Apple will design and TSMC will build 4nm 5G modem chip for 2023 iPhone line

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Apple will design and TSMC will build 4nm 5G modem chip for 2023 iPhone line

Ever since a desperate Apple reached a settlement with Qualcomm in April 2019, the roadmap began to take shape. It gelled more and more after Apple paid $ 1 billion for Intel’s modem chip business, which included patents, equipment, leases, and most importantly, 2,200 Intel employees were included in the deal. Yes, it was clear that Apple was planning to design its own 5G modem chip.

Apple wants to reduce its reliance on chip designer Qualcomm

Just the other day we passed on a rumor from Digitimes that said Apple planned to use its own 5G modem, starting with the 2023 iPhone models, which would be the iPhone 15 series. The 5G modem chip will reportedly be a stand-alone component, independent of the 2023 A17 Bionic chipset.

According to Nikkei Asia, part of the reason for Apple’s decision to go ahead with its own 5G modem chip design, is to reduce its reliance on Qualcomm, the chip designer who currently supplies Apple with its 5G modem chips for the iPhone.
Qualcomm has confirmed that Apple will order a much smaller number of its modem chips and said that by 2023 it will only be the source of 20% of the component for the company. It does not require a mathematical buzz to calculate that this means that Apple will supply itself with 80% of the modem chips it needs for the iPhone in 2023.

At one point, Apple thought so highly of Qualcomm’s 5G modem chips that it withdrew from an agreement it had with Intel to produce a 5G modem chip. Apple paid Qualcomm an unknown amount, which is rumored to range from $ 4.5 billion to $ 6 billion to solve all the legal issues it had with the company at the time. Apple reportedly did not trust Intel’s ability to deliver a quality 5G modem chip on time.

Nikkei’s report is in line with that written by Digitimes, as both expect this move to be made in 2023. Four people familiar with Apple’s plans told Nikkei that the 5G modem chip will be manufactured by TSMC using of the latter 4nm process node. Two people who are aware of the situation say that Apple is working on its own radio frequency and millimeter wave components that will work with its modem chip.

While Apple designs the A-Series chipset that it uses for the iPhone and iPad for many, many years, the design of a modem chip is undoubtedly more complicated, as it must be backward compatible with older connectivity standards such as 2G and 3G, up to the more current ones. used 4G and 5G platforms. The reason why Apple is waiting until 2023 to use its new 5G

the modem chip is due to all the time it will take global carriers to verify and test the new component.

Nikkei says TSMC will build next year’s A16 Bionic using a 4nm process node instead of 3nm

The Nikkei report is also trying to answer a big question regarding the chips that Apple will use on next year’s iPhone 14 series. Originally, TSMC hoped to have started mass production of its 3nm process node in time to use it to build the A16 Bionic. But earlier this year, TSMC admitted that the complexity of using 3nm forced a delay in the volume production of 3nm chips, and as a result, volume production at 3nm would not start until the second half of 2023.

The delay would not allow TSMC to churn the A16 Bionic using the 3nm process node, and as a result, the A16 Bionic chipset could be made using the 4nm or 5nm process. But recently Digitimes said TSMC was back on track and could start volume production of 3nm chips in the second half of 2022, which would put it under tight pressure but still provide the world’s largest independent foundry a shot at building the A16 Bionic using its 3nm process node.
But Nikkei says the iPhone 14 series will be powered by chips using TSMC’s 4nm process. As for the 3nm node, Apple will first use it to power some iPad models next year before using it to build the A17 Bionic, which will power the iPhone 15 series.

Simply put, the lower the process node number, the higher the number of transistors that fit inside the square mm. The higher the number of transistors, the more powerful and energy efficient a chip is.

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