Apple’s current line of CPUs found in the iPhone and iPad run on TSMC’s 7nm process, but there are signs that 2020 could see a switch to 5nm. That’s thanks to TSMC being on track to provide exactly that.
We already knew – and it was glaringly obvious – that TSMC was working towards getting ready to make the jump to 5nm, but now a new report by the notoriously hit-and-miss Digitimes suggests that the chip maker now has the designer infrastructure complete, allowing customers like Apple to get their open chip designs ready for the switch to 5nm.
TSMC has announced delivery of the complete version of its 5nm design infrastructure within the Open Innovation Platform (OIP). This full release enables 5nm systems-on-chip (SoC) designs in next-generation advanced mobile and high-performance computing (HPC) applications, targeting high-growth 5G and artificial intelligence markets.
TSMC said leading EDA and IP vendors collaborated with it to develop and validate the complete design infrastructure, including technology files, process design kits (PDKs), tools, flows and IP, through multiple silicon test vehicles.
But why is the switch to 5nm so interesting? With the move to a smaller process, we see improvements in power consumption and higher speeds, two things that 5nm chips are expected to offer. If that comes to fruition, the 2020 iPhones could see a leap forward in performance similar to that of the 2017 iPhone X.
“TSMC’s 5-nanometer technology offers our customers the industry’s most advanced logic process to address the exponentially growing demand for computing power driven by AI and 5G,” said Cliff Hou, VP of R&D and technology development at TSMC. “5-nanometer technology requires deeper design-technology co-optimization. Therefore, we collaborate seamlessly with our ecosystem partners to ensure we deliver silicon-validated IP blocks and EDA tools ready for customer use. As always, we are committed to helping customers achieve first-time silicon success and faster time-to-market.”
Apple currently uses Apple as its sole partner for the manufacture of its iPhone and iPad CPUs, and that has been the case for some time.