iPhone Performance Across Generations

 

We did this in the iPhone 5 review, so I thought I'd continue the trend here. For those users who have no desire to leave iOS and are looking to find the best time to upgrade, these charts offer a unique historical look at iPhone performance over the generations. I included almost all iPhone revisions here, the sole exception being the iPhone 3G which I couldn't seem to find. 
 
All of the devices were updated to the latest supported version of iOS. That's iOS 7 for the iPhone 4 and later, iOS 6.1.3 for the iPhone 3GS and iOS 3.1.3 for the original iPhone.
 
At its keynote, Apple talked about the iPhone 5s offering up to 41x the CPU performance of the original iPhone. Looking at SunSpider however, we get a very different story:

iPhone Generations - SunSpider 1.0

Performance improved by a factor of 100x compared to the original iPhone. You can cut that in half if the iPhone could run iOS 4. Needless to say, Apple's CPU performance estimates aren't unreasonable. We've come a long way since the days when ARM11 cores were good enough.

Even compared to a relatively modern phone like the iPhone 4, the jump to a 5s is huge. The gap isn't quite at the level of an order of magnitude, but it's quickly approaching it. Using the single core iPhone 4 under iOS 7 just feels incredibly slow. Starting with the 4S things get a lot better, but I'd say the iPhone 4 is at the point now where it's starting to feel too slow even for normal consumers (at least with iOS 7 installed).

iPhone Generations - Browsermark 2.0

Browsermark 2.0 gives us a good indication of less CPU bound performance gains. Here we see over a 5x increase in performance compared to the original iPhone, and an 83% increase compared to the iPhone 4.

I wanted to have a closer look at raw CPU performance so I turned to Geekbench 3. Unfortunately Geekbench 3 won't run on anything older than iOS 6, so the original iPhone bows out of this test.

iPhone Generations - Geekbench 3 (Single Threaded)

Single threaded performance scaled by roughly 9x from the 3GS to the iPhone 5s. The improvement since the iPhone 4/4S days is around 6.5x. Single threaded performance often influences snappiness and UI speed/feel, so it's definitely an important vector to scale across.

iPhone Generations - Geekbench 3 (Multi Threaded)

Take into account multithreaded performance and the increase over the 3GS is even bigger, almost 17x now.

The only 3D test I could get to reliably run across all of the platforms (outside the original iPhone) was Basemark X. Again I had issues getting Basemark X running in offscreen mode on iOS 7 so all of the tests here are run at each device's native resolution. In the case of the 3GS to 4 transition, that means a performance regression as the 3GS had a much lower display resolution to deal with.

iPhone Generations - Basemark X (Onscreen)

Apple has scaled GPU performance pretty much in line with CPU performance over the years. The 5s scores 15x the frame rate of the iPhone 4, at a higher resolution too.

iPhone 5s vs. Bay Trail

I couldn't help but run Intel's current favorite mobile benchmark on the iPhone 5s. WebXPRT by Principled Technologies is a collection of browser based benchmarks that use HTML5 and js to simulate a number of workloads (photo editing, face detection, stocks dashboard and offline notes).

iPhone 5s vs. Bay Trail - WebXPRT (Chrome/Mobile Safari)

Granted we're comparing across platforms/browsers here, but the 5s as a platform does extremely well in Intel's favorite benchmark. The 5c by comparison performs a lot more like what we'd expect from a smartphone platform. The iPhone 5s is in a league of its own here. While I don't expect performance equalling the Atom Z3770 across the board, the fact that Apple is getting this close (with two fewer cores at that) is a testament to the work done in Cupertino.

At its launch event Apple claimed the A7 offered desktop class CPU performance. If it really is performance competitive with Bay Trail, I think that statement is a fair one to make. We're not talking about Haswell or even Ivy Bridge levels of desktop performance, but rather something close to mobile Core 2 Duo class. I've broken down the subtests in the table below:

WebXPRT Performance (time in ms, lower is better)
Chrome/Mobile Safari Photo Effects Face Detection Stocks Offline Notes
Apple iPhone 5s (Apple A7 1.3GHz) 878.9 ms 1831.4 ms 436.1 ms 604.6 ms
Intel Bay Trail FFRD (Atom Z3770 1.46GHz) 693.5 ms 1557.0 ms 542.9 ms 737.3 ms
AMD A4-5000 (1.5GHz) 411.2 ms 2349.5 ms 719.1 ms 880.7 ms
Apple iPhone 5c (Apple A6 1.3GHz) 1987.6 ms 4119.6 ms 763.6 ms 1747.6 ms

It's not a clean sweep for the iPhone 5s, but keep in mind that we are comparing to the best AMD and Intel have to offer in this space. I suspect part of why this is close is because both of those companies have been holding back a bit (there's no rush to build the fastest low margin parts), but it doesn't change reality.

 

CPU Performance GPU Architecture & Performance
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  • akdj - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    I completely agree---that said, we're really only 5 years 'in'. The original iPhone in '07, a true Android follow up in late '07/early '08---those were crap. Not really necessary to 'bench' them. We all kinda knew the performance we could expect, same for the next generation or two. In the past three years---Moore's law has swung in to high gear, these are now---literally---replacement computers (along with tablets) for the majority of the population. They're not using their home desktop anymore for email, Facebook, surfing and recipes. Even gaming---unless their @ 'work' and in front of their 'work Dell' from 2006, they're on their smartphones...for literally everything! In these past three years---and it seems Anand, Brian and crew are quite 'up front' about the lack of mobile testing applications and software----we're in it's infancy. 36 real months in with software, hardware and OS'es worth 'testing, benchmarking, and measuring' their performance. Just my opinion....and I suppose we're saying the same thing.
    That said---even Google's new Octane test was and is being used lately---GeekBench has revised their software, it's coming is my point. But just looking at those differences in the generations of iPhones makes it blatantly obvious how far we've come in 4/5 short years. In 2008 and 9---these were still phones with easier ways to text and access the internet, some cool apps and ways to take, manipulate and share pics and videos. Today----they do literally everything an actual computer does and I'd bet---in a lot of cases, these phones are as or more powerful, faster and more acessible than those ancient beige boxes from the mid 2000s a lot of folks have in their home office;)
    Reply
  • Duck <(' ) - Thursday, October 03, 2013 - link

    they are posting false benchmark scores. Same phones score different in youtube vids.
    iPhone 5 browsermark 2 score is around 2300
    check here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iATFnXociC4
    sgs4 scores 2745 here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdNE4NoFq8U
    Reply
  • ddriver - Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - link

    Actually, there are quite a lot of discrepancies in this review.

    For starters, the "CPU performance" page only contains JS benchmarks and not a single native application. And iOS and Android use entirely different JS engines, so this is literally a case of comparing apples to oranges.

    Native benchmarks don't compare the new apple chip to "old 32 bit v7 chips" - it only compares the new apple chip to the old ones, and also compares the new chip in 32bit and 64 bit mode. Oddly enough, the geekbench at engadget shows tegra 4 actually being faster.

    Then, there is the inclusion of hardware implementation in charts that are supposed to show the benefits of 64bit execution mode, but in reality the encryption workloads are handled in a fundamentally different way in the two modes, in software in 32bit mode and implemented in hardware in 64bit mode. This turns the integer performance chart from a mixed bad into one falsely advertising performance gains attributed to 64bit execution and not to the hardware implementations as it should. The FP chart also shows no miracles, wider SIMD units result in almost 2x the score in few tests, nothing much in the rest.

    All in all, I'd say this is a very cleverly compiled review, cunningly deceitful to show the new apple chip in a much better light than it is in reality. No surprises, considering this is AT, it would be more unexpected to see an unbiased review.

    I guess we will have to wait a bit more until mass availability for unbiased reviews, considering all those "featured" reviews usually come with careful guidelines by the manufacturer that need to be followed to create an unrealistically good presentation of the product. That is the price you have to pay to get the new goodies first - play by the rules of a greedy and exploitative industry. Corporate "honesty" :)

    I don't say the new chip is bad, I just say it is deliberately presented unrealistically good. Krait has expanded the SIMD units to 128 bit as well, so we should see similar performance even without the move to a 64bit ecosystem. Last but not least, 64bit code bloats the memory footprint of applications because of pointers being twice as big, and while those limited memory footprint synthetic benches play well with the single gigabyte of ram on this device, I expect an actual performance demanding real world application will be bottlenecked by the ram capacity. All in all, the decision to go for 64 bit architecture is mostly a PR stunt, surely, 64bit is the future, but in the case of this product, and considering its limited ram capacity, it doesn't really make all that sense, but is something that will no doubt keep up the spirit of apple fanboys, and make up for their declining sales while they bring out the iphone 6, which will close all those deliberately left gaping holes in the 5s.
    Reply
  • Slaanesh - Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - link

    Interesting comment. I'd like to know what Anand has to say about this. Reply
  • ddriver - Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - link

    I am betting my comment will most likely vanish mysteriously. I'd be happy to see my concerns addressed though, but I admit I am putting Anand in a very inconvenient position. Reply
  • Mondozai - Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - link

    It's all a conspiracy. In fact your comment has already disappeared, but in its place is now a hologram effect that makes it impossible to tell it from the blank space. So why put in the hologram and not just delete it? Because Anand is playing mind games with us.
    And who said I typed this comment? It could have been someone else, someone doing Anand's bidding.

    I admit I am putting his scheme of deception in a very difficult position right now.

    /s
    Reply
  • ddriver - Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - link

    Few days ago I posted a comment criticizing AT moderators being idle and tolerant of the "I make $$$ sitting in front of my mac" spam, few minutes later my comment was removed while the spam remained, which led me to expect similar fate for this comment. Good thing I was wrong ;) Reply
  • WardenOfBats - Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - link

    I'd honestly like to see your misleading comment removed as well. You seem to think that anyone cares what the 32bit performance is of the 5S when everyone knows damn well that app developers are going to be clamouring to switch to the 64bit tech (that Android doesn't even have or support) to get these power increases. Other than that, the rest of your comment is just nonsense. The whole point is that the iPhone 5S is faster and the fact that they use different JS engines is a part of that. Apple just knows how to make software optimizations and hardware that runs them faster and you can see how they just blow the competition away. Reply
  • CyberAngel - Thursday, September 19, 2013 - link

    Misleading? Yes! In favor of Apple!
    You need to double the memory lines, too and caches and...oh boy!
    The next Apple CPU will be "corrected" and THEN we'll see...hopefully RAM is 8GB...
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, September 19, 2013 - link

    As we often have to remind people, we don't delete comments unless they're spam. However when we do so, any child comments become orphaned and lose their place in the hierarchy, becoming posts at the end of the thread. Your comment isn't going anywhere, nor have any of your previous comments. Reply

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