Apple eyes 20 nm quad-core chips for next-gen iPad

A prominent industry analyst reports that Apple is working with Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC to design 20nm quad-core chips for use in future iOS devices.

According to Citigroup analyst J.T. Hsu, TSMC would be Cupertino’s sole supplier for the 20nm processors, which could power devices such as the iPad by 2014. 

Hsu also notes that Apple began verifying TSMC’s 20nm process in August and may begin risk production as soon as November. Volume production, says the analyst, is expected to kick off in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Unsurprisingly, the 20nm quad-core chips are expected to make their way into iTVs and even MacBooks.

Nevertheless, said Hsu, Apple’s flagship iPhones will be still be equipped with duo-core processors in an effort to keep power consumption levels at a bare minimum. 

“TSMC’s 20nm process technology can provide 30 percent higher speed, 1.9 times the density, or 25 percent less power than its 28nm technology,” Hsu told China Economic News Service. 

”TSMC 20nm technology is the manufacturing process behind a wide array of applications that run the gamut from tablets and smartphones to desktops and servers.”

As MacRumors points out, Samsung is currently the manufacturer of Apple’s A-series chips for iOS devices, with Cupertino effectively adopting the company’s 32-nanometer process for the new A6 chip used in the iPhone 5. 

“Apple had been rumored several times over the past 18 months to be switching its ARM-based chip production to TSMC, but the company has so far stuck with Samsung,” MacRumors explained.

“A late August report indicated that Apple and Qualcomm had each attempted to purchase exclusive access to TSMC’s chip production, but TSMC ultimately rejected both bids. TSMC has, however, indicated that it remains open to dedicating individual factories to single customers, and it appears that Apple may be interested in pursuing that route in order to take advantage of TSMC’s technical and manufacturing expertise.”

In other chip news, former AMD chip designer Jim Mergard – who worked on the company’s x86 Brazos processor – was recently hired by Apple after performing a short stint at Samsung. 

Former AMD executive turned analyst Patrick Moorhead told the Wall Street Journal that Mergard is an expert in both classic PC technology and mobile SoCs.

Besides the current breed of Apple smartphones and tablets, Moorhead says Mergard’s talents could potentially be applied to Apple’s PC efforts, where its Macs use Intel chips but not SoCs.

“He would be very capable of pulling together internal and external resources to do a PC processor for Apple,” Moorhead added.