TSMC looks ahead to super-speedy 2nm processors
2nm processors made by TSMC will be faster while using less power than today’s 3nm iPhone and Mac chips. But there’s bad news.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Although Apple’s chip-maker TSMC will start making processors with a 2nm process in 2025, production could begin too late for next year’s iPhone.

Still, TSMC says 1.6nm chips will go into production in 2026.

2nm Apple chip might not come before 2026 iPhone

A-series and M-series processors carry the Apple name, and the chips are designed in Cupertino, but they are produced by TSMC using technology the chipmaker develops. One of the reasons Apple uses the Taiwanese foundry is it has generally been able to shrink the components of Apple’s chips every couple of years, allowing the devices they power to work faster while generating less waste heat.

But the move from a 3nm to a 2nm process is taking longer than is ideal.

TSMC announced Wednesday that, “N2 [is] on track for production in the second half of 2025.” N2 is another name for the 2nm production process.

Apple traditionally introduces new iPhone models in early autumn, and the chips for these need be available months before then. TSMC says it won’t have 2nm chips ready until July at the earliest, which could be just a bit too late.

Improved 3nm plus 1.6nm iPhone chips on the way

The Taiwanese chip giant also revealed that chips made with its N3E process are in production. While the company didn’t say so, these are likely the A18 processors for the iPhone 16 coming this autumn. The upcoming Apple M4 Mac chip will likely use the same process.

The N3E process is an improved version of the 3nm process used to make the A17 chip in iPhone 15, as well as the M3 processor now in so many Macs.

If the replacement N2 process won’t be ready for over a year, that means the A19 in the iPhone 17 series will be the third Apple chip made with a 3nm process. The same apparently goes for the Apple M5 Mac processor. Moving to  a better production method is a sure way to improve the performance of processors, and Apple users could be left waiting.

That said, TSMC is at the forefront of chip manufacture so Apple won’t be falling behind. Instead, a delay might give rivals a chance to catch up.

It isn’t all bad news out of TSMC: its A16 process will be ready for production in 2026. Another name for this is a 1.6nm process, and it’s an even more cutting-edge chip production method than N2. Whether it will be in time for the iPhone 18 and M6 is unknown.

“Compared to TSMC’s N2P process, A16 will provide 8-10% speed improvement at the same Vdd (positive power supply voltage), 15-20% power reduction at the same speed, and up to 1.10X chip density improvement,” the company promised.

[ For more curated Apple news, check out the main news page here]

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