iPad Also Debuts Apple A4 Custom-built System-on-a-Chip

Apple A4 chip

While Apple's current generation iPhone 3GS and iPod touch G3 use ARM Cortex A8 CPUs and PowerVR SGX GPUs chips from Samsung, as part of their iPad announcement today, Apple also announced their own chip -- the Apple A4.

Custom chipsets have been on Apple's agenda since they bought PA Semi (Palo Alto Semiconductor) and Steve Jobs flat out said they'd be used in future Apple mobile devices. That future, it seems, starts now.

Battery life -- 10hrs for the iPad -- was stated as a prime reason for going with a custom chip. As is typical for Apple, they didn't give any details (and likely the reason they're making their own chips is so that they can keep those sorts of things secret from the competition), but since they're rumored to be a massive ARM licensee, and owns part of PowerVR maker Imagine, we're going to go out on a limb and guess those are still the CPU and GPU respectively.

How much RAM lurks inside the iPad, Apple also didn't say, and since we only found out the iPhone 3GS has 256MB was after the tear-downs, we'll likely have to wait on those for the iPad as well.

Of course, TiPb's mind immediately turns to the chances of having an Apple A4, or similar chip, in the 4th generation iPhone and iPod touch. Combine that with 512MB or more of RAM, a Cortex A9 multicore CPU, latest PowerVR SGX GPU, and little PA-Semi magic and... who knows how interesting 2010 will become!

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPad Also Debuts Apple A4 Custom-built System-on-a-Chip


I'll bet the iPad only has 256MB of RAM also. There is no need for more on iPod like devices since they cannot multi-task.
What a letdown...

What makes you think they can't multi task?
An iPhone will run an app, monitor the phone, continue to play music, manage its power supply, and still remember to remind me I have an appointment.
iPhones don't (currently) offer multi tasking between apps mainly as a way of resource management, primarily because although not having virtual memory hardware makes them more efficient, it also becomes critical that they don't run out of memory!

This is an epic fail, the Apple Core is cool that would come in handy if used in future iphones but the Ipad is just and oversized Ipod touch that is all it is not worth the money at all. Was extremely excited and now big let down.

Why did they name if after a European paper size. It's like calling it Apple 8.5x11 here in America.

clearly apple knows europe is more awesome then america...
personally I think A4 was a good name

@ Alex. European paper size? Pardon? HA! Americans... If you know how to operate google you would find that the US in A and Canada are the only countries in the world that use the letter, legal bollocks etc... format. So ah... ~5% of total world population? Don't get me started on your spelling, pronunciation, imperial system, religion, education, health, christ include the side of the road that you drive in that list. Bloody hell!

"Why did they name if after a European paper size."
I thought it was pretty obvious that A4 = ARM architecture for 4th generation of mobile devices. Which is a bit of a clue that you'll be seeing it in an ARM-powered Apple device that's about to enter its fourth generation. Can't think what that might be just now...

So basically the A4 is a modified arm. Or maybe just an arm with the apple logo.
That would explain the hability to run iPhone applications.
The iPhone OS is capable of multitasking apple just choose not to enable it. But by jailbreaking it you can do it. It will not surprise me if someone does the same to the ipad. However since is basically an iPhone without camera or phone and impossible to carry in the pocket. I find it a useless gadget. Not capable to excel at anything.
Yet many people (acostumed to being told by the media of what is cool or not) will buy this. While the rest of us will wonder Why?

iPad is a little of a disappointment but me thinking otherwise towards all those friggin' lunatics in the world I see it as an alternative 'travel companion' device... I would buy it only for that reason, but since I don't travel much, I am not going to buy it...
As for the iPhone, I am really looking forward to what the specs are as well as what the new design will be, if there is a new design... I've only seen ONE amazing sleek design that SHOULD be the new Apple iPhone 4G look... I'm expecting a few things from the new iPhone, as follows:
256mb or 512mb RAM
1GH CPU (possibly dual core)
obviously a better battery life, up to a day of normal/heavy usage
3.2 or 5 mega pixel camera + flash
OLED screen

hi there i have few apps that tells me ram cpu and storage capacity left and toatal ram my ipod touch looks like it has 262.54 mb of toatal ram and you say the ipad will have 512 mb of ram called the system acivity monitor and isat says 229 mb of ram but i have lots of hard core games from the itunes store wich explanes why i have 162 mb of ram free or 168 mb and have toatal of 82 apps yah 82 apps out of 140,000 apps thats 0.000585714286% of all apps