The ink has barely dried on the press release announcing Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845, and there are already rumors swirling about its eventual successor: the Snapdragon 855. The Snapdragon 845 is built on a refined version of Samsung's 10nm FinFET process (an evolution of the tech used for the Snapdragon 835), however, the Snapdragon 855 will be built on new 7nm process technology.
Whereas Samsung has been responsible for manufacturing both the Snapdragon 835 and Snapdragon 845, Nikkei is reporting that Qualcomm has selected TSMC to produce the Snapdragon 855. TMSC is also reportedly being tapped to produce Qualcomm's next generation modem chips for smartphones and lightweight convertible devices.
The switch from Samsung to TSMC is big news, as Qualcomm's flagship processors are used in the majority of the high-end Android smartphones that are gobbled up by a global audience. 2017's Snapdragon 835 has been used extensively on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8/Galaxy S8+, Google Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL, HTC U11/U11+, OnePlus 5 and LG V30 (among numerous others). The Snapdragon 835 will also be used in a new range of lightweight Windows 10-based notebooks and convertibles.
The Snapdragon 845 is expected to continue that trend in 2018 with flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9/Galaxy S9+, so we can expect the Snapdragon 855 to dominate the mobile sector in 2019.
According to Nikkei's sources, TSMC's 7nm process technology will also be used to build the successor to Apple's A11 Bionic processor used in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. Apple's A11 Bionic processor is currently built on TSMC's 10nm lines.
TSMC's first 7nm chips will reach mass production during the first six months of 2018. Its second generation 7nm+ chips will arrive in 2019, and will take advantage of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) technology. Samsung, on the other hand, is expected to produce its first 7nm+ EUV chips during the second half of 2018.