TSMC is shipping its first Apple processors, replacing Samsung

TSMC logoTaiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) is already the largest independent chip foundry, and it's about to get a little bigger, as the Wall Street Journal reports that TSMC has begun manufacturing and shipping new chips for Apple. Samsung has manufactured all iPhone and iPad processors for Apple to date, and news of the switch to TSMC follows years of rumors that Apple was looking to switch.

The report indicates that TSMC is using its new 20nm manufacturing process to make the chips (Samsung is using a 28nm process). It's difficult to do apples-to-apples comparisons of different processes from different foundries, but in general, smaller manufacturing processes allow chip designers to fit more transistors into the same amount of space or to fit the same amount of transistors into a smaller space. Chips made on smaller processes can typically increase performance while keeping power usage the same or maintain performance while reducing power usage—both will be important to improving performance and battery life in next-generation phones and tablets.

Apple A7

Even though the chips are reportedly shipping now, that doesn't mean current iPhones and iPads will soon switch to TSMC-made chips. Adapting an existing processor architecture to a different foundry's manufacturing tech takes quite a bit of work by itself. It's more likely that existing A5, A6, and A7 SoCs will continue to be made at Samsung for the time being, while TSMC focuses on new chips like the A8 that's expected for next-generation iOS devices.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: 20 nm, Apple, CPUs, TSMC

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