For the A16 Bionic, Apple mentioned that its latest SoC would deliver a 20 percent improvement in power savings, and the company might be aiming for the skies in battery savings when it launches the A17 Bionic next year. However, this can mean that the next-generation chipset does not deliver a massive performance leap, which might not matter to the average iPhone customer, but it can mean it will give competitors like Qualcomm and MediaTek a chance to capitalize on the opportunity.
With Apple giving TSMC orders for the A17 Bionic, a ton of emphasis was placed on power efficiency, not performance
TSMC recently held a ceremony announcing the mass production of 3nm chips at its new Fab 18 facility located in the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP). This hub will likely be used to mass produce the A17 Bionic in the second half of 2023, but there was an interesting metric surrounding the benefits of using 3nm technology. The new process will deliver up to 35 percent in power savings compared to the 4nm node (TSMC calls it an enhanced version of 5nm), and surprisingly, there was little information provided on performance uplift.
Even Bloomberg states that according to the company’s chairman, Mark Liu, the new 3nm process will bring a 35 percent power efficiency, but no one talked about performance gains. Now, this does not mean that the A17 Bionic will not see some performance improvements compared to the A16 Bionic, but there may not be major jaw-dropping differences that Apple includes it in its marketing slide when announcing the iPhone 15 series.
Also, if you noticed, for quite a while, and this year too, Apple did not directly compare the A16 Bionic to the A15 Bionic, or the A14 Bionic for that matter. Its slide was compared to the A13 Bionic, indicating that the company is unable to reach comparable performance stats to include in its keynote. The reason for this is simple; Apple has lost a ton of chip talent to competitors, resulting in a massive brain drain. The A15 Bionic lacked sufficient CPU performance gains compared to the A14 Bionic for this very reason.
The A17 Bionic may be going down the same path if that is the course Apple has planned for it. Then again, just because TSMC’s newest 3nm process delivers a 35 percent power savings benefit does not mean the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Ultra will immediately see these advantages. Apple will have a free hand to use the 3 nm’s improved transistor density, and that can also mean adjusting performance while sacrificing some battery life. However, Apple would have little motivation to go down this route since the A16 Bionic continues to be the fastest mobile SoC in existence at this time.
However, given the A17 Bionic may potentially feature greater power efficiency, Apple could use this benefit to incorporate features that it had to scrap from the A16 Bionic such as ray tracing support, which could not be added due to unacceptable power consumption, among other flaws. Whatever Apple’s decision may be, we cannot wait to see the A17 Bionic in action.