In a nutshell: Apple is reportedly set to lessen its reliance on Asia for its chips, turning to the US and Europe instead. CEO Tim Cook said Cupertino has already decided to start purchasing from TSMC's plant in Arizona, which is set to come online sometime in 2024.
Bloomberg reports that Cook made his remarks during an internal meeting in Germany with local engineering and retail employees as part of a recent tour of Europe. "We've already made a decision to be buying out of a plant in Arizona, and this plant in Arizona starts up in '24, so we've got about two years ahead of us on that one, maybe a little less," Cook said. "And in Europe, I'm sure that we will also source from Europe as those plans become more apparent."
Intel is also building two advanced chip fabs in Arizona that are set to become fully operational in 2024, but Apple famously ditched the company's processors from its Macs in favor of its in-house SoCs.
Apple is TSMC's biggest customer, accounting for a quarter of the semiconductor giant's total sales in December last year, which means it is usually the first to get its hands on the latest cutting-edge chips. Recent reports say Apple reluctantly agreed to the manufacturer's price increases set to be implemented next year.
But the ever-rising tensions between China and Taiwan have made western companies that rely on TSMC for their semiconductors nervous, especially after a top Chinese economist urged China to seize TSMC if the US tightened sanctions on the Asian nation, something that the Biden administration has been doing more aggressively in recent times.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo warned that the US would face a "deep and immediate recession" if it were ever cut off from the Taiwanese chip manufacturing industry. There was even talk of destroying the TSMC facilities if China ever invaded, something Taiwan said would be unnecessary.
For next year's iPhone 15, Apple is set to use TSMC's N3 (3nm-class) fab process, which is only available at the Taiwan facilities. The Arizona plant will initially make chips using the 5nm production nodes with a 20,000-chips-per-month capacity, which Apple could utilize for some of its other products. However, we recently heard that TSMC is hoping to move 3nm production to the US at some point. Until then, Apple will continue relying on the firm's Taiwan facilities for its latest hardware.