Can you name TSMC’s top three chip-hungry customers?

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Can you name TSMC's top three chip-hungry customers?

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is the largest foundry in the world. The firm has close to 500 customers including three big tech names at the top of the list. No points will be awarded if you can tell us which company is TSMC’s number one customer. That’s because the answer is so obvious, especially if you’re a loyal PhoneArena reader since we’ve mentioned it quite often.

After Apple, can you name TSMC’s second and third largest customers? Hint: Huawei is no longer among them!

Apple is TSMC’s top customer. The foundry manufactures the A-series chips used on the iPhone (including the 5nm A14 Bionic used on the iPhone 12 series and the enhanced 5nm A15 Bionic that will be used on this year’s iPhone 13 series). It also produces the 5nm M1 ARM-based Apple Silicon chip that contains a massive 16 billion transistors and will push out the M2 sequel that could be built using TSMC’s 4nm process node.

So Apple as TSMC’s top customer is a pretty easy pick. But guessing TSMC’s second-largest customer might be a little tougher. First of all, up until this year, Huawei was right behind Apple. However, in July 2020 the U.S. Commerce Department made a change to its export rules. Foundries using American technology to build chips are not allowed to ship the components to Huawei even if those chips have the Kirin brand and were designed by the beleaguered manufacturer.
So with Huawei unable to buy cutting-edge chipsets from TSMC, Digitimes (via NewDynamics) says that Huawei has been replaced by AMD. Using TSMC’s 7nm process node back in 2019 when it was cutting-edge enabled AMD’s Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 processor to take business away from Intel which at the time was having problems with its 10nm and 7nm chips. AMD will continue to use the 7nm process until the Zen 4 core is used; this will be built using the 5nm process node.

Considering that Apple is focused on using 5nm components and might switch to 3nm for next year’s A16 Bionic for the iPhone 14 series, we can tell you that AMD is TSMC’s largest 7nm client. AMD is expected to continue ranking as TSMC’s second-largest customer throughout the remainder of this year.

Qualcomm is rumored to return Snapdragon chip production to TSMC with the Snapdragon 898+ expected in the second half of 2022

In third place is MediaTek. First announced in 2019, the chip designer’s Dimensity 5G components roll off of TSMC’s assembly line using the 7nm process. The Dimensity 2000 5G sequel is expected to start shipping during the first quarter of 2022. Not only will it use ARM’s V9 architecture, it also will be manufactured using TSMC’s 4nm process node.

One wild card here is Qualcomm. The last Snapdragon SoCs to come out of TSMC’s fab were 2020’s Snapdragon 865 and Snapdragon 865+. But for this year’s 5nm Snapdragon 888 (and rumored Snapdragon 888+), Samsung Foundry got the call. And that is supposed to remain unchanged for next year’s Snapdragon 898 chipset which will reportedly hike performance by 20% and employ a three-cluster architecture with large Cortex-X2 and Cortex-A710 cores, and a small Cortex-A510 core.

A change is rumored to take place in the second half of next year when the Snapdragon chipsets will supposedly make their return to TSMC with the release of the Snapdragon 898+. This component will reportedly be produced using TSMC’s 4nm process node.

Earlier this year, we passed along the word of industry analysts who say that the world is too reliant on TSMC. As research firm Capital Economics noted, depending on Taiwan for chips “poses a threat to the global economy.” Just consider that the research firm says that 92% of the most cutting-edge chips in the world come from TSMC with South Korea’s Samsung Foundry responsible for the rest.



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