Every Android smartphone worth buying today uses either a chip made by Qualcomm or a chip made by Samsung. Qualcomm’s chips are manufactured by a company called TSMC; they use 28 nanometer technology. Samsung on the other hand, they make their own chips, and they use 32 nanometer technology. When it comes to transistors, smaller is better. Smaller transistors consume less energy, and since the transistors are smaller, the chips end up being smaller, so you get more chips our of a silicon wafer. That means cheaper chips.
According to our favorite Taiwanese supply chain rumor website DigiTimes, here’s what we can expect in 2013: Samsung is going to jump to 20 nanometer technology while simultaneously building factories that can produce 14 nanometer transistors. TSMC is also going to make 20 nanometer chips, but production is going to start in the second half of the year. Said production will also be low volume. Our gut tells us that we’re not going to see any 20 nm Snapdragons from Qualcomm until very late 2013 or early 2014.
And as for the leader of chip building, Intel, they’re producing 22 nanometer chips today and they’re on track to begin mass producing 14 nanometer chips in 2014. Now we know what you’re thinking, who in their right mind would buy an Intel based smartphone? Motorola’s RAZR i, which only started shipping a few weeks ago, has proven itself to be competitive. By this time next year, Intel is going to have something that’s even better. It’s perfectly reasonable to make fun of them right now, but be warned, when Intel wants something, they get it.
Back to TSMC for a second, they also make chips for NVIDIA, so all you Tegra fans should have something to look forward to during Q3/Q4 2013. By then we should start seeing the ARM Cortex A15 packing Tegra 4.