While there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the timeline for Apple’s iPhone 12, one important component that doesn’t seem to be suffering any delays in the midst of the current pandemic is Apple’s new A14 Bionic chip, which is said to be fully “on track” to begin production in volumes suitable for the iPhone 12.
According to a new report coming from DigiTimes (via MacRumors), the manufacturing lines for TSMC, the foundry that has been producing Apple’s A-series chips for the past several years, remain “fully booked for 5nm chips amid the current pandemic.”
Although we already heard earlier this month that TSMC was ramping up production of the new A14 chips, the conflicting reports around the timelines for this year’s flagship iPhone cast some doubt on that, with some speculating that Apple has asked TSMC to defer production by one or two quarters, but according to this latest report, there seems to be no basis for that, and everything remains on schedule.
TSMC became Apple’s exclusive supplier for its A-series chips back in 2016, starting with the A9, and the company has reportedly invested $25 billion in developing 5nm technology for Apple’s newest A14 chip, which could conceivably pack in as much power as Apple’s higher-end MacBook Pros.
There’s also still plenty of time for TSMC to kick off production. Initial test production of last year’s A13 chip didn’t begin until April, with mass production starting at the end of May. However, the iPhone 11 models were delivered on time with plenty of stock available to meet demand.
In fact, there’s been some speculation that one of the reasons the new iPad Pro only packs in an A12Z chip rather than the expected A13X was to save Apple and TSMC the effort of designing and retooling for an entirely new CPU; by all reports the A12Z is just the 2018 A12X with an already existing GPU core “switched on.” This would allow Apple and TSMC to focus all of their efforts on the upcoming A14 chip, which by all estimates is expected to be even more of a powerhouse, considering that even the A12 Bionic two years ago already rivalled some of the best desktop CPUs available.
What This Means
As crucial of a component as the A14 chip would be, there’s a lot more that goes into an iPhone, but if Apple is truly keeping TSMC producing chips on the same schedule, this provides some pretty good evidence that it’s doing everything it can to avoid delaying the iPhone 12 this fall.
Although recent reports have cast some doubt on Apple’s timeline, it’s a safe bet that they’re going to try and avoid deliberately slowing things down unless they absolutely have to. Some analysts have suggested that even though the Chinese supply chain seems to be getting back up to full speed, Apple could still choose to delay the iPhone to avoid releasing it at a time when demand would be low due to the ongoing pandemic. Still, even if Apple decides to delay announcing the iPhone 12 for whatever reason, that’s still no reason to delay production unless there are other factors involved that go beyond simple production costs.
Of course, nobody has a crystal ball to determine where the world will be when this fall arrives, and it would arguably be far worse for Apple to miss debuting a new iPhone if the demand is there, so Apple is likely to try and cover all of its bases, which means being prepared for whatever may come.