The A11 chip that Apple will likely use in its 2017 iPhone, possibly dubbed the iPhone 7s or something else entirely, has reportedly made a big step toward production. DigiTimes said Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which builds the chips, has reportedly started to “tape out the design” ahead of “small volume production” sometime during the second quarter of next year.
I didn’t know what “tape out” meant, so I looked it up. Wikipedia said it’s the “final result of the design cycle for integrated circuits or printed circuit boards,” before the chips are photomasked and, eventually, passed on to manufacturing. There are still other pieces that need to fall into place before manufacturing can begin, however. TSMC is also working on a new 10nm process which isn’t even certified yet, though DigiTimes said that’s expected during the fourth quarter of this year.
If anything, this report just goes to show how far in advance these things start. The iPhone 7, assumed to arrive sometime in September, is expected to use an Apple A10 processor.