What the iPhone means for IC production

I always insist with my students that the smartphone is the reference electronic system. Smartphone fabrication requires more integrated circuits than any other market segment in the Electronic Systems Industry. More than PCs, much more than automotive applications.

The data below from recent TSMC’s third quarter presentation come handy. TSMC – Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation – is not a household name, but is the largest semiconductor foundry, i.e. semiconductor manufacturer for third parties. For example, TSMC is the manufacturer of the A10 processor of the iPhone 7, and of many Snapdragon processors of high-end Android phones.

60% of TMSC’s revenue in 3Q come from “Communication” applications, which means smartphones.

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3Q16 Revenue by Application, from TSMC 3Q 2016 presentation
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3Q2016 Revenue by Technology, from TSMC 3Q 2016 presentation

In terms of a breakdown per technology type, 31% of revenue is from the 16/20 nm CMOS process, which is mainly use for high performance smartphone processors. The steep increase in 3Q 2016 revenue from 16/20 nm technology one can see in the rightmost bar in the figure below is most likely due the production of the A10 processor of the iPhone 7.

No sign of Moore’s law slowing down from these data, by the way.

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