared to 5nm, with 30% less power consumption. However, compared to the 14 EUV layers used in N5, the N3 technology is estimated to use more EUV layers, adding to its soaring cost.
The fact that TSMC will have both a 4nm and 5nm processor ready for late 2022 is where the rumor confusion stems from. However, it's not impossible for TSMC to be producing both with different features and pricing. Whether Apple would adopt the 4nm for lower-end iPhone is unknown at this time, but the 3nm is still on target for Apple, shy of any chip shortage issue.
Today, Digitimes is backtracking with a report titled " TSMC on track to ramp 3nm chip production."