After reports surfaced that Apple had drastically reduced features on the A16 chip due to “unprecedented” manufacturing problems, this week received some good news. TSMC will begin mass production of its new 3nm process technology that will almost certainly be used in the iPhone 15 Pro’s A17 chip.
DigiTimes, reports that TSMC will hold a ceremony on Thursday to mark the start of mass production of its new 3nm chip. Apple expected to use the 3nm process in the A17 chip of the iPhone 15 Pro and could use it for this year M2 Pro and M2 Max chips also.
According to TSMC extension, the 3nm technology will offer “up to 70% gain in logic density, up to 15% speed improvement at the same power, and up to 30% power reduction at the same speed compared to 5nm technology.” Apple’s A15, M1, and M2 chips all use TSMC’s 5nm process, while the A16 chip uses TSMC’s so-called 4nm process, which is just an improved version of its 5nm technology.
The information reported last week those “unprecedented” missteps caused Apple to scrap the biggest advances in the A16 chip, including ray tracing, the high-end effect that allows the GPU to “mimic the way the human eye processes light and shadow in real time”. Ray tracing is a big feature of gaming and high-end graphics cards, and it would be one of the first phones to support it.
Apple engineers were “too ambitious in adding new features,” according to the report, and the chip was consuming more power than expected, which would likely hurt battery life and make the device feel too hot. As a result, the A16 chip was a small upgrade over the A15 as Apple was forced to base the A16’s GPU “largely on the chip design used in last year’s iPhone model.”
The 3nm A17 will likely be a huge leap over the A16, as the new architecture allows Apple to develop a new CPU and GPU with greater speed gains and high-end features. It’s unclear if ray tracing will make an appearance, but the chip is likely to be one of the iPhone 15 Pro’s main selling points. Apple split its phones into two processor tiers last year, with the iPhone 14 with the A15 and iPhone 14 Pro with the A16, and it should do the same this year.