Final Words: Preparing for 3GS

As I mentioned earlier, the Palm Pre uses a similar combination of hardware to what I expect from the iPhone 3GS. TI’s OMAP 3430 combines a Cortex A8 CPU core with a PowerVR SGX 530 GPU. The difference is that while the Pre uses its excess horsepower to enable user-level application multitasking, Apple won’t be. The Pre is most definitely faster than the iPhone, but it still has some rough edges. Combine the power of the Pre with the highly optimized software stack of the iPhone and you’ve got the recipe of an extremely fast iPhone. While I’ve yet to play with one, on paper, the 3GS should be every bit as fast as the videos make it seem.

The iPhone 3GS' performance upgrades should make the phone feel a lot faster, but the real improvement will be what it enables application and game developers to do. Apple recently hired two former AMD/ATI CTOs, presumably to work on some very graphics-centric projects. The iPhone 3GS may be a mild upgrade from a consumer perspective, but what it's going to enable is far from it; watch out Nintendo. Remember the performance gains we saw in the early days of 3D graphics on the PC? We're about to go through all of that once more in the mobile space. Awesome.

Looking toward the future, there’s always more around the corner. There’s the Cortex A9 which brings multiple cores to the table, and the PowerVR SGX engine can be scaled up simply by adding more USSE pipes to the architecture. Newer manufacturing processes will enable bringing these technologies to life without any decrease in battery power.

It’s curious to me how central ARM and Imagination Technologies are to these smartphones. On the PC side it’s all about Intel, AMD and NVIDIA but when we’re talking Pres and iPhones it’s all ARM and PowerVR. Intel wants to bring Atom down to ARM power consumption levels and NVIDIA desperately searches for treasure in the mobile market, but those two are the underdogs in this race. For the foreseeable future at least.

There you have my take on the iPhone 3GS’ hardware. If Apple would just get their pre-ordering system working right I might not even have to camp out this year...

The iPhone Becomes a Gaming Platform: Enter the PowerVR SGX


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  • jasaero - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    I am guessing Apple gets a better deal with Samsung as I think most of the flash in iPods was from them prior to iPhone. TI may make flash memory, but pretty sure they don't touch Samsung volume. From what I can gather also the Samsung ASIC and OMAP are pretty much the same anyhow or atleast have pretty close ARM/IM SoC matched lines. Reply
  • jasaero - Thursday, June 11, 2009 - link

    I am with you 100% on this. If you goto page 5 of these comments I linked to some good info on what is behind snapdragon and qualcomm's plans now that they own AMD/ATI handheld graphics IP. They also spent 100's of millions making their cortex core more powerful than the competition also. I am with you on Anand doing a more in depth look at the competing offerings here using his connections to get info tough to find for us. Its intersting stuff as this market is more IP oriented, but Qualcomm, intel and probably a lot of others add their own IP as they package these things in SoC's. Reply
  • iwodo - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    Yes I read it. On paper Qualcomm seems to have an edge on everything. ATI powered Graphics, Better then Cortex A8 design, and expertise in Mobile Wireless Chipset.

    However it doesn't seems any Manufacture are using their chips. From the charts Mainly Japaneses and Korean ( LG ) based phone maker. Given LG recently switched side to Non Qualcomm based to due to cost issues. We will see even less QualComm chip in Global Market since Japaneses Handset are not exported and unusable outside Japan.
  • Barack Obama - Thursday, June 11, 2009 - link

    Was waiting to see what the fuss about Iphone 3G S was about. If I wasn't already tied down to a 2 year contract I'd buy one.

    Do you think Apple will gain dominance over the phone market as they seemingly are or other companies will get their feet in the door? Apple is looking at a Windows-like monopoly of the mobile phone market at the moment!
  • anandtech02148 - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    these smartphones will eventually make PC, laptop, & netbook less rellevant, Apple already has 50,000 apps just for iphone, do they even have that much apps for their own macbook line?
    Intel,Amd & Nvidia is becoming a niche, with consoles and smartphone taking their customers away little by little.
    the only weakness to smartphone is how badly these cartel cellular operate. Get your acts together At&T and get aggressive broadband roll out.

  • Mazik - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    "If Apple would just get their pre-ordering system working right I might not even have to camp out this year..." can pre-order on
  • snookie - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    "Apple could be their own worst enemy with this faster hardware, and they have been seen to drop legacy support quite quickly already (Snow Leopard anyone?), things that other people can't get away with."

    Apple drop legacy support quite easily? No. You don't know anything about the history of Mac OS if you say that. Google Rosetta for one. Look at how long people are able to continue to install the latest Mac OS on old hardware for another. SL is a major rewrite of huge portions of the OS that Windows 7 could only dream about. It's the kind of rewrite that Microsoft doesn't have the skills, the will, or organization to do.

    "Palm has the Pre, it has faster hardware."

    Not anymore. Read the article.

    "The problem here is that either Apple developers are going to have to develop for the (s)lowest common denominator (20million units), and either risk annoying customers by making them unable to use the stuff/forcing them to upgrade, or making applications which aren't as impressive as they could be."

    Palm wishes they could have this "problem'". Palm has every little money in the bank and is in league with Sprint which is the most dubious cell company in existence right now. They make AT&T look good. They have terrible dev tools, have already pissed of a lot of developers, and you can only write web apps for the Pre. 8GB of ram and the terrible keyboard are showstoppers for me.
    Developing for iPhone or Pre is a quite easy decision. iPhone has the mass of the marketplace and a real SDK. Palm has neither and may never have.

    "While Leopard had nearly as shaky/buggy a start as Vista (though 99.9% of Mac users won't admit it), Leopard has reportedly morphed into a very stable and serviceable system."

    You must have dreamed this. Leopard had nowhere near the shaky start of Vista. I used both Leopard and Vista pre-beta and RC for many months. Its really amazing the things people say with no idea what they are talking about.

    "The greatest weakness of the iPhone is the controls."

    Why, because it doesn't have the kind of controls you are used to? Developers have done amazing things with multi-touch and the accelerometer.

    "The average phone user doesn't care much about games and game controls"

    I don't know what you consider average. Apple does in fact care about games and the iPhone and plenty of iPhone users buy them. Enough for a very robust marketplace. Check the numbers.

    I'm interested to hear about the radios and if we can expect better, stronger, clearer signals.
  • michaely - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    2 cents? All you gave was a penny. I laughed at your post so much. Could you be anymore of a fanboy? You purposely go out of your way to diss Microsoft and Palm, but completely ignore the points you quoted. Snow Leopard is Intel only (READ: no G4/G5). Where is the support? You are talking about the past, we are in the present and looking to the future.

    The sad thing is you probably don't even own a iPhone. You are a sad excuse of a fanboy. PERIOD.
  • jasaero - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link


    You hint ARM and Imagination Tech own the mobile procesing space here, but wondering if you have any write ups in the works that compare the PowerVR based intgrated GPU offerings to th also popular Qualcomm ATI based cores? Also in January Qualcomm purchased the ATI handheld unit and got rights to all related IP along with some staff to keep said mobile ATI core competitive.

    To me this could mean an advantage for qualcomm 's Snapdragon if PowerVR's cores aren't a lot better than Qualcomms ATI or PowerVR offering VERY affordable licencing? I know this goes outside the iPhone 3Gs review a bit, but it will have probably ALOT of snapdragon competitors soon! And some of these Snapdragon competitors could show up with even more mature Android.
  • jasaero - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Here is some good info on the unique ARMv7 ISA based Scorpion core used in snapdragon! I for the life of me can't find info on the ATI handheld core that Qualcomm uses and now owns?? They seem to have invested more in the ARMv7 ISA than their more or less standard Cortex competition. Of particular interest is the lower power and double width SIMD unit.

    Now who can find info on this ATI core?

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