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Wearables: Article

It’s Apple’s Own Chip in the iPhone 5

If the dingus has 2x the performance of the A5 like Apple says it’s probably got two custom CPU cores

According to the smart money at the Linley Group and AnandTech Apple developed the A6 ARM chip it's using in the iPhone 5 - something it's not talking about -and it's probably having the widget made by Samsung on its 32nm process, which may account for why it's 22% smaller and doubtlessly cheaper than the A5.

If the dingus has 2x the performance of the A5 like Apple says it's probably got two custom CPU cores (unless it's three) clocking roughly 1.2GHz, less than it might to save power.

Linley says a month after Apple bought low-power processor start-up PA Semi for $278 million in April of 2008 it cut a secret deal with ARM for a rare instruction set architecture license so it could develop its own ARM-compatible CPUs.

The PA crew was then divided into two groups: one to work on the Apple A4 processor using an ARM CPU core and the other to define the microarchitecture for the new CPU. It took an awfully long time to get through the initial definition and design phase.

Apple hired more people including ARM Fellow Gerard Williams, who was technical lead for the ARM Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A15 CPUs; he became Apple's chief CPU architect.

Then Apple bought Intrinsity for $120 million for its high-speed physical-design capabilities.

Linley says, "Now that it has completed its first CPU design, Apple is not likely to stop there. To keep pace with competitors using ARM's own cores, the company will have to crank out a new CPU design every couple of years. We believe Apple is already working on a next-generation CPU, which will likely implement the 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set. This new CPU probably won't debut until 2014, so for its 2013 products, Apple will have to rely on the same CPU design, perhaps in a quad-core configuration and with a higher-performance GPU."

It thinks Apple spent maybe $500 million to get this far and reckons Apple is shipping a Cortex-A15-class CPU about three months sooner than its arch-enemy Samsung and that just happens to be the three months before this Christmas when Apple could generate $25 billion.

It could be a problem for Intel if Apple decides to use the widgetry in its laptops. It's also increasingly unlikely that Intel could ever make it into an iWidget, which will simply break Intel's heart.

See www.linleygroup.com/newsletters/newsletter_detail.php?num=4881 and www.anandtech.com/show/6292/iphone-5-a6-not-a15-custom-core.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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