With Qualcomm launching the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 Plus and the foundry switching to TSMC, many have speculated that the relationship may be alienated by Qualcomm’s order cut. However, as Samsung’s 3nm GAA process is about to be mass-produced, it seems that the business between the two parties has taken a new turn.
According to The Elec, the first customer of Samsung’s 3nm GAA process is the Chinese application-specific IC firm PanSemi, which makes chips used in Bitcoin mining, and Qualcomm has also booked the process flow for use at any time. Samsung has introduced a new GAAFET process at the 3nm process node, which allows more precise control of current and narrower gate width than existing FinFETs. It can achieve 30% performance improvement, 50% power consumption reduction, and 45% area reduction.
The reason why Qualcomm switched to TSMC is not difficult to understand. Since the yield rate of Samsung’s 4nm process is only about 35%, it is much worse than TSMC’s yield rate of over 70%. At the same time, TSMC’s 4nm process is also more power-efficient, and Qualcomm has replaced the foundry for performance and stable supply considerations. Although Qualcomm is likely to continue to use TSMC on Snapdragon 8 Gen2, and will further use TSMC’s 3nm process in the future, the advanced semiconductor process at this stage has high uncertainty, so Qualcomm needs to retain a backup solution.
As TSMC’s largest customer, Apple occupies a considerable part of TSMC’s 3nm production capacity. At the same time, TSMC’s 3nm process is slightly behind Samsung in production, and the yield problem is also worthy of attention. It is said that Qualcomm is also observing the situation of Samsung’s 3nm process. If TSMC encounters problems, it may change its strategy according to Samsung’s progress.