The next generations of processors for the iPhone 14 as well as the MacBook Air may not widen the gap with the A15 and M1, given TSMC’s manufacturing schedule.
Last week, the Twitter account ShrimpApplePro suggested that the A16 of the next iPhone 14 would continue to use TSMC’s 5 nm manufacturing and engraving process, known as “N5P”. Apple would not switch to 4nm or 3nm engraving. The chip could still improve its performance, but only marginally.
These claims can be corroborated by the roadmap made public by TSMC last October. The next technological advancements, known as N4P and N3, won’t be ready for volume production until 2023, too late for the A16 this fall.
Compared to N5 from which the manufacturing method of the A16 is derived, N3 promises significant improvements in performance (+10 to +15%) and consumption (-25 to -30%).
10 nm, 7 nm, 5 nm: fine engraving, a challenge in the mobile world
For analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who rebounds on the previous rumor, the “N4” process planned for this year offers no real benefit on N5P suggesting that Apple may continue to use the latter for the A16. The improvements between the A15 and the A16 would therefore be limited and if there is a new name it would be more a matter of marketing. Recall that previous rumors have spoken of a maintenance of the A15 in the iPhone 14 and 14 Max and a switch to the A16 for the Pro variants only.
The same goes for the successor to the M1, namely the M2, the next MacBook Air of which could inaugurate the first version. It’s not until next year that this new line of processors will be able to exploit TSMC’s advances.
WWDC22: the MacBook Air M2 is still expected
Therefore the question arises as to whether Apple will adopt the term “M2” for the machines launched during the second half of 2022, even if it means suggesting to customers a technological advance which is not one.
Or if it chooses another name, still derived from the term M1. It would then keep the name “M2” for the next revision of the MacBook Pro next year. The same ShrimpApplePro account spoke for its part of an “M1X” (a name taken at random) for this MacBook Air 2022, which would represent the ultimate declination of the M1s before the switch to the M2s in 2023 and the use of a finesse of 3 nm engraving.
The MacBook Air’s aesthetic redesign may be enough to make it a strong selling point, Ming-Chi Kuo believes. Adding an “M2” which is not really one, is not necessarily necessary and could even serve Apple:
There’s nothing wrong with naming the minor processor upgrade of a completely redesigned MacBook Air the M2, it can also encourage sales. But if the M2 series aims to bring significant gains over the M1 series, and further improve the reputation of Apple-designed processors, then the use of 2023 N3/N4P wafers for the M2 is preferable.