Chip company Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) has kicked off a trial production run of the A6 processor, set to power Apple mobile devices in 2012.

The chip is said to be based on a 28nm process, an upgrade on Apple's current iPad 2-powering A5 chip, which is 45nm.

It's also the first Apple mobile chip to include 3D stacking technology, in which two or more layers of components are stacked atop each other. This implementation of complex 3D components is thought to be the reason for the trial run.

Thanks to the 28nm process and 3D stacking, the chip is able to pack more transistors into its tiny form factor, resulting in greater computing power and efficiency.

2012 Doomsday

The quad-core chip is set to debut in Apple mobile devices in Spring 2012, which means we can expect to see a new iPad around then.

The iPhone 6 will undoubtedly be powered by the A6 chip, too, but it's likely Apple will milk the upcoming iPhone 5 for as long as possible.

Previous incarnations of Apple's mobile chips have been manufactured by Samsung, and the move to TSMC could be down to ongoing lawsuits between the two companies over Samsung's alleged nabbing of iPhone styling and software in its Galaxy S smartphones.