A16 SoC: Apple reserves large quantities of TSMC’s N4 wafers

Image: TSMC

Apple’s upcoming iPhone 14 generation A16 SoC will likely rely on TSMC’s N4 production line, as the N3 is just too late. Initial production later this year will not be enough for Apple’s required volume, so that the long-suspected Plan B will no longer be in effect.

TSMC N3 is definitely late

Last week, TSMC stressed again in the conference call on quarterly figures that the new N3 production move will go into series production in the second half of the year. But the actual statement is followed in just one sentence: With this process sales will not be booked until 2023, which means nothing but production will start too late in the year and the product will only make money in the coming year. Will be made.

Yes. And I think we’ve said before, Mehdi, that N3 will start volume production in the second half of ’22, and you’ll start to see revenue contributions in 2023.


The manufacturing process is certainly more than half a year late for it to be considered by Apple. There, series production for the next SoC for iPhone & Co. usually begins in May to June with a few million chips available by September so that the actual product launch can be done by Apple.

For the foundry, which has been used to success, this is quite a blow, the time lag since the mass production of the N5 chips is unmistakable. The manufacturer tried to close this gap with a number of new processes, such as the N4P as a performance solution and an alternative to the N3 or N4X for the full high-end segment. In addition, there are also N5P and N5HPC branches.

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A similar development will happen with the N3, with the N3E already the first announcement of an improved version. As per the present plan it should be on time. N3E is almost finished and will be available in series in a year, TSMC said a week ago.

Large quantities of more expensive N4 wafers for Apple

Ultimately, Apple has no choice but to resort to N4 production lines. According to media reports from Asia, TSMC has also given them more expensive prices, although smaller customers have to pay more than Apple. In return, Apple will use almost the entire factory complex with multiple phases, as the expansion phases are called at TSMC. 120,000 to 150,000 wafers per month are in discussion, which is a pretty high number, as only Fab18 at TSMC produces N5 and N4 chips – and there are manufacturers lined up. However, TSMC also said that it intends to almost double the capacity of N5/N4 this year, indicating that further expansion phases are likely to be online.

TSMC Fab14, Fab18 and AP2 in Tainan.  with
TSMC with Fab14, Fab18 and AP2 in Tainan (Image: TSMC)
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