While the iPhone 15 leaks have revealed most of Apple’s biggest upgrades, questions remain about the cost of the new lineup, which is expected to see price increases on the Pro models. But now there’s a dramatic twist.
In a shocking move, Apple is said to be downgrading the manufacturing process of the new A17 chipset in the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, making the chip less efficient but cheaper to produce. The news was delivered via the popular Weibo poster Cell Phone Chip Expert, which has amassed nearly 400,000 followers due to its solid record of chip production leaks.
The leaker said, “A17, which was stocked in the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max this year, is an N3B process, but A17 produced at some point next year will be converted to a cost-saving N3E process, which may reduce efficiency.” explain.
TSMC makes Apple’s chipsets, and N3B is the company’s cutting-edge 3-nanometer (3nm) chip manufacturing process. TSMC claims it consumes up to 35% less power while delivering better performance than the 5nm A16 chip in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
Like N3B, the N3E manufacturing process is still 3nm, but the logic density is lowered and thus easier to make, resulting in higher chip yields and lower production costs. On the downside, the reduced logic density means the chip draws more power, potentially impacting battery life.
But the real shock to me is the timing. The leaker says the move will happen in 2024, mid-cycle for the iPhone 15 lineup, as the new range is set to launch in September 2023. It’s not uncommon for Apple to change component manufacturers in the middle of a cycle, but a key chip that switches processes.
That said, the switch was approved by an acquaintance of mine who said Apple’s cost savings are unlikely to be passed on to customers and that price increases for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max are still expected.
Looking for a silver lining? If I had to guess, I think the chip switch could be a step in preparation for the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus, rather than a mid-cycle replacement for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. In recent years, Apple has established a pattern of using last year’s Pro technology in its next-generation standard models, and finding a way to make the A17 chip for the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus cheaper in 2024 makes a lot of sense.
Either way, customers will likely pay more for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max this year, regardless of potential mid-cycle production cost savings. In return, buyers can expect an updated ultra-thin bezel design, improved camera, and new customizable action buttons, while the entire range will move to USB-C.
Will it be enough to entice upgraders? One prominent leaker says the iPhone 15 range is “too mediocre for an upgrade,” and while leakers and analysts disagree, analysts project record sales. It remains to be seen how Apple’s loyal fans will respond.
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