MediaTek hints big speed boosts for upcoming iPhone, Macs

MediaTek is giving us some insight into how capable the new A- and M-series chips from Cupertino and made by TSMC really are.

Apple, MediaTek, TSMC, Apple Silicon, iPhones, Macs, processors, mobile, PC

Not to say I’m obsessed with Apple’s processors, but MediaTek’s latest statement gives us some insight into what new A- and M-series chips from Cupertino may be capable of, and yes, they’ll be faster, cooler, and more performant.

MediaTek this morning tried to set its flag for business on news it has successfully developed its first chip using the 3-nanometer process technology TSMC also uses to build chips for Apple.

Is this Apple’s big advantage?

That’s good for MediaTek, but not much of a challenge for Apple, which has allegedly purchased all TSMC’s 3nm production for the next 12 months. No surprise, then, that MediaTek’s own 3nm chip won’t go into mass production before the second half of 2024, giving Apple a comfortable lead in an industry playing catch-up.

Don’t neglect that MediaTek is also one of the companies that will invest millions in Arm’s IPO to help protect access to those industry-leading smartphone processor designs. The politics of processor production aside, MediaTek’s news offers a pretty strong hint of the extent of improvement to expect once Apple’s new chips are introduced next week.

Ballpark figures

You shouldn’t expect identical results, as the processors made by both companies are different and only Apple (I think) has the deep Arm licensing to really adjust the reference design. But you can use these figures to help guide your thinking.

Here’s what MediaTek had to say (italics mine):

“TSMC’s 3nm process technology provides enhanced performance, power, and yield, in addition to complete platform support for both high performance computing and mobile applications. Compared with TSMC’s N5 process, TSMC’s 3nm technology currently offers as much as 18% speed improvement at same power, or 32% power reduction at same speed, and approximately 60% increase in logic density.

The current iPhone 14 uses a tweaked version of TSMC’s N5 process, but it is reasonable to expect similar improvements in comparison with iPhone 15.

Actual improvements may vary

The real-world extent of those enhancements may differ, depending on what Apple’s teams decided to prioritize; Apple’s chip might focus on better battery life rather than performance, for example.

All the same, the MediaTek data strongly suggests the next iPhone (and future M3 Macs) will deliver what I see as significant improvements. They will be faster by almost 20%, will use a lot less power and will be more computationally capable given the increased logic density.

In Apple’s case, given the extent to which it is placing all internal systems on the same chip, that should translate into significant performance across the system, with the possible exception of networking which will remain laggard until Apple manages to bring the 5G radio onto the same chip, perhaps in 2025.

Up to 20% performance gains?

Zooming out for a brief attempt at competitive analysis, MediaTek’s news suggests that all the devices running Apple’s future chips will gain decent (10% to 20%) performance gains. What does that mean in real terms?

Well, there is this:

  • The existing iPhone 14 Pro delivers a 6,508 multicore score on Geekbench, while the closest competing chip, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, reaches 5,199 in the same category.
  • Add just 10% to the performance score for the iPhone and you’re looking at raw performance data in excess of 7,000 – just under 2,000 points in front of the Samsung chip!

Apple seems far ahead, and that advantage is visible in its Arm-powered Macs, including the fantastic M2 MacBook Air. Apple also has the huge advantage of having booked all TSMC’s 3nm chip production for the next year, which means it will be moving to the next generation 3nm chip just as competitors catch up.

A few sleeps until Sept. 12

In a sense, it’s a little fruitless pre-(guess)-estimating what Apple is preparing to announce in its (already filmed) iPhone 15 launch event next week, but if fortune telling and tea leaf reading are your thing, then MediaTek’s announcement hints you won’t be disappointed.

This iPhone will once again be faster and more computationally performant than the last one, while Mac performance improvements will continue to blow previous expectations away.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon