Regarding an Apple A5 chipset for iPhone 5, iPad 2

Contemplating an Apple A5 system-on-chip

Last year Apple introduced their own 1Ghz Apple A4 system-on-chip (SoC) alongside the iPad and if recent rumors are to be believed we might just see the next generation -- perhaps called Apple A5 -- this year alongside iPad 2.

While Apple has never released the component specs for the Apple A4, it's accepted as being an Apple designed, Samsung fabricated ARM Cortex A8 CPU with Imagination PowerVR SGX GPU. That combination was fast on the iPhone 3GS and it was even faster, thanks in part to Intrisity's clock-speed know how, on iPad, iPhone 4, iPod touch 4, and Apple TV (2010). So what would an Apple A5 look like?

The successors to both CPU and GPU were first announced in early 2010 -- the dual-core ARM Cortex A9 and Imagination PowerVR SGX543/545 series. Apple didn't use either last year but, again if recent rumors are to be believed, they could very well be using them this year.

We've heard that Apple has been telling developers for at least a year now to think about making their apps multicore aware (they can already be multithread aware). Mac and Windows PCs have been dual and multicore aware for a while. It would no doubt lead to performance improvements in some areas, though power consumption would likely be an equal and opposing reaction (especially in early generation mobile dual-core procs). Android phones are going dual core in a big way this year so the technology is definitely productized.

Add in a smoking fast graphics engine and iOS, with support for OpenGL ES 2.x and OpenGL 3.2, should be able to push pixels like nobody's business. If Apple TV finally goes 1080p and iPad 2 really does get a higher resolution display that kind of power will be put to good use. Given Apple's investment in OpenCL, which lets GPU assist CPU when not otherwise occupied, and we literally have the makings of melt-in-your-pocket processing power in mobile.

What we haven't heard so far -- and we desperately need to hear about -- is more RAM to go along with all that power. iPad and iPod touch (2010) feel positively anemic at 256MB compared to iPhone 4's 512MB but all of them could really shine with 1GB. Apple will want to keep prices in line with last year -- $499 starting price for iPad 2 Wi-Fi -- but RAM is no longer where cost cutting should apply.

Now it's fair to ask if we really need all that power and performance in what's essentially a pocket device -- or at least portable in iPad's case. After all, iPhone 4 is buttery smooth with the current Apple A4 SoC. Would Apple be better off sticking with A4 and coaxing even more battery life out of it?

They may. They're notoriously conservative at times (like with RAM!). I think the next generation of iOS 5 software and apps will really be able to make use of improved internals. We could see a whole new class of innovation, from video and image processing to games on the Unreal 3 Engine (and similar) to real-time augmented reality apps. And if there's one thing Apple does care about, it's software. (That's why they build all this hardware to begin with.)

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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

Regarding an Apple A5 chipset for iPhone 5, iPad 2


nexus s is not dual core, it is a 1 Ghz single core- samsung "hummingbird" processor

Now I'm speculating here, and I want to make this perfectly clear... but if Intrinsity was working with Samsung on Hummingbird, and Hummingbird ended up being pretty much the same as the A4, I would bet the Orion processor would give you a pretty good idea as to where the A5 ends up. What kills me is that Apple will have dual core but LTE will still be eating up so much battery and size that they will not bother... unless they have worked with Qualcomm to cook up something custom that will deal with these problems.

They won't bother with LTE yet anyway. If it doesn't have an HSPA+ radio then I'll be getting the Inspire. AT&T isn't ready for LTE, so it would be best for Apple to wait a year or maybe even two. I'm not sure how this is going to blow over with Verizon in the mix now though. I was thinking that the next iPhone would be the iPhone "4G" with HSPA+, but Verizon only has LTE (not a bad thing). We'll have to wait and see.

No but that atrix is a dual and that thing specs wise is a beast, I think hands down that's one of few phones that will give apple a run for it's money. It seems everyone is staying in the 500+ mb range

To me nothing is really good to me about that phone except dual core and 1gb of ram. I could careless about the dock system and I hate that it has moto

Its resolution is still less than the iphone and given the 4" screen, even less PPI.
And it will come with an old version of android (2.2).

We don't need more processor, yet, but we do need more memory. Battery life is very important. Only geeks care about processors (mostly just for braging), but memory and battery life are noticed by everyone.

Why is everyone saying ip4 is buttery smooth with 512mb of RAM? My ip4 needs to be rebooted at least twice a day or else the damn thing is horribly slow. I jb'd my device only so that I can see what my available RAM is. It is always under 100MB. I have to manually kill processes otherwise it struggles everywhere. I believe the memory management has been so poor since the intro of multi-tasking. I'm more interested in Apple fix the sw first and then work on improving the hardware.

What are you doing on your phone that's eating up all that ram I'm a hardcore ip4 user lots of multitasking video capture etc etc and it never ever feels slow

I'm with you mate. I have a good amount of tweaks and my iPhone 4 is still smooth. I have this tweak that speeds up UI animations and it makes me think that Apple could squeeze a little more speed out of refining iOS. But getting a little more processing speed as long as it doesn't sacrifice battery life would be great.

Idk wats wrong wit ur ip4 cuz ur the only one i ever heard say that..ip4 is easily the smoothest phone out wit the smoothest OS...i think ur gettin it confused with a 3G bro

Dude, you're doing something wrong then. Every ip4 I've ever seen works wonderfully with any apps running. Maybe a botched jb? Just thinking

The iPhone 4 ram is fine. Try the samsung galaxy s phones. Even with their fast processor and ram, I restarted that twice a day. iPhone 4, maybe once a week. Maybe.

samsung “hummingbird” processor is capable of 1.2Ghz , and because Apple A4 is basically the something I am sure the Apple A4 is capable of much higher than 1.2Ghz. So the questions is how much battery improvements and speed improvements does dual-core bring VS a fule year optimizations with the A4 and "over-clocking" the processor.

Ill tell you look at an oc phone battery life sucks bad dualcore is a better rout to go especially with apple their making the hardware and software. So they will have a much easier time optimizing the battery and software than anything on android

If the softwares still runs smooth, why bother upgrading the hardware? It's just extended the production cost and in the end make user must pay extra prices. But, hey.. Apple do surprise us when they release the iPhone 4 with the same price of 3Gs. Well, who knows whats next.

Whatever they do, I hope the battery life remains. I don't know when exactly it happened, but the iPhone 4 battery life became outstanding after one of the iOS updates. I don't even look at my battery indicator anymore. It doesn't matter.

If the rumors for the iPad 2 are to believed, I really think I will pass on it. My current iPad is just perfect for what I use it for. Now the iPhone 5 and the Apple TV 2 (with supposedly "fluid" 1080p) is a different story.

I just wish that Apple blow the top off the specs this year. 1GB of RAM, at least! Dual Core? Eh ... I worry about battery life. But
I'm all for it if t doesn't kill my phone in a few hours. I'll never turn down bumps in hardware specs. I KNOW that Apple will always kill it on the Software side. But I'm still waiting on them to bust out on the hardware side.

Listen Apple, this is what we want: a fast iPhone, no lags or needs to restart, more memory (at least 32gb), and the same if not better battery life. Do whatever it takes to achieve this all. Period.
Oh! And maybe improve the horrid multitasking system, where all apps are running in the background, even if you didn't open them after you restarted your phone. You said you did it best, but it's the worse. BlackBerry has the best multitasking system, and it looks like it may always.
I could go on and on about software such as notifications, but I think I stuck to the topic here.

Getting slightly off-topic, but I agree that iOS multitasking is not that great. Despite their claims, it doesn't work smoothly all the time and having to use the Home button to switch apps is awkward. Hopefully the swiping gestures in 4.3 will become available on all devices. I also hate it when apps crash immediately when opening, but then launch fine a second time. You know it's clearing memory in between. That shouldn't have to happen.

Exactly, something like Multifl0w (pervious post) would be a great improvement over the icons at the bottom, who wants to see their screen cut off after switching apps.

@webvex. I agree wholeheartedly about having to push the home button to switch between programs. I think the most frustrating instance of this, is when I am in iTunes, tap on the "Get more episodes...", and it opens up the iTunes store. Once I download the new episode, I ALWAYS, top on the back button, forgetting that I actually have to go out of the program, and back into the iTunes application.

iOS multitasking is horrible. Most of the time it's not multitasking. webOS has the best multitasking that I've ever used. I wish that webOS had better hardware because it would be amazing.
I think they should pass on dualcore for a while. It's not really necessary for iOS anyway. I would like a bigger screen and better notifications before dualcore. I would absolutely love a "cards" system.

Dual core and 1g of RAM is the sandard now. I don't and won't expect anything less from Apple. Its kind of retarded(don't kill me Sarah Palin) to close out a few apps just so i can have enough RAM to run League Pass. 10hrs was a long time in line for the i4. Give me something that I don't mind heading back to that line.

Getting into a spec war isn't really thats needed. Onthe ipad going to 512 mega of ram is needed for sure. Going dual core on the iphone doesn't seem necessarry to me if its going to decrease battery life or costs significantly. But im not an Apple engineer so we will have to see what they have up their sleeves.

Your statement "we literally have the makings of melt-in-your-pocket processing power" is a bold one. Personally, pocket-melting temperatures sound like a nightmare, for Apple and its users.