In just a few excruciatingly long weeks, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is set to announce its next-generation trio of iPhones. All three models -- from the direct successor to last year's iPhone 7 all the way to the premium OLED variant -- are expected to be powered by the custom-designed A11 Fusion processor.
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Though Apple surely has some surprises in store for us when it announces the new phones and details the capabilities of the new chip, here are two things that, even before the official announcement comes, we probably know about the chip.
And the manufacturer is...
The A11 Fusion chip is expected to be manufactured exclusively by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (NYSE: TSM), using its brand-new 10nm chip manufacturing technology.
TSMC's 10nm technology, which is already used to manufacture the A10X applications processors inside the current 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets, promises to deliver a doubling in transistor density compared to the 16nm technology used to build the A10 Fusion chip inside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
TSMC is believed to be the sole manufacturer of the A10 Fusion chips, as well.
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TSMC's 10nm technology is also expected to enable reduce power consumption at the same performance as the 16nm technology, or deliver more performance at similar power consumption.
What the 10nm technology will ultimately allow Apple to do is to cram more features and functionality into the A11 Fusion compared to what it was able to with the A10 Fusion without drawing too much power or ballooning costs too much.
For reference, in moving from the A9X chip (manufactured in TSMC's 16nm technology) to the A10X Fusion (manufactured in TSMC's 10nm technology), Apple achieved the following:
- A move from two high-performance CPU cores to three high-performance CPU cores paired with three high-efficiency cores
- An increase in on-processor level 2 cache memory from 3MB to 8MB, which likely helped contribute to the higher performance that the A10X delivered
- A slight CPU frequency increase on the high-performance cores
- A major reduction in chip size (from 147 square millimeters to 96 square millimeters), even with the additional features
This year's iPhones are going to deliver some pretty crazy performance levels, and it'll be in no small part due to the new manufacturing technology that the A11 Fusion chip should be built with.
It'll probably have a GPU from this jilted supplier
Longtime Apple supplier Imagination Technologies (NASDAQOTH: IGNMF) disclosed back in April that Apple, by far its largest customer representing approximately half of its revenue, no longer planned to use the former's graphics technology in future products.
Imagination licenses graphics processor intellectual property that is integrated into chips; it doesn't sell chips that can function on their own. In Imagination's most recent earnings presentation, the company said that it "fully expect[s] to receive royalties from [its] largest customer over [the] coming year."
I think it's safe to say that the A11 Fusion chip inside this year's iPhones will contain Imagination-designed graphics technology.
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