Qualcomm eyeing up TSMC's 3 nm capacity due to sub-par yields at Samsung Foundries
Qualcomm has had a long-standing partnership with TSMC for its high-end smartphone SoCs. It switched to Samsung Foundries' fabs for the Snapdragon 888 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, presumably due to capacity issues at TSMC. Real-world tests of smartphones running the SoCs showcased several shortcomings, such as poor thermals and less-than-ideal performance. That's why the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (tentative) could again be manufactured by TSMC.
A report by The Elec states that Qualcomm is eyeing up TSMC's 3nm capacity for its future smartphone SoC needs. It seems that the yields on Samsung's N4 node are sub-par and stand at a paltry 35%. That information supplements an earlier story, which said that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus was being fabbed on TSMC's N4 node, with yields as high as 70%. The situation would have been much worse had Qualcomm not provided technical assistance to Samsung Foundries. Yields for the Exynos 2200 are even lower than 35%, explaining why Samsung used the SoC in a handful of Galaxy S22 variants this time around.
However, things aren't exactly peachy over at TSMC either. Its 3 nm node, the same one being eyed up by Qualcomm, has run into several snags, which could push back its ability to produce wafers en-masse. On top of that, Intel and Apple have already gobbled up the lion's share of TSMC's 3 nm capacity, so it is unlikely that Qualcomm will get its requirements fulfilled. A two-pronged approach, like what Apple did with the A9, could result in a Chipgate-like disaster, but Qualcomm has little recourse here. Intel Foundries could be an option, but it certainly won't be Qualcomm's first choice.
The Elec (in Korean)