Apple to cut back on 3nm orders as market forces start to crush upgrade demands
Apple introduced its successor to the A16 Bionic as the A17 Pro rather than the A17 for the first time due to its 3nm architecture, beating its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 rival to this upgrade in 2023. However, winning this race may yet fail to translate into the opportunity to cash for which the Cupertino giant might once have hoped.
The iPhone 15 series is thought to herald the arrival of iPad Pros and Macs with matching chipset updates in 2024. However, their sales might prove underwhelming rather than groundbreaking, following a trend towards shipments that have "declined significantly by approximately 30% and 22% to 17 million and 48 million units, respectively", according to Ming-Chi Kuo's latest figures.
Apple is already aware of this risk and will reduce its 3nm orders accordingly, as the respected TF International Securities analyst estimates. Moves such as those might have a knock-on effect on potential suppliers such as Samsung and Qualcomm, the latter of which has already encountered a Huawei-shaped hole in whatever 3nm dreams it had had: the sudden and slightly mysterious return of top-end Kirin chipsets, apparently replacing Snapdragon silicon in that OEM's flagships going forward.
On that note, Kuo also believes that more Exynos 2400 chipsets will be used than previously thought, thus further reducing 8 Gen 3 demand. Ironically, Samsung may still take a hit as a next-gen chipset supplier, as might Intel with its 20A line.
Finally, the apparent downturn might affect industry players further along the supply chain, with ASML preparing a "significant" 20-30% reduction in EUV lithography instrument shipments for 2024, and companies such as SK Hynix and Micron possibly suspending production on next-gen memory products to go with SoCs such as the 8 Gen 3 until 2025 at the earliest.