Apple's next iPhone family will be built around a processor manufactured on a new, improved 7nm process, according to a Digitimes report citing the Commercial Times, a Chinese business newspaper. The new chip, presumed to be named A13 following Apple's naming convention, will be the first to use a new 7nm Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUV) process at TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) called N7 Pro. Apple's current iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, announced last year, use the A12 Bionic processor which is also manufactured by TSMC, but using a first-generation FinFET process called N7. The A12 Bionic was the first 7nm smartphone processor to ship in volume, although Huawei had announced its own 7nm Kirin 980 before the launch of the 2018 iPhone family.
It is not known how exactly the new N7 Pro process will be different from the previously confirmed N7+ EUV process, which is slated to be used for Huawei's upcoming Kirin 985, according to the Digitimes report. TSMC will begin ramping up volume production of both 7nm EUV processes in the second quarter of this year, which would line up with the typical timeframes for Apple's annual iPhone launch Huawei's Mate series refresh.
The new EUV processes should allow for more precise manufacturing, potentially increasing density and performance while lowering power consumption and heat dissipation. EUV has been on the roadmaps for semiconductor manufacturers for over a decade, but has not been widely used for mass production due to its cost and complexity. Apple and Huawei both design their own smartphone processors in-house, and will compete with Qualcomm's 7nm Snapdragon 855 used by multiple manufacturers. TSMC is the world's largest contract manufacturer of processors, and is used by all three companies.
TSMC is also in the process of setting up its 5nm production facilities, with low-volume risk production said to take place this year, and mass production beginning early next year. Apple is rumoured to be cutting iPhone production following reductions in demand, especially in China. This has led to revenue forecast cuts for multiple companies involved in Apple's supply chain, including TSMC.