This one caught us off guard, but Apple just announced the A6 SoC powering the new iPhone 5 features 2x faster CPU and GPU performance compared to the iPhone 4S. Apple reserves major Ax SoC number iterations for architecture changes, combine that with the performance claims as well as some other stuff we've heard offline and there's one conclusion: the iPhone 5 uses ARM Cortex A15 cores inside. Update: It uses a custom Apple core!

Our guess is two cores. No word on the GPU yet.

The A6 is 22% smaller than the A5, although it's not clear if that's a package or die size claim yet. There's a good chance this is built on Samsung's 32nm LP HK+MG process.



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  • NCM - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    If there's one thing we know for sure about the A6, it's that we won't know what an A6 actually is until someone does surgery an iPhone 5 to either cut open or X-ray the SOC. And Apple isn't telling. (OK, was that two things? <g>)

    Until then we're just playing with ourselves.
  • syxbit - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    there is no integrated LTE radio. It's an external qualcomm chip Reply
  • kpb321 - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Apple hasn't shown any past inclination to be the first with something especially when it comes to the processor in the iPhone. There are plenty of other simpler ways that they could claim twice the performance of their previous cpu.

    1) A customized tweaked version of the A9 core similar to what Qualcomm has done with the Krait cores in the S4's.

    2) Go Quad core over Dual core. Plenty of Quad core A9 implementations and it is not too unreasonable to claim a phone with twice the cores is twice as fast especially if they have worked on how well iOS 6 handles multithreading.

    3) Crank up the MHz. As others have posted the iPhone 4s was running at 800mhz. A 1.6 ghz A9 dual core processor is certainly possible.

    4) You could even combine 1 and 3 to have a tweaked design that was faster per clock and ran at a higher clock speed to get the 2x performance. Off hand this would be my guess. 50% improvement from tweaked design, 50% from clocking it up to 1.2 ghz.
  • Moizy - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    I doubted at first, but I think Anand's right. Besides, he's on twitter right now hinting he knows more than he can tell, but what he knows confirms we're looking at Cortex A15s.

    If Apple used A9s and 543 graphics, then they could have chosen to pursue 2-3 of the 4 accomplishments they claimed today: 2x compute, 2x graphics, 22% die shrink, and maintained to slightly improved battery life. With A9s and 543 graphics, even at 32nm, it would be impossible to achieve all four of those things together.

    With the GS3, Samsung achieved 3 of those things (roughly speaking, 2x compute, 2x graphics, and maintained power efficiency) over the GS2, but does anyone know the die size of the Quad Exynos vs the Dual? I doubt the Quad is 22% smaller.

    Thanks Anand and Brian for the coverage, and I've enjoyed the podcasts, keep up the stellar work.
  • tipoo - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    " but does anyone know the die size of the Quad Exynos vs the Dual?"

    But the quad and dual Exynos are both on the same fab process, while this went from 45 to 32. But I do think it's A15 since Anand seems eager to tell us outright on twitter.
  • Moizy - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Exynos Quad was a 45 to 32 die shrink as well, thus it was able to increase performance without hammering battery life:
  • mrtanner70 - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    If it was quad core it would have been a marketing bullet. Apple does not like to focus on specifics but they would not hide the dominant marketing phrase in Europe for high end phones.

    So, it's dual.

    It is thus a much higher clocked, die shrunk, tweaked version of the A5 (so Arm A9) or its the A15. Given we know Samsung has started to mass produce dual A15's it's a bit hard for me to believe Apple would go another year on A9. Maybe the timing was perfect for them to be first?

    The GPU is even more interesting.
  • Moizy - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    GPU is most interesting, agreed. Benchmarks! Benchmarks! Details! Details! Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    With 2x the graphics power a shrunk down 543MP4 would easily fit the bill, or maybe a higher clocked MP2. Reply
  • Moizy - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    543MP4 would give 2x performance, but would not allow, even with 32nm, for a 22% overall die shrink. So a higher clocked 543MP2 would maybe work. My money is on Rogue, but maybe tackling Rogue and Cortex A15s at the same time would be too much, and we'll see Rogue with the next iPad. Reply

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