Manufacturing chips using this smaller process offers a number of advantages, including a reduction in power consumption of up to 30 percent, and up to 15 percent increased performance. This indicates what kind of improvements may come to the A14 chip in the iPhone 12.
There is a tradeoff when selecting one or the other, but Apple tends to prioritize performance improvements over power consumption. When reducing the size of the manufacturing process for a new generation of chips, power consumption and performance improvements are slightly lower.
Last year, TSMC announced a $25 billion investment in the new 5nm node technology in a bid to remain the exclusive supplier of Apple’s processors. TSMC has reportedly been in mass production of chips using the 5nm process for several months now, and the process is also expected to be used for Apple Silicon chips coming to the Mac before the end of this year.
In addition to the 5nm process for 2020, TSMC outlined its plans for a 3nm process coming in late 2022. This would likely be used for a potential A16 chip and other future Apple Silicon if the company follows previous years, but it is understandably difficult to speculate on Apple’s manufacturing plans so far ahead. The 3nm process yields similar 30 percent and 15 percent power consumption and performance improvements over the 5nm process.
It is worth noting that regardless of the performance of TSMC’s chips, Apple usually optimizes its software for further performance improvements. It is also possible that Apple could significantly prioritize power consumption over performance for improved battery life. These decisions belong to Apple regardless of TSMC’s manufacturing process, making the exact behavior of the A14 chip somewhat uncertain until official announcement.