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

  • araczynski - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    blah blah blah same crappy gameboy resolution screen blah blah blah talk to nokia blah blah blah.

    maybe if half the price of the stupid thing went into the device instead of paying for all the worthless marketing they'd have a killer device that i would gladly pay $130 a month for for unlimited data service.

    ah well, maybe in a few years.
  • punkball - Saturday, June 13, 2009 - link

    I dunno why ,i have a good feeling
    not knowing much at all about (only what seems to be a negative
    evaluation on parts; by the community).
    This phone its main uphearst performace being, we'll see a comprised Flash/Flex player on the iTunes store ?a good deal onwards agreed on a Mac-device friendly version of the Flash Player?? Anyone else hoping/caring?
  • lateef - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    does anyone know if the radio/wireless chipset been upgraded in the 3gs rather than a tweak Reply
  • iwodo - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    Arh, interesting question. I think everyone were too concentrated on its CPU, Memory and GPU and forgot the most fundamental / important issues.
    To be honest iPhone is rather weak for its Radio Reception. I think this is partly due to Infineon are new to Mobile Chipset.
    Is there an updated chipset to fix iPhone Comparatively poor quality reception?
    ( Last time i heard the 7.2Mbps speed increase has to do with Firmware unlocking, so i am not sure if the chipset has been updated )
  • PhilipOrr - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    Was talking with the Apple engineers at WWDC which technical data sheets to look up concerning the GPU within the new iPhone. It's the PowerVR SGX 535.

    This chip is one up from the Palm Pre which is the PowerVR SGX 530.

    The difference between these is more video based than anything else. 535 has hardware acceleration for H.264 encode/decode, MPEG 4 and JPEG. It also handles HD content to 720p in real time.

    These specs seem to give a hint to what Apple are planning for future upgrades of the iPhone or other device. Suggesting, that if your developing for the 3GS then you're already developing for the next generation too.
  • jasaero - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    My guess is that the 535 was used more for optimizing the video option on the phone than for any future planned uses. Not required to do video, but is extremely useful in reducing file sizes of video output and may help with some of the video editing functionality it supossedly has. So far Apple hasn't really preplanned any added functionality so much as reacted to demand for certain features they seemed to have left out useablity and performance trade off. Copy, cut, paste being the most glaring example. Basically I am quite doubtful they have a handset like the Omnia HD that probably uses this same chip in their sights just yet. Reply
  • iwodo - Thursday, June 11, 2009 - link

    I really hope anand do some detail article on Mobile Tech. MIPS, ARM, difference between ARMv6 and v7. SnapDragon and OMAP. I mean if iPhone uses a SOC that is 90% the same as TI's OMAP, why not just buy it from OMAP? Do different implementation of ARM matters? How does Tegra compare to SGX, what about Mani ( ARM ) 's graphics department?

    There are about 10 dozens more questions i hope anand could answer. The truth is, as a tech news reader, i haven't been as excited as this for a long time. PC are already way too powerful then 90%+ of our needs. That is why Netbook are so popular. They are cheap, and gets the job done.

    The next battle, and most interesting development in the next decade will be on Mobile front. Where ARM and PowerVR dominate. PC tech are used to Intel and ATI/Nvidia so ARM and PowerVR's tech are Alien to us.

    I really hope there will be more in depth article about Mobile Technology. The only thing that interest me in PC is development of SSD.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    I've been dabbling in it for a while but I think I agree with you. Such a comparison may be necessary. I'm going to start chasing some of these technologies and see where I end up. If I find something sufficiently interesting, I'll be sure to share :)

    Take care,
  • iwodo - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    Thanks. Hoping for more ARM info soon.

  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    I agree. Apple should be buying OMAP instead of the ASIC. I think digital camera companies will be going that route too. Reply

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