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Apple Starts Mass Production Of 7-NM A12 Chips For New iPhones

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Apple has kicked off mass production of its A12 chips, the company's 7-nanometer processors that will be used to power the next generation of iPhones expected to be unveiled later this year.

Bloomberg reports that the smartphone company has partnered with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to produce its latest, smallest, and most powerful line of mobile processors. Last month, the Taiwanese chipmaker announced it had begun building 7-nm chips. However, it did not say whether or not it has partnered with Apple or another firm. TSMC announced it was starting work on the A11 chip also in May last year.

Apple A12 Chip And The 7-NM Advantage

The 7-nm technology refers to the density of the transistors on the chip. A 7-nm chip would be the fastest, most efficient processor to power a mobile device. The most up-to-date mobile chip technology is the 10-nm chip. This includes Apple's A11 that runs on the iPhone 8 and iPhone X as well as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835, which powers the Samsung Galaxy S8.

A new iPhone with a 7-nm chip under the hood would definitely have a few advantages over its competition, including better performing apps, increased battery conservation, and improved use of storage, all of which are poised to help Apple grow amid a highly saturated global smartphone market.

As researcher IDC points out, global smartphone sales saw a steep 8.5 drop during last year's fourth quarter as manufacturers shipped 36 million units less than they did during the previous year's last quarter. All in all, global sales dropped by 0.5 percent in 2017, signaling the first year-over-year decline in smartphone shipments since Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone 10 years ago.

Samsung Is On The 7-NM Race Too

But Apple is not the only one hoping to take advantage of 7-nm technology. Its perennial rival Samsung is also in the race to build the next generation of mobile chips. The Korean company recently announced that it has started mass-producing 7-nm chips in a bid to take a slice of the processor pie from TSMC.

Tech companies such as Apple and Qualcomm design chips and turn over the mass production to contract chipmakers, such as TSMC. But Samsung hopes it can win over some of that business for itself by using a new technology to build 7-nm chips. Company senior vice president Hong Hao said Samsung has perfected the use of extreme ultraviolet lithography, a technology that allows manufacturers to build smaller transistors to a 7-nm width.

For years, manufacturers have found it increasingly difficult to shrink their circuits to a single-digit width. However, Samsung says EUV lithography has allowed it to build 1,000 silicon chips each day.

Photo: Arild Finne Nybø | Flickr

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