Rumored Apple A7 chipset gets rumored speed increase, motion tracking companion core, 64-bit testing

Rumored Apple A7 chipset gets rumored speed increase, motion companion core, 64-bit testing

If Apple keeps to past patterns, when the rumored iPhone 5s is introduced at the rumored September 10 event it will come with an update Apple A7 system-on-a-chip (SoC). The only thing I've heard about it to date is the presumed name, and that it'll focus on being more efficient and more "advanced" rather than simply being faster. Now Clayton Morris of Fox, whose had good sources before, has put some numbers to those rumors. On Twitter:

Sources are telling me the new iPhone's A7 chip is running at about 31% faster than A6. I’m hearing it’s very fast.

And what's more, it could have some form of motion tracking companion core. Also Twitter:

I’ve also heard there’s a separate chip devoted to motion tracking. Should be an interesting camera upgrade.

Meanwhile Mark Gurman has heard Apple has been testing a 64-bit architecture for the A7. 9to5Mac:

It’s unclear if 64-bit will make the cut, but it’s been in testing. We’re told that the 64-bit processing will make animations, transparencies, and other iOS 7 graphical effects appear much more smoothly than on existing iOS Devices…

I wouldn't be surprised if Apple's already excellent image signal processor (ISP) - the secret behind the iPhone's phenomenal photographic performance - gets a boost as well. One of the more interesting technical aspects will be seeing what makes it into the 2nd generation Swift - the name for Apple custom chip design, begun with the A6 in 2012 - including a potential Rogue-based PowerVR graphics processing unit (GPU).

The iPhone 5c would likely use the Apple A6 and other components currently found in the iPhone 5, though Retina-level iPads would likely need a version of A7 powerful enough to drive 2048x1536 displays. Previously that was accomplished with the anemic A5X and the far better A6X processors.

The iPhone is already fast enough for most general purpose mobile computing tasks. It's specific, specialized areas that can benefit the most now, including (and always) increasing battery life, turning out better photos, and improving interface and gaming performance. The latter of which is particularly important given that iOS 7 essentially runs on a game-style physics and particle engine. And oh those gaussian blur filters...

Then there's just the question of how much RAM it would need, even given the high level of integration Apple products enjoy, to make it all sing?

Source: @ClaytonMorris, @ClaytonMorris, 9to5Mac

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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

Rumored Apple A7 chipset gets rumored speed increase, motion tracking companion core, 64-bit testing


In addition to camera improvements, could a new motion-tracking chip be used to further improve the already impressive parallax aspects of iOS 7?

The Stupid 64bit rumours were based on a clueless analyst who has no technical Background.
64Bit ARM, ARMv8 wont be coming this year. Not for another year at least.
Then the Analyst Hedge, ( or point out the obvious ) if they aren't coming this year, it will be next year or the year after. WHAT? That is like saying If this year we dont get 2GB, some day it will come. For crying out loud of coz it will.
Testing out ARM 64Bit? Of coz they are. iPad will need it in a year or two. And to Macbook will some day, in a few years time be possibly using it.
And No, animations, transparencies, and other iOS 7 graphical effects appearing smoothly has absolutely NOTHING to do with A7, or 64Bit SoC. It has everything to do with PowerVR 6. Which will very likely to be ( I will be surprise if it is not ) inside the A7.

Gurman sounds like he has his own sources on 64-bit. Like he said, and like you say, I'd be surprised if Apple wasn't already testing 64-bit prototypes. Whether or not it makes sense in the A7 is another matter. Taking small bites vs. big bites on mobile isn't as clear to me as, say, being able to open bigger images or operate on bigger movies on the desktop.

Samsung was delivered Cortex A57 and A53 core designs this summer, so it's probably they have some prototypes for Apple to play around with. But yes, the chips won't be out until 2014 (probably in the fall).

I'm with you on 64bit making a big difference in performance. What a joke. All that is going to do is open up ARM for server/enterprise adoption (hence why AMD is making them now).

And those first Design and Blue Prints are based on TSMC 20nm, if anything the first ever ARMv8 will be in 20nm time frame. Whether they are from GF or Samsung, the industry aren't going to see 20nm until late next year.

And whether those design are optimized for mobile is entirely another thing. Which means, in Apple's terms they are very likely starting to work on a Mobile, Low Power Optimized ARMv8, much like they did with Swift instead of following to the comparatively power hungry Cortex A15,

You are 100% correct. In mobile, Apple has always tried to emphasize GPU performance over CPU performance. Most of the effects displayed will be processed in the GPU. SpriteKit indicates an enhanced focus on gaming that was never there before, hence the need to continue to improve GPU performance. I bet that Apple currently has a short window of exclusive rights to the PowerVR 6 architecture. THIS is what is important, not 64 bit CPUs, one quad cores, not anything else.

Imagination Technologies are promising 20x improvement in the GPU cores over pervious GPUs "targeting comparable markets". They are also stating it is 5x more efficient architecture. These are huge claims. This is what matters. Nobody is talking about this.

About a year ago, I thought "Apple could do a 3d effect on the iOS home screen. They could float icons over the wallpaper, create drop-shadows that move in real time, and simulate multiple physical layers. But no, that would burn up too much battery power." I was right except for the drop shadow and battery power.

Indeed the parallax effect won't noticeably affect battery life. The display backlight and radios probably use much more energy compared to the parallax effect, especially on the most recent Apple chips.

If you think about it, high-end iOS games can throw millions of textured polygons at the screen. Of course these apps drain the battery, but the parallax effect only requires a handful of textured polygons to work, and is only used for the home screen, pop-ups, dialog boxes and other system stuff that is only temporarily on the screen.

If the lowest GPU can go is 10% Low Power Mode for UI, then as the total GPU performance improve, the 10% of performance is going to go higher. Hence it wouldn't be much problem for the new GPU, and all GPUs that are coming later.

Wait, is the chipset they're using capable of running 64-bit? Why not just throw the chip in and run 32 until they can get it smooth and update later. Or are they contemplating a specific 64-bit chipset?

"The iPhone is already fast enough for most general purpose mobile computing tasks."
I agree. I'm still running a 4S and never have an issue outside of jailbreak apps when I push the phone a little too hard.

Excited to see where it all goes.

P.S. On a side note, Rene, back to our security conversation, I read the sensor will work by holding down the home button? Are you concerned about that since that's usually the first piece of hardware to break on iPhones (screen not included)?

Apple has been improving the mechanism on the Home screen for several generations now. I would have rather a gesture-based trigger for multitasking rather than continuing the double-click metaphor, as it would further reduce wear, but it is improving.

I'm not sure how much of a physical trigger the Home button would require beyond the existing press-to-wake switch, though? If they can fuse waking and auth into a single press, it might not be a problem?

That's what I've been complaining about and am glad you brought that up.
Multitasking/app switching certainly needs a new approach.

Sent from the iMore App

I mentioned it because at the three jobs I've worked for (gigantic multi-national companies) that have had finger print scanners, it's takes roughly 2-3 seconds to scan and process the print. I'm just imagining holding down the home button for that long every time I want to turn on my phone. That would be some excessive wear, as now I use the power button to wake my device.

Agree on creating "a gesture-based trigger" to multitask. Even if that home button wasn't prone to failing with wear and tear, you always get the feeling you are going to break it with all that double clicking. And it is kind of annoying as well.

re: "...improving interface and gaming performance."

I'd like to have better battery life while playing games. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic really runs down your battery.

Not really. Like im going to play Halo or Call of duty on my phone. That would be so laggy, and would take up so much space. It would be better on a tablet or a console over a phone.

You're thinking high end games. If you check the top apps in the app store, you'll see that games take up a big chunk of the rankings

I'm on the AppleTV bandwagon too and a couple points.

1) I don't know what content you think is available on Amazon before iTunes but I recently purchased Frozen on iTunes 3 weeks before it was available on Amazon. Looking at new releases on iTunes.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Not available Amazon
Porky's - Not Available Amazon
Mississippi Burning - Not available Amazon
Goodbye World - Not available Amazon

Did the same the other way :
The Station Agent - Also Available iTunes
Robin Hood Men in tights - Also available iTunes
Summer in February - Also available iTunes

I even looked at what Amazon states as their "early releases" and found
Veronica Mars: Available to rent Amazon (or pre-order to buy).
But Available to rent or buy on iTunes.

2) Underwhelmed with the hardware. It is true they claim 3X the current AppleTV which is no slouch regardless of what minor lag you may have seen. But expectations for the AppleTV that would ship in 2014 would be an A7 dual core (like 8X the speed of the single core A5) or even a quad core A8 (2X to 4X faster still). If Apple was waiting on the A8 they would likely be able to claim better than Xbox 360 performance and easily offer 4k video. So Amazon putting out 2012 performance at the same price leaves something to be desired.

3) DRM. Amazon allows 2 devices. Apple allows 10 and an "unlimited" number of devices that sync to those 10. This gives a huge amount of flexibility that may well make it so you never feel the DRM, vs Amazon who could slam up against it very fast.

Just my experience.

If the chip is powerful then what about the effect on the battery? I hope they design a new battery as well.

Sent from the iMore App

Chip performance improving battery life will be welcome but I would take a larger or capacity battery to go along with it. I just don't think the technology is there to do that and keep the battery the same size to go in a 5s model that on the same chasis as the iPhone 5. I say bring back the 4s thickness and give us more battery space.

There was a thread started this past week
The jist of it title speaks for itself. As I read this article and posted it to the forum under Apple general discussion and Rumoured 5S yes 2 copies to let as many members get maximum readability on the article...My answer to the OPs original thread was that I would have to know if the specs were significant enough on chipsets etc and the possibility of 64 bit then it would be worth my while to use my upgrade and not worry about saving a few bucks to get the 5.
I was not worried about the new OS because even the IP5 would get that but if the article you wrote here Rene turns out to come through I will for sure be upgrading to the new phone. i am sure price points will be the same and I usually am a creature of habit and will go with the 16GB Black like always like my 4S now.
When Sept 10th rolls around and things get pretty well locked in and specs are announced - So will my decision to upgrade to the new one and usually I wait a month or so to let Apple get the real world kinks out. So that is my decision and i am sticking to it...LOL
Thank you for the article Rene.