Apple’s next-generation A12 is now in production for the year’s upcoming set of iPhones, and the CPU core will be built on TSMC’s 7nm process. After utilizing Samsung for 14nm, Apple flipped to TSMC for the 10nm node and appears to be continuing its partnership with the Taiwanese company. Winning Apple’s business remains a feather in the cap of whichever foundry manages to pull it off, and TSMC very much wants a leadership position on 7nm. TSMC first announced it was in mass production on 7nm in April — if Apple ships its next-generation iPhones in November of this year, we’ll be looking at a roughly 6-month ramp from initial volume production to commercial shipments, which is fairly standard in the industry.
Apple is interested in seizing a march on Qualcomm where mobile technology is concerned, according to Bloomberg, though it’s not clear how much back-and-forth competition there is in the smartphone business these days. Not only have most consumers settled on the OS platform that appeals to them, smartphones themselves are increasingly out of the limelight. The advent of machine learning, deep neural networks, and artificial intelligence have made technologies in those fields (as well as adjacencies in cloud servers, data centers, and networking) incredibly popular of late.
Most of the reporting on the iPhone 8 and iPhone X focused on whether these phones were moving much in the way of unit shipments. The chatter over potentially low iPhone sales, some of which we covered, ultimately appears to have been unwarranted, with the $1,000 smartphone reportedly taking 3.5 percent of the market in March 2018 — a larger share than any other Android device. (The second-best selling phone was reportedly the iPhone 8, with a 2.3 percent share). According to Tim Cook’s comments earlier this month, the iPhone X is actually Apple’s best-selling device.
This is fabulous news for Apple, since the company has essentially found a way to mint new money even if its unit volume isn’t growing much (year-on-year iPhone sales only rose by 2 percent). Apple is expected to launch up to three iPhones this year, with a 6.5-inch and 5.8-inch model planned and a lower-cost 6.1-inch iPhone with a lower overall price but fewer features. The 6.5-inch and 5.8-inch devices, for example, would feature OLED panels, while the 6.1-inch lower-cost device would use an LCD. None of these devices corresponds to the 4.7-inch display on the standard iPhone 8, much less the 4-inch display on the iPhone SE. It’s not clear if Apple is considering dumping these product families altogether or if it will stagger its update cycles in some other fashion.
This will be the first product cycle since Apple’s battery issues broke last year, and it’ll be interesting to see if the company does anything different to address the criticism of its products. While the SoC was likely already taped out by then, Apple could address concerns over battery longevity through different management techniques or offer users more options as far as controlling when the device puts a heavy load on its battery. One potential culprit for the phone’s battery woes, in addition to Apple’s generally smaller batteries, is the high single-thread performance Apple has repeatedly targeted. The phone’s burst power consumption could lead to battery degradation over time, necessitating the throttling solutions Apple uses.
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