Although the iPhone 8 (and iPhone 7s counterparts) are not expected until the fall, Apple suppliers have to ramp production months in advance to secure the millions of parts necessary for the launch. Economic Daily News is today reporting that TSMC will begin mass production of the Apple A11 SoC, which will power the 2017 iPhones, in April.
The chip inside the iPhone 7 is the Apple A10 Fusion, which includes two high-power cores and two lower-power cores. The design of the A11 chip is unknown but the report says it is fabricated using a 10 nanometer process ..
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TSMC exclusively manufactures the Apple A10 SoC and is expected to be the sole supplier of the A11 chip as well. In general, lower nanometers means better efficiency and better performance as there is simply less space between transistors, which enables the chip to reach higher clock speeds.
The A10 chip is fabricated at 16nm so a reduction to 10nm for the A11 already signposts that a major upgrade is in the wings. Bear in mind that the A10’s speed in the iPhone 7 already outstrips the rest of the smartphone industry in single-core performance. As well as density, Apple chip designers will have likely redesigned the components and circuitry to optimize performance and power efficiency further.
The report says the A11 chip is built using a FinFET process, packaged with a ‘wafer-level integrated fan-out’ technology … it sounds advanced that’s for sure. It isn’t yet clear if the A11 will be another ‘Fusion’ design where the chip incorporates higher-power and lower-power cores.
The A11 is destined to be included in the radical new OLED iPhone 8, as well as the rumored iterative iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus updates, expected to debut in the fall. There is also the possibility that the A11 is included in the upcoming iPad Pro refresh, although rumors to date have suggested they will use an ‘A10X’ SoC.
The newspaper report says that TSMC will have made 50 million A11 chips before the end of July with the plan to make 100 million chips this year. The majority of these will be sold to consumers inside the new iPhones, as Apple’s massive holiday quarter sees in excess of 70 million iPhone sold.
All signs point to the iPhone 8 being a major upgrade over the iPhone 7 with a bezel-less glass and stainless steel chassis design, larger OLED display with fingerprint sensor integrated into the display, 3D front camera, wireless charging and more.