Next year, Apple is likely to launch three iPhones, including a 5G-enabled model. Then we'll see new phones equipped with the A14 Bionic processor, which, as usual, is made by TSMC, but it will use 5 nm technology.
What kind of processor is this? How much performance has been improved? Do you support 5G? We collect a variety of rumors and reports to try to find answers to some key questions:
Q1: Will A14 really introduce a 5nm process?
In April this year, TSMC's 5Nm chip entered the risk production phase and will be fully produced in the first half of 2020. Apple is TSMC's most important customer, and next year's A14 Bionic is likely to be manufactured with 5nm EUV technology.
TSMC is also rumoured to be making samples of the A14 Bionic chip, which Apple may have received in September.
The A13 Bionic is made of 7nm technology, 20% faster than the previous generation of processors and 40% less energy. Apple has bigger batteries for the iPhone 11, and the phone's thickness has increased a bit. It is estimated that the energy consumption of 5 nm chips will be further reduced.
Q2: Is A14 the industry's first 5nm chip?
The 2020 iPhone is likely to be equipped with an A14 Bionic processor and a Dragon X55 modem, and the Apple A14 processor will be made with 5 nm technology.
In other words, next year Apple's CPU will evolve from 7nm to 5nm, which is more efficient when the chip area is the same. However, the A14 is unlikely to become the industry's first 5nm chip, and Huawei's next-generation Kirin processor will be made of 5nm technology, which could be the first to be launched. Last year, Huawei pioneered the world's first 7nm chip, the Kirin 980, and the new Kirin 990 was the first to integrate a 5G modem.
Huawei typically introduces new chips at the IFA show, earlier than the iPhone release date.
Q3: Will new technology drive up costs?
Although TSMC will produce 5nm handsets next year, 5nm technology is mainly used in 5G and IoT devices. Despite many rumors that the iPhone will use 5G nanochips this year, the rumor sits unconfirmed by Apple.
While 5 nm technology can implant more transistors into chips, the cost of chips will rise. In addition, although TSMC makes the A14 chip for Apple, the chip is not integrated into a chip with the Dragon X55 5G modem, which means that the X55 will appear on the motherboard, which will take up more space and expand the component size.
Because the size of the motherboard is expanded, and 5 nm is a new technology, the cost of manufacturing components increases by 35%. In addition, the X55 5G modem emits a lot of heat, and Apple has to fix the heat and equip it with a better circuit system, which will further drive up costs.
Q4: How much performance has improved?
Apple has become an industry leader in chip design. Apple has been developing ARM processors since 2007. How does Apple's CPU improve every time it launches a new CPU? Let's start by reviewing:
- A10-A11: 25% increase in single-core performance, 80% increase in multicore performance, and 30% improvement in graphics performance.
- A9-A10: CPU performance up 40% and graphics performance up 50%.
- A8-A9: CPU performance up 70% and graphics performance up 90%.
- A7-A8: CPU performance up 25% and graphics performance up 50%.
A6-A7: Double CPU and graphics performance.
Please note that the A10-A11 data comes from the test and the following numbers are provided by Apple itself.
Apple currently uses a much better A13 processor (7 nm) than the A12 in 2018, with a 20% performance improvement and a 40% reduction in energy consumption.
We have reason to believe that next year's A14 processors should also have significant improvements in performance and energy consumption.
Q5: Does the chip have a built-in 5G modem?
The Nikkei news agency reported that Apple will launch three iPhones next year, only one of which will feature a Qualcomm 5G X55 modem.
Note that the X55 is a stand-alone multimode modem chip that supports 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G networks and works with Apple's A14 processor, but the two chips are not integrated together.
Obviously, Apple is a step further in 5G. Samsung has launched the Exynos 990 processor, which is made of 7nm technology and is paired with the 7nm Modem 5123 5G to form the next generation flagship 5G platform. At the IFA 2019 show, Qualcomm has already performed that both the mid-range Dragon 600 and 700 chips will have integrated 5G modems. The lower cost of integrated chips is an important advantage for manufacturers to offer cheaper 5G phones.