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Apple A6 processor production begins ahead of iPad 3

Testing has begun on the chip that could power the iPhone 6 and iPad 3. More info, as well as a potential iPad 3 release date, this way...

Apple's A6 chip, which will probably power the iPhone 6 and iPad 3, has begun its initial stage of testing, according to reports -- and it could be in devices as soon as next spring.

Details on future iPads and iPhones are naturally kept in a room only Steve Jobs and one other can open (they have to synchronise their key turns, and submit to a brain scan), but thankfully Apple can't stop news of the components emerging, because it buys them from other companies.

And possibly the most important of these is the processor, effectively the gadget's engine. Thankfully this one sounds more Ferrari than Ford Focus.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) has begun a trial production of the chip that will power Apple's devices from 2012, Taiwan Economic News reports. So what? So it reveals some interesting insights into what the devices themselves will be capable of. And it's safe to say you won't be disappointed, if these details are anything to go by.

The A6 chip will be an upgrade to the A5 processor powering the iPad 2: a 28nm process, compared to the A5's 45nm, meaning lower energy consumption and higher speeds.

It's the first to come capable of 3D stacking as well, which allows more layers of components to be stacked on top of each other, like fillings in a sandwich. This means more transistors, hence more power and efficiency, which should make for an even slicker user experience.

Just the thought of anything slicker than the iPad 2 is enough to have us pitying to competition. Yes, TabCo Grid10, we're looking at you.

Even more excitingly, the A6 looks set to debut in spring next year, so we could well see the iPad 3 launch around the same time. We're saving already.

China's Commercial Times reported back in June that TSMC would most likely be making A6 processors for Apple, and that a deal was all but done between the two companies. As long ago as last July, it was also reported by Engadget that TSMC was testing the 28nm process, so reading between the lines this all seems to add up.

Of course, the ongoing lawsuits between Apple and Samsung (which makes the current A5 chip in the iPad 2) regarding alleged similarities between the two companies' smart phones and tablets may well have helped Apple make the switch from Sammy as a manufacturer. Oh, and that Galaxy Tab 10.1 ban in Europe? Probably doesn't help.