Apple planning significant iPhone chip change with iPhone 16

iPhone 15 A16 Bionic chip
(Image credit: Apple)

An insider report into Apple’s future plans for the iPhone 16 chip indicates that the company could depart from its standard model of adopting the previous year’s “Pro” chip, instead opting to create a specific new A-series chip with less power for its regular iPhone lineup. 

The news

The rumor comes from the Weibo user ‘mobile chip expert’ (translated) by way of MacRumors. According to the report, Apple’s iPhone 16 will be powered by a less potent A17 chip made using a different process, rather than the A17 Pro from this year’s Pro lineup. It’s the second time this rumor has surfaced from the same source.  

Why it's important to you

Every year, the new iPhone chip is a flagship upgrade users consider. The potency of the chip determines how well your iPhone runs, how long it will last, and how powerful features like the camera can be. Chip costs can also have an impact on the price of a device. 

Inside the supply chain

Apple’s brand new A17 Pro chip in the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max is made on TSMC’s 3nm process, making it faster and more efficient. However, not all 3nm processes are created equally. While A17 Pro is made using TSMC’s N3B process, Apple is reportedly planning to make the switch to using a cheaper N3E process next year. The resulting A17 chip would not deliver the same performance as the A17 Pro, saving costs for Apple and freeing up more space in the supply chain for the Pro chips.  

In context

Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max were the first to get a new A17 “Pro” chip, which has an extra GPU core and some hefty performance improvements. It’s so good that Apple is promising console-level gaming with titles including Assassin’s Creed Mirage, which you’ll be able to play natively on the iPhone from next year, or Resident Evil Village, which we’re expecting by Halloween. 

This rumor means the A17 Pro moniker finally makes sense because it frees up Apple to deliver an A17 next year without the Pro designation. 

Apple has made a concerted effort to differentiate the Pro and regular iPhone lineups in recent years. The Pro features a more premium finish, and this year gets a new Titanium chassis. Aside from the chip, the camera is more potent, the display offers 120Hz instead of 60Hz, and USB-C benefits from faster transfer speeds. 

Spatial Video

(Image credit: Apple)

iMore’s take - what the experts think

News that Apple could make a cheaper A-series chip to further widen the gap between the regular and Pro iPhone models made a good deal of sense, especially as economic headwinds drive up costs to create these devices. The A17 Pro was a really big leap over the A16, but that new name was definitely a curveball. It’s a change that only makes sense if Apple is planning a chip that isn’t “Pro” in the near future, and next year’s iPhone makes the most sense to introduce that. 

I’m more interested in A18. Apple usually delivers an A-series-plus-one chip each year. So we’d still expect a new A18 chip in the iPhone 16 Pro. So what would happen to the A17 Pro? It’s likely that chip could appear in Apple’s other A-series-powered lineup, the iPad. Having a “Pro” chip would add further value to the iPad Pro, while a regular “A17” chip would make more sense in the Air and the iPad mini. In fact, it’s plausible that Apple could debut the new A17 chip in a tablet before it appears in next year’s iPhone 16. 

Read more - The iPhone 15 Pro's A17 Pro chip blows the A16 Bionic away in this GPU benchmark 

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9