The Apple A8 processor is expected to arrive this year alongside the iPhone 6. This feature looks at what features we can expect from the Apple A8 chip.

The iPhone 6 is expected to be announced within the next ten weeks and inside the iPhone 6 is expected to be an all new Apple A8 processor. The Apple A8 chip will sit in the heart of the new iPhone and next-gen iPad and will offer improved performance across the board. While many people have talked about the iPhone 6 itself, few people have crystal-gazed into the innards of the iPhone: so here is what we can expect on the technical side of things. Here we take a look at what Apple is expected to introduce with the Apple A8 system-on-a-chip (SoC).

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Apple A8 chip: next-gen iPhone CPU will be faster and more efficient

Apple A8 CPU found in iPhone 6

Apple has consistently pushed the envelope forward with each iteration of iPhone. The first iPhone featured a 90nm semiconductor running at 412 Mhz utilizing a single core. By the time, the Apple A5 came out (alongside the iPad 2) Apple had halved the semiconductor size to 45nm and was running a 1.0GHz dual-core CPU. Each iteration since has reduced the nanometer size (from 45nm to 32nm and 28nm) and increased the speed.

The most recent Apple A7 chipset was introduced in October 2013 and features a 28nm semiconductor with an ARMv8 dual-core CPU running at 1.3GHz on iPhone (1.4GHz on iPad) and a PowerVR G6430 450 MHz graphics chip. The Apple A7 processor also introduced the first ever 64-bit channel CPU to a mobile device. The iPhone 5s and iPad Air both feature desktop-level performance.

So we can expect Apple to push forwards into a more space and power efficient design while simultaneously trying to increase the speed of the processor.

Apple is expected to move from Samsung’s 28-nanometer node to a TSMC 20-nanometer node. This 20nm node is a substantial size reduction of the chipset that will enable Apple to introduce a range of performance improvements.

Apple A8 chip: how many cores will the Apple A8 have?

Apple’s current range of iPhone and iPad devices utilize a dual-core chip setup, and while Apple could move to a quad core setup in the iPhone 6, most analysts believe Apple will instead stick with a dual core heart of the iPhone and iPad and focus on faster performance.

Apple has consistently been ahead of the curve in terms of performance on mobile devices, and we think better gains are found in current iOS software from keeping two cores running at a faster speed than introducing extra cores. But efficient core utilisation depends on the corresponding software support, and Apple may have developed software that makes use of a multi-core approach.

Apple A8 chip: what speed will the Apple A8 CPU run at?

Apple is expected to include two high performance ARMv8-based CPU cores. The current CPU in the iPhone runs at 1.3 GHz so we expect at least 1.5GHz in the iPhone 6. Sonny Dickson (who accurately reported details regarding the iPhone 5s) speculated that the CPU speed will be higher, much higher, with figures up to 2.6MHz being bandied around.

This higher CPU speed would sit well alongside the 64-bit performance introduced with the Apple A7 to reinforcing the idea that the iPhone and iPad offer desktop-level performance. It seems a little high to us, but with a larger case of the iPhone 6 it could theoretically be possible.

Apple A8 chip: next-gen iPhone GPU graphics performance

Alongside the faster performance of the CPU will come improved graphics performance. Apple has consistently upped the ante on graphics performance with every iteration of Apple A-series chipset. Apple could take the Imagination Technologies PowerVR G 6430 found in the iPhone 5s up to the PowerVR Series 6 G6630, this offers modest improvements across the board. Or Apple could jump ahead to a PowerVR Series 6XT GPU, which offers major improvements across the board. We imagine Apple has tested both graphics systems out and will plump for the one that balances the best graphics performance balanced against heat dissipation and battery life.

Apple A8 chip: how much better will it be

We expect the Apple A8 chipset to be substantially better than the A7 found in the iPhone 5s. Just how much better depends on which rumour is correct: the 2.6GHz blazing update with PowerVR Series 6XT GPU or a more modest CPU speed increase combined with a moderately better GPU. It isn’t always better just to crank up the dials; Apple also has to balance battery life, device size and heat performance alongside the technical specifications. If you’re just after raw numbers then you would be better off paying for a MacBook Pro instead of an iOS device, which has a more nuanced approach.

Going by Apple’s history and from the rumours across the board the follow ‘consumer friendly’ announcement sounds about right.

  • Apple A8 CPU performance. 50 percent faster performance from a higher clock speed (made possible by the 20nm process).
  • GPU performance. Twice the graphics performance from the implementation of a new chipset.

And if Apple announces that alongside other new features in the iPhone 6 the company will continue to stride ahead of Android rivals while still providing a great all-round mobile experience.