Semiconductor giant Qualcomm is set to work with both TSMC and Samsung simultaneously to create a new 3nm version of its Snapdragon 8 Gen 4 chip, Taiwanese media outlet Commercial Times reported on Aug 17. It seems likely that Qualcomm will only be able to secure around 15% of TSMC’s 3nm production capacity for its chips, with Apple’s upcoming iPhone 15 Pro series expected to dominate the Taiwanese firm’s output. Samsung’s 3nm process yield has significantly improved in recent months, allowing it to catch up with sector leader TSMC.
Why it matters: Adopting 3nm technology will allow Android devices using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 4 to narrow the performance gap with the forthcoming iPhone 15 Pro series and its A17 Bionic chip. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon system on chip (SoC) lineup currently powers the majority of Android smartphones on the market, with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 4 processor scheduled to launch in 2024.
Details: Qualcomm looks set to adopt a dual-source approach by partnering with both TSMC and Samsung for next year’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 4.
- TSMC has indicated that demand for its 3nm process remains strong. The process will support HPC (High-Performance Computing) and smartphones in the second half of this year, accounting for an estimated 4% to 6% of TSMC’s wafer revenue in 2023. The firm has already received customized orders for its N3E process, its latest 3nm offering, which has successfully passed verification and is expected to start mass production in the fourth quarter.
- To meet the demand for Apple’s A17 Bionic chip, TSMC aims to reach a monthly production capacity of 100,000 units for the 3nm process by the end of the year. Compared to the 5nm process, the 3nm process is set to deliver an 18% increase in speed, while reducing power consumption by up to 30% under the same performance conditions, according to TSMC.
- Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and MediaTek’s Dimensity 9300 are expected to be released in October using TSMC’s N4P (4nm) process, according to the report from Commercial Times. Both companies are projected to adopt the N3E (3nm) process in 2024.
- According to Wccftech, a leak of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 4’s specs shows that it will feature custom Phoenix cores and TSMC’s N3E technology. The report mentioned that Qualcomm will apply its self-developed Nuvia CPU architecture to the new chipset.
- Qualcomm opted for the 4nm process for this year’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 due to the high cost of TSMC’s 3nm process. Currently, Apple dominates the allocation of these cutting-edge 3nm wafers, according to media outlet Wccftech.
- In July, Korean media outlet KMIB claimed that Samsung now boasts a 60% yield rate for its 3nm process, slightly higher than TSMC’s 55%. TSMC’s low yield rate has reportedly led Apple to commit to only paying for qualified wafer batches, instead of establishing a standard rate with TSMC.
Context: In the first quarter of 2023, the top three brands in terms of global smartphone chipset shipments were Mediatek with a 32% market share, Qualcomm with 28%, and Apple with 26%, according to market research firm Counterpoint.