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


View All Comments

  • jasaero - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Woops here's the link to the scorpion core info.">
  • jasaero - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    More interesting info on Qualcomm's offering and smartphone SoC plan in general.">
  • electricgrape - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Any word on the lowly ipod touch? I've got Sero and I'll be damned if I'm going to leave $30/month just to pick up an I use a touch :-) Reply
  • poohbear - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    i liked this review, especially the comparisons to 486 & older gpus, u know your crowd well.;) i actually prefer computer reviews but this was'nt abd at all. thanks again. Reply
  • tonjohn - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    As an iPhone 3G owner, do I stick with what I have or do I upgrade?

    Will the 3GS really be worth the extra money for current 3G owners to upgrade?
  • rageguy34 - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    I wouldn't, I currentlt have an iPhone 3G and the new features even if 2x faster doesn't seem worth me spending $400 to upgrade. I'll just wait till next year when my contract expires and I will qualify for the new iPhone Reply
  • stuclark - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    ..all very interesting, but what about other smartphone platforms, such as Symbian's S60, which have handsets which far out-perform the likes of the iPhone and Pre?

    Take for example Samsung's i8910 handset, which runs S60 and is technically superior to pretty much anything else on the market. Here's it's spec sheet:">
  • winterspan - Thursday, June 11, 2009 - link

    So tell me, what are these S60 handsets that "far out-perform" the iPhone 3GS and Pre?

    The Samsung i8910/Omnia HD uses the exact same TI OMAP3430 chip as the PRE. The OMAP3430 has the same 600Mhz Cortex-A8 and PowerVR SGX as the iPhone, although the iPhone may be SGX520 where the OMAP3430 uses the SGX530.

    Quit spreading BS!
  • rageguy34 - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Why doesn't apple use the tegra instead of the ARM processor, does tegra use up too much power?
  • psychobriggsy - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Tegra is ARM11, so it won't be as fast. No idea how the GPUs compare though. If Apple are designing an in-house product that uses A8 or A9 with NEON, they probably wanted to use the A8 earlier.

    Also there is the matter of support for Apple to use it, having to learn a new SoC (who knows - this SoC could be pin compatible with the old one) and so on. Otherwise they could have used the TI OMAP that the Pre uses...

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