Apple Likely to Be Only Major Device Maker With 3nm Chips in 2023 As Qualcomm Reportedly ‘Caught In a Dilemma’

Apple could be one of the only major device makers in 2023 to adopt the newer and more advanced 3nm process technology, as Qualcomm and MediaTek are unclear on whether the newer process is worth it.

According to a report by DigiTimesQualcomm and MediaTek, two of the largest chip makers, remain unsure on whether they want to follow in Apple’s footsteps and start producing 3nm chips in 2023. The chip makers are reportedly undecided given the “unclear sales prospects for Android handsets.”

Qualcomm and MediaTek, however, have not yet made a clear decision on whether to join the 3nm camp this year, despite both hoping to keep up with Apple’s process upgrade for their flagship mobile SoCs, the sources continued.

The sources stressed that the uncertain market outlook for non-Apple handsets and 3nm manufacturing costs already exceeding US$20,000 per wafer are likely to deter both handset AP specialists from launching 3nm SoCs later in the year.

Both Qualcomm and MediaTek are “caught in a dilemma over whether to follow Apple’s process upgrade in 2023,” the report notes. Qualcomm in particular provides chips for many high-end Android flagships, including Samsung phones. The report notes that Qualcomm may have no choice but to adopt 3nm process technology if Samsung wants to “meet competition from Apple in the flagship handset market.”

Apple is widely expected to adopt TSMC’s 3nm chip process technology with coming M2 Pro and ‌M2‌ Max chips, powering updated 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros. The A17 Bionic chip for the iPhone 15 Pro and “‌iPhone 15‌ Ultra” is also expected to be based on the 3nm process technology. Mass production of TSMC’s 3nm chips has already started, ahead of when we expected updated MacBook Pros models to be announced in the coming months.

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