Apple’s A17 Pro chipset in the iPhone 15 Pro is one of the first 3nm processors on the consumer market. The Android smartphone segment has not yet entered the 3nm ring, as the latest flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and Dimensity 9300 chipsets still use 4nm architecture.
Recent reports indicate that Qualcomm and MediaTek are preparing to launch 3nm chips together with TSMC. It seems that both chipmakers are leaning towards TSMC rather than Samsung for their upcoming 3nm processors. Samsung’s silicon production has been criticized in the past for inefficiencies and heating issues.
TSMC receives massive orders for 3nm chips from Qualcomm and MediaTek
According to the Chinese Business Times, TSMC has received huge orders from many suppliers, including Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Google, and even Microsoft. Apple is already ordering its latest 3nm A17 Pro chip from TSMC, while Qualcomm and MediaTek are in the process of developing it.
Qualcomm is also lining up to secure 3nm production batches from TSMC. The upcoming Snapdragon 8 Gen 4 is expected to use the latest 3nm architecture. Earlier reports said that Qualcomm would source 3nm chips from both TSMC and Samsung, but it seems that the company is now leaning more towards TSMC.
Today, TSMC has a production capacity of about 70,000 silicon wafers per month on the 3nm architecture. This figure is expected to increase to 1,00,000 by next year. Note that several hundred chipsets can be produced from one wafer. Thus, these figures refer to the total chip production capacity, which is estimated at millions.
Qualcomm does not trust Samsung’s architecture
For reference, Qualcomm used Samsung’s 4nm architecture for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. However, the processor turned out to be a disaster for the Android market as it had serious heating issues. Devices with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset had thermal throttling and insufficient efficiency.
Qualcomm was so unhappy with Samsung that it had to release a new processor called Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, but this time it was built on TSMC’s 4nm architecture. The new chip was successful and eliminated all the thermal problems of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
Moreover, Qualcomm continued to use TSMC for its subsequent Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipsets. Even this year, the newest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is still being manufactured on TSMC’s 4nm architecture, not Samsung’s.
It is clear that Qualcomm does not trust Samsung’s foundries for its flagship chipsets.
Samsung has not yet received major orders for 3nm chips
Samsung already has the technology and infrastructure to produce 3nm processors. However, SamMobile reports that the company has not yet received any major orders for 3nm chipsets.
There are very few players in the chip business. Given that Qualcomm and MediaTek have already shown interest in TSMC’s foundries, it seems that there is no major player left in the industry that could use Samsung’s resources.
Samsung is developing a new transistor design called GAA (Gate All Around), which may be more power efficient than TSMC’s FinFET process currently used in its 3nm chips. AMD may use this new architecture for some of its chips, but no deal has been finalized.
Samsung is investing heavily in its chip business. The company is aiming to overtake TSMC to become the largest chipmaker in the world. Samsung is also said to be working on its dream chip, possibly the Exynos 2500, which is expected to be the most efficient processor ever developed by the company.