Apple is on the verge of bringing SoCs onto the market for the first time that have been created using the new 3-nanometer process. The reduced structure width promises more performance with lower power consumption, but is not easy to implement due to the new processes required. Since Apple will apparently use its only chip manufacturer TSMC almost completely, there should be a special contract. This is reported by the IT news service The Information.
Deal “highly unusual”
According to the information, the management of the Taiwanese foundry has decided not to calculate waste when manufacturing the new A17 Bionic for iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. That means: If the chip yield (yield) is low, that is allegedly solely the concern of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited. This could save Apple “billions in chips for the new iPhone,” claims The Information. It is a “friendship offer”.
TSMC only wants to see money for “known good dies”, i.e. working processor dies. If defective chips come out of the machine in the 3 nm process, this is at the expense of the foundry. The Information describes the step as highly unusual, because customers usually have to pay per wafer and these always contain non-functioning dies.
Big customer, big revenue
How TSMC can afford the special contract remains unclear. It is conceivable that TSMC hopes to be able to boost the yield quickly – if only because Apple’s quantities are, as usual, enormous and the iPhone group is the first major customer. However, it can be assumed that there will be larger amounts of rejects, at least initially. Other customers are likely to get significantly worse 3 nm conditions than Apple.
In addition to the A17 Bionic, TSMC is already working on new Mac SoCs from the M3 series, the first samples of which are already being tested by Apple. However, the machines are not expected to arrive before spring. TSMC recently had difficulties implementing the 3 nm process. Among other things, this led to Apple having to equip the MacBook Air 15 with the M2 chip from last year. Mac Pro and Mac Studio are also still part of the M2 generation.
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