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
POST A COMMENT

466 Comments

View All Comments

  • qristheone - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    If that was the case why can moto x be made in america and still make a profit? clearly apple is just raping people. Reply
  • robbie rob - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    I don't know where you're getting your info, but in the last year only TWO handset makers made a profit: Samsung and Apple. All others broke even or lost money. Broke even means made money, but by the time you pay everyone plus cost of manufacturing you didn't lose money - but you didn't bank any either.

    http://www.neowin.net/news/analysts-apple-and-sams...
    Reply
  • qristheone - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    the real probelm with these test is ios 7 has open gl 3.0 and android has it only on 4.3. most of these phones do not have android 4.3 infact i doubt that any of these phones tested had 4.3 when running it.

    for those who dont know open gl is OpenGL (Open Graphics Library) is a cross-language, multi-platform application programming interface (API) for rendering 2D and 3D computer graphics. The API is typically used to interact with a Graphics processing unit (GPU), to achieve hardware-accelerated rendering.
    Reply
  • NekoTipcat - Saturday, November 30, 2013 - link

    Well yes iOS supports oGL ES 3.0 but only the iPhone 5s's gpu supports it
    So the Real "Problem" resides on iOS 7 and iDevices as well
    Reply
  • whatsa - Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - link

    Nice
    As its all about apps - lol
    it would be more interesting to see the performance gain there
    as it will be many years before you see a native 64bit majority in the store.
    even though the tests bode well for the future everyday usage it will be the
    more generic apps that define its performance "today"
    Reply
  • lhlan - Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - link

    Section on A7 dual core vs quadcore design: you emphasized the A7's power efficiency advantage (lack of proper power gating on quad-core parts), as well as performance neutral factor - two cores at full speed is not slower than quad-core at so-so speed! A reference to the CPU section of MotoX review was made to back-up this point.

    Closer investigation of the MotoX review shows different picture: while performance can be comparable at best, the argument on power efficiency is so in favour of quad-core! It says running two cores at full high speed requires "ton of voltage", while running four core at 1.2GHz doesn't need that much power, hence more power efficiency.

    In the end, do we have empirical evidence as to which design (two vs. four) saves more power?
    Reply
  • 128bit - Thursday, September 26, 2013 - link

    First time knows that IPhone 5s comes with 1570 MAh battery.

    Anand ur the best keep the good job
    Reply
  • rogekk - Thursday, September 26, 2013 - link

    may pick myself up one after reading this review coupled with is african view about the iphone

    http://techjaja.com/the-reviews/iphone-5s-review/2...
    Reply
  • newandroidfan - Saturday, September 28, 2013 - link

    Tired of reading big ass reviews? Never get the info you need the most? Read the full review of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c with Full phone specifications only here http://goo.gl/QrGSPo Reply
  • anxyandy - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    Hmm! If this beauty is as good as it looks here, I'm afraid I won't even be considering the iPhone 5S! http://versus.com/en/sony-xperia-z1-mini-vs-apple-...
    Xperia Z1 Mini - same(ish) size, excellent features and hardware!
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now