Apple prioritizing 3nm Apple Silicon chip engineering over other projects

Apple is halting the development of its own custom Wi-Fi chip in an effort to direct more attention to Apple Silicon processors. According to Ming-Chi Kuo, the “slowdown of processor upgrades” is a concern for Apple. Therefore, it wants to devote more resources to the development of 3-nanometer chips for Apple Silicon products.

3nm chip engineering at the top of Apple’s to-do list

Kuo says that Apple is directing most of its engineering resources towards Apple Silicon chips built on a 3nm process for the foreseeable future. This will lead to significant improvements in “performance and power consumption” and, therefore, is a top priority for Apple’s teams.

If all goes according to plan, Kuo predicts that the “world’s most advanced 3nm processors” from Apple will enter mass production as soon as this year:

The slowdown of processor upgrades is unfavorable to the sales of end products (such as A16 and M2 series chips). Therefore, to ensure that the world’s most advanced 3nm processors can enter mass production smoothly in 2023–2025, and the performance upgrade and power consumption improvement can significantly improve vs. predecessors, Apple has devoted most of its IC design resources to the development of processors.

The switch to 3nm transistors is expected to be a major boon for Apple Silicon performance, including for processors used in the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. The M1 and M2 series chips are built using a 5nm process. This represents the distance between transistors on the chip, and the smaller the distance, the better the performance and efficiency.

Kuo’s report today focuses only on the custom Wi-Fi chip that Apple was developing to replace Broadcom. The company is still working on its own 5G cellular modem to replace Qualcomm, although delays have affected that project as well.

The analyst says that “insufficient development resources” have caused delays in the 5G modem project. “Apple’s own Wi-Fi chip development visibility is even lower than its own 5G baseband chip,” he says.

Finally, Kuo corroborates a recent report from Barclays, which said that the iPhone 15 will include support for Wi-Fi-6E. In fact, the pace of new Wi-Fi standards like Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 is said to be one of the reasons Apple decided to halt the development of its own Wi-Fi chip.

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Naveen Kumar

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