When revealing a new product, Apple often spends time talking about how much faster it is than the previous model and how favorably it compares to the competition. Claims like “the Macbook Air is faster than 98% of PC laptops” grab headlines, whether they’re correct or not. It’s an effective marketing approach, but Apple might choose to avoid it when launching the next MacBook Air and iPhone 14.
If recent reports are correct, the A16 chip in the iPhone 14 Pro will use the same manufacturing process as the A15 Bionic which is in the iPhone 13. Renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote in a tweet thread that the Cupertino tech company would stick with TSMC’s N5P process for the A16. This comes after leaker ShrimpApplePro, citing “fairly reliable sources,claimed that the A16 would be based on TSMC’s 5nm process. Smaller improvements would come through LPDDR5 RAM and a more powerful GPU.
Kuo says TSMC will release a significantly improved N3 and N4P manufacturing process, but not until 2023. As such, Apple has the option of sticking with a 5-nanometer N5P (used to make the A15 Bionic chip in the iPhone 13 and iPad mini) or moving to the N4. Kuo thinks N4 does not provide any significant benefit, So Apple may as well stick with N5P, which results in “limited performance and power saving improvements over A16”. Apple might still count up to 16 for “marketing purposes”, even though it’s not a true next-gen processor. Other recent reports claim that the standard iPhone 14 will stay with A15 while only Pro models will get the A16.
The next MacBook Air may experience a similar limitation caused by the same bottleneck. Instead of switching to the M2 processor, Apple might choose to stick with the M1 on the MacBook Air and instead focus on its supposed redesignwhich should involve new color options. Kuo says that while there’s “nothing wrong” with naming a minor update “M2”, Apple would be smart to reserve the name for a larger release, like when the MacBook Pro 14 and 16 arrive next year. ShrimpApplePro believes the M2 processor will be based on a 3nm process, skipping 4nm entirely.
Anyway, I agree with Kuo. Apple is off to a good start with its M1-series chips, but the company will want to set high expectations for its future custom processors. Although the gap is narrowing, the M1 chip is still very powerful compared to its AMD and Intel rivals. And as Kuo notes, people will be more invested in the MacBook Air’s long-awaited redesign than in the performance gains. Apple can still do a soft MacBook Air refresh next year when a proper M2 pops up after the Pro models are released.
How important this is will depend on how you use your smartphones or laptops. The iPhone 14 is already the fastest phone on the market, and most customers don’t even come close to scratching its power cap. We’re still months away from Apple revealing its next line of flagship smartphones. If that doesn’t give us faster performance, let’s hope the tech giant provides other reasons to upgrade.