Apple iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus to feature faster A17 Pro fabbed on TSMC N3E with potential efficiency tradeoff
The iPhone 15 series is still fresh from the oven, but tidbits about Apple's plans for next year's iPhones has been doing the rounds for quite some time now. While it is common knowledge that this year's Pro SoCs will feature in the coming year's non-Pro models, we are getting to know that Apple will use an enhanced A17 Pro SoC with the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus.
The A17 Pro is the world's first 3 nm SoC. The iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max are also the first iPhones to feature 8 GB RAM. Next year's iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus are, therefore, likely to boast the A17 Pro together with 8 GB LPDDR5 RAM, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at the Hong Kong-based Haitong International Securities.
Pu's investors note, accessed by MacRumors, says that the A17 Pro and the A18 Pro (?) will be fabbed on TSMC's N3E process, which is an enhanced 3 nm node. This is a slight shift from the current N3B process used by the A17 Pro.
The shift to N3E from N3B should result in considerable performance gains at the expense of some efficiency loss. This is likely due to fewer extreme ultraviolet (EUV) layers and a lower transistor density with N3E compared to N3B.
N3B is more of a test bed created for Apple, but it is not compatible with upcoming TSMC 3 nm processes such as N3P, N3X, and N3S. This means Apple will have to go back to the drawing board to make A17 Pro suitable for the N3E process, essentially creating a new SoC but with the same name.
It is thought that Apple was eyeing the N3B originally for the A16 Bionic but had to settle with N4 due to technical delays. Thus, it is possible that Apple is now using N3B for the initial batch of A17 Pro chips with plans to eventually switch over to N3E in 2024. If early A17 Pro benchmarks are anything to go by, Apple would gladly take some much-needed performance uplift over the slight efficiency tradeoff.
That being said, the iPhone 16 is not new to the rumor mill. Previously, we've seen indications of Apple mulling a punch hole for the selfie camera while all the Face ID tech would be hidden under the display.
The 2024 iPhone 16 Pro models are also expected to build upon the periscope-esque lens design that Apple introduced with the iPhone 15 Pro Max together with the introduction of a larger 6.9-inch Ultra variant.