The technology should enter early production in 2017, The Register said. It may take some time to scale into mass production on a level a company like Apple requires. Notably, the companies are hoping that 7-nanometer chips will be used not just in smartphones and tablets, but in network and datacenter hardware.
Apple's current A9 processors are ARM-based designs using either 14- or 16-nanometer production, depending on whether they're built by Samsung or TSMC, respectively. TSMC is expected to start rolling out 10-nanometer parts later this year, though probably not on a scale necessary for this year's flagship iPhones, which should arrive in September. Instead they may continue to use 16-nanometer chips.
Shrinking processor circuitry allows device makers to increase performance and power effiency without losing internal design space.
The earliest possible Apple product that could sport a 7-nanometer chip is likely an "iPhone 8" in 2018. The company might have to settle for a 10-nanometer design, depending on TSMC's progress.
There is also no guarantee that TSMC will remain an Apple supplier, as it was only brought into A-series manufacturing a few years ago. Reports have suggested, though, that TSMC may be the sole producer of "A10" chips for 2016 iPhones.