Apple will be TSMC's first customer with access to its 3 nm nodes
DigiTimes reports Apple will be TSMC's first customer to receive access to its N3 node, potentially giving the former a decisive lead over its competitors. Mass production of TSMC's 3 nm node is expected to begin in the second half of 2022, provided that there are no setbacks.
Apparently, AMD, MediaTek, NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Intel must wait until 2023 for their 3 nm allocations. This will only happen once TSMC has expanded its production capacities, for reference. DigiTimes adds that Apple will use its 3 nm access to produce either iPhone or Mac SoCs, at least initially.
Hence, we would not be surprised to see Apple release iPhone or Mac hardware with 3 nm chipsets in Q3 or Q4 2022. Presumably, this will either be the A16 Bionic, or a next-generation Apple Silicon chipset. The latter could be the more likely candidate though, as Apple would need significantly fewer Apple Silicon chipsets than A16 Bionic ones, assuming that the ratio of Mac to iPhone sales remains the same.
Unfortunately, N3 and 3 nm do not refer to transistor gate length, as one may assume. While these names used to relate to gate length, they are now just numbers. According to TSMC's Vice President of Corporate Research, Dr. Philip Wong, we should think of its 3 nm node as a model number, 'like [the] BMW 5-series or Mazda 6'.