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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  • HelToupee - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    There's been one in the works for more than a year. ("> They've been stalling, though, and apple's releasing of new models every year is hurting, too. They originally were just aiming for jailbroken phones / ipods, but now want to enable full SDK support. I have cash set aside to buy one, if they'd just put them on sale... Reply
  • mesiah - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Glad to see someone is working on this. From the video on the sight it looks like the latency on the controls is kind of an issue, and it looked like it wouldn't accept multiple button presses at the same time i.e. forward and right simultaneously. Could just be an issue with the way the interface with the iphone works, although the multiple button thing could just be me :P also, would like to see an analog stick. The days of on/off style movement controls are long gone. Reply
  • Lonyo - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    They've had the iPhone, and the iPhone 3G.
    They've sold quite a lot of them, using the same hardware.

    Now they are releasing a new product with faster hardware.

    Palm has the Pre, it has faster hardware.

    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 sa impressive as they could be.
    The Pre has the advantage of being out later, so everything has the same base point (although it has no install base or history yet).

    While it's good Apple have improved their hardware, it will be interesting to see how the handle the software side (after all, they have been forcing programs to be forwards compatible with something which was unreleased at the time - OS3.0).

    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.
  • str1f3 - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    The problem with the Pre is that it's not meant for gaming. The SDK is only HTML and Javascript. There won't be any serious gaming on it. In the mobile phone area Apple is pretty much to themselves. Reply
  • Shadowself - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Actually, I don't mind that Snow Leopard is going to be Intel only. With it coming out in September I would not suggest that anyone other than the bleeding edge crowd upgrade to Snow Leopard until October or November at the earliest. That makes the oldest Intel based Mac almost four years old.

    If I were still running G4s or G5s (PowerPC based) systems as of this coming November I clearly don't *need* the performance enhancements of a full 64-bit kernel and drivers, OpenCL or Grand Central Dispatch.

    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. If you're keeping your Mac for 5+ years, sticking with Leopard might be a great option.
  • sc3252 - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    I think I read somewhere that developers for the Ipod would put in options to enable for the faster models. So you just check the box if you have a faster cpu and you get the cooler looking graphics. Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    The day WoW comes to iPhone is the day when I gonna buy the little bastard. I guess this will happen next year or so. I can almost hear Blizzard devs steaming away, downloading iPhone SDK and buyng more and more Macs. This thing is gonna freakin ROCK. Reply
  • sc3252 - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Not now. The gpu and CPU are still way to slow to play anything like world of Warcraft, just look at some of the demos of the openpandora which uses the same CPU/GPU combo, it runs quake 3 around 22fps from what I can see and most of us now how much of a pushover that game is.
    I would expect that the next generation omap 4 might be able to run it being a dual core 1Ghz, but I would think it would still need a faster GPU. Also you have to imagine trying to play a game like world of warcraft with those controls, it would be terrible. You might see a game like eve do it since the game developers are very forward thinking, but not Activision blizzard.
  • Digitalhell - Wednesday, July 08, 2009 - link

    I've never seen Quake3 compiled for CortexA8 and OGL 2.0ES. The best Q3 currently available is actually designed for TI Omap 2/Samsung 6400 which are based on Arm11 processor core and Ogl 1.1 ES. Reply
  • monomer - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    While I don't see Blizzard releasing a mobile version of WoW anytime soon, just imagine the amount of time you could waste if they simply released an Auction House app. Reply

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