Apple is planning to partner with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. for the production of its own 5G modems for future iPhones, according to a new report in Nikkei. Apple is said to be planning to use TSMC’s 4nm process node, which hasn’t yet been deployed for any commercial product; the modem is apparently being designed and tested at 5nm before moving to mass production in 2023 at 4nm.
Apple’s switch to modems of its own design is widely expected to happen in 2023, and TSMC is the natural manufacturing partner. Qualcomm, which is the dominant player in the industry and produces modem components for the entire iPhone 13 lineup, recently said that it expects to account for just 20 percent of iPhone modem orders in two years’ time.
Apple bought Intel’s 5G modem division in 2019, foreshadowing the eventual switch. Earlier that year Qualcomm and Apple agreed to end a costly modem technology patent dispute, with Qualcomm receiving more than $4 billion as part of the settlement.
TSMC is the manufacturer of all iPhone A-series processors and M1 systems-on-chip for Mac computers. According to Nikkei, there are hundreds of TSMC engineers based in Cupertino to work with Apple’s chip development team. 2022 iPhone SoCs will reportedly use TSMC’s 4nm process, and some iPad models are said to be adopting 3nm processors in 2023. Nikkei says the iPhone will make the 3nm jump “as soon as” next year.