According to a new report from AppleInsider, future iPhone and iPad chips will be manufactured using the 3-nanometer process in 2022 and may offer significant improvements over the current 7-nm method. This manufacturing process may also apply to Apple Silicon Macs.
The rumor comes from the Chinese website MyDrivers, which claims a source within the chip manufacturer TSMC. According to the report, TSMC will begin manufacturing 5nm processors this year. Two years later, 3 nm chips in the form of the A16 processor will be available for iPhone and iPad.
Compared to 5nm processors, the 3nm chips are reported to offer between 10% and 15% more performance with 20% to 25% energy savings. This reflects Apple's claim at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2020 that its own Apple silicon chips, which are scheduled to be used in Macs by the end of this year, offer more performance with lower power consumption than current Mac processors.
TSMC has been producing mobile chips for Apple for a long time, from the A8 in 2014 to the current A12Z Bionic. Apple is one of the company's key customers. It is reported that processors will begin risk producing with this smaller manufacturing process in 2021, which will pave the way for full production the following year.
As announced at WWDC, Apple will switch its Macs from Intel to its own Apple Silicon processors by the end of this year, which will noticeably improve both performance and efficiency. While the MyDrivers report doesn't mention the Mac, it is possible that future Apple silicon chips will use a similar manufacturing process. The first Apple Silicon development kits have already been delivered with iPad chips.
Apple's current Macs are powered by Intel processors, only a few of which use a 10nm process. High-end options like the MacBook Pro 16-inch (or Mac desktops) continue to use Intel's older 14nm node. If Apple equips future Macs with 3nm chips, the jump from 14nm to 3nm could bring significant performance gains.
At the moment, it's mostly speculation, as Apple is often happy to know about device specifications before they are released. We'll get a much clearer picture of the performance capabilities of future Macs when the first Apple Silicon devices come on the market later in 2020.