Apple is said to be adopting the latest-generation fabrication process from TSMC as soon as the second half of 2022. Nikkei reports that both Apple and Intel are currently testing chip designs using a 3-nanometer fabrication process.

The publication indicates that the first 3-nm Apple chip will likely arrive in an iPad (presumably a Pro model). The iPhone 14 will use a larger 4-nm SoC due to yield rates / scheduling lead times. This would still be an improvement over the 5-nm chip design seen in the iPhone 12 and expected to feature in the iPhone 13 later this year.

4-nm for the 2022 iPhone was previously reported by TrendForce last year, and Digitimes in March.

Fabrication process size approximately measures the distance between transistors on a chip. When the process size decreases, the gaps between transistors is reduced. This generally results in a more energy efficient and higher performance design.

In some previous years, Apple has transplanted the same chip architecture layout to a new process size to deliver >20% efficiency and performance gains — with almost no changes to the actual chip design itself. This is referred to as a ‘die shrink’.

Presumably, in the future, Apple will adopt 3-nm fabrication for all of its Apple Silicon chips, spanning iPhone, iPad and Mac. However, starting with the iPad first makes sense from a logistics perspective.

For this year, Apple’s A15 chip built on a 5-nm fab size is said to be already in production, ready for the iPhone 13 launch in September or October.

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Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.