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Is Apple iPhone 5 the first handset with Cortex-A15 processor cores? Analysts think so

Posted: , by Daniel P.

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Is Apple iPhone 5 the first handset with Cortex-A15 processor cores? Analysts think so
As usual, Apple didn't want too much geeky terminology around its gadgets, so yesterday it simply stated that the A6 system chip inside the iPhone 5 is "2x faster" than the A5 in the iPhone 4S, both in terms of processor cores, and in graphics subsystem.

This immediately led to the speculation that Apple might be the first to market with a processor based on the Cortex-A15 platform of the British chip designers ARM Holdings. So far a few chip makers like NVIDIA with Tegra 4, TI's OMAP5 family, and Samsung's Exynos 5-series have announced them as Cortex-A15 endeavors, but none has materialized in a device yet.

Anand LaShimpi from Anandtech fame claimed yesterday that the A6 is indeed a dual-core Cortex-A15 processor, most likely made in Samsung's Austin, Texas foundry, with the same 32nm LP HK+MG processor used for the Exynos 4412 in the Samsung Galaxy S III, and for the 5-series Exynos. 

Is Apple iPhone 5 the first handset with Cortex-A15 processor cores? Analysts think so
Cortex-A15 at 2GHz has twice the performance of Cortex-A9 at 1.5GHz, but as far as we know Apple, the A6 is likely clocked much lower, yet could still be "2x faster" than A5 at its respective clock frequency. As for the graphics boost, the quad-core PowerVR GPU that is in the new iPad might have found its way into the iPhone 5 as well, clocked lower to save battery, hence doubling the performance against the dual-core PowerVR in last year's A5 chip.

We won't know for sure until the first teardown or tailored tests appear, but an analyst from Nomura Securities today confirmed that the A6 is a dual-core Cortex-A15 undertaking, made with Samsung's 32nm process. Now we don't know whether the A6 cores have been modified to only use the A15 instruction set, like Qualcomm does with its Snapdragon S4 and Se Pro "Krait" cores, which can't be called A15 ones with precision, as the architecture is different.

Still, we should know soon enough with certainty whether the iPhone 5 is beating everyone to the game of outing a handset that uses the next generation of the ARM processor architecture. After all, iPhone 5 will have to go against Cortex-A15 handsets next year, so it has to hold its own at least until next September.

source: EETimes & AnandTech

44 Comments
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posted on 13 Sep 2012, 04:51 14

1. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)


it wouldn't be used much anyway - and Apple didn't probably manufacture it.

but if it was, cool but iOS won't need it. i'm still saying it's not. much like the 200 new features of iOS 6: crap.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 04:54 18

3. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)


and if it was Samsung.... ha! Exynos 5, when it comes, will destroy this and that time, it will be used with so much hardware and software.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:46 7

10. CX3NT3_713 (Posts: 1650; Member since: 18 Apr 2011)


Apple had its 5 seconds of fame,, now samsung and LG, are going too release the beasts !!!

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 06:28 2

16. xoutrageousx (Posts: 70; Member since: 22 Dec 2011)


LG? good one bro.

They are the next RIM/HTC

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 09:04

26. caseball2051 (Posts: 31; Member since: 09 Feb 2012)


no. LG is releasing a beastly phone on verizon in the next month or two.

HTC also has a rumored phablet coming.

posted on 14 Sep 2012, 17:08

43. lsutigers (Posts: 698; Member since: 08 Mar 2009)


Uhhh, I believe you mean Sprint, it has been code named Eclipse and should sport a Qualcomm S4 Pro Quad. I think AT&T might be getting a similar version too but I have heard nothing about Verizon.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 04:51 22

2. 09wbd03516 (banned) (Posts: 140; Member since: 30 May 2012)


No matter how good it is, it never change the fact that it is an APPLE!!! we dislike apple!!!! It spoils my reputation!!!!

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:12 4

5. sadaivadai (Posts: 156; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)


I see what you did there ..

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:08 8

4. adamross55 (Posts: 14; Member since: 23 Apr 2012)


If there is a Cortex A15 chip in the iPhone 5 thatd be great, but iOS is so polished that it doesnt need all that power. Thats like sticking a 5.0L V8 engine inside a toyota prius. You should all know that specs on an iPhone or Windows Phone dont matter nearly as much as they do on an Android device.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:14 6

6. StreetNerd (Posts: 700; Member since: 08 Dec 2010)


Where the furk are those Lumia 920 articles????

Lumia 920 > iPhone 5

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:21

23. -box- (Posts: 3714; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)


No new developments, and pageviews pay for ads, and thus the rent. It is a free site, after all (not like NYT's)

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:14 3

7. xtian1103 (Posts: 352; Member since: 11 Feb 2012)


samsung will likely put the same technology on the galaxy nexus

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:42 2

8. adamross55 (Posts: 14; Member since: 23 Apr 2012)


What are you talking about? The galaxy nexus has been out for nearly a year now...you must mean the next nexus device?

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 06:28 2

17. fanboy1974 (Posts: 1107; Member since: 12 Nov 2011)


Not a Android user I see. Consider the "Nexus" as Google's flagship model (which is updated every year) that showcases the hardware and "vanilla" OS as one complete whole. It's the first phone to receive stock Android every year. It's the closet thing to an iPhone when it comes to updates. It may not be the fastest or has the best hardware at the time of release but it serves as a model to which other Android OEM's should match or exceed. It's the benchmark for Android devices.
The Galaxy S3 for example still has Ice Cream Sandwich (officially) but it's hardware out classes every aspect of the current Galaxy Nexus with Jellybean. The OP is referring to the next Nexus model which should be announced before years end.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 14:25 3

35. E.N. (Posts: 2224; Member since: 25 Jan 2009)


did you even read adamross55's comment?

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 10:23 1

28. xtian1103 (Posts: 352; Member since: 11 Feb 2012)


yeah i mean the "next" nexus device, sorry bout that

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:43

9. doejon (Posts: 317; Member since: 31 Jul 2012)


ahm think logically
the iphone 5 said to be 2x better it can´t be the a15 cortex
cuz it would be more than 2x faster!

i think is just dualcore 2 times faster lol

and if it was a15 cortex than apple would mentioned it for shure at the keynote
if u look at the cheap new panorama feature that other device have a long time befor
and apple mentioned it.. thats way apple would mentioned it 4 shure that the cpu is a a15 cortex

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:52 2

11. redmd (Posts: 860; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)


I think it doesn't have that A15. Apple hyped the fifth row but did not hype the A15?!

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:55

12. hung2900 (Posts: 769; Member since: 02 Mar 2012)


Apple A5 SoC of iPhone 4S has the clockrate @800Mhz, so this is still Cortex A9 but clocking at @1500-1600Mhz, that's all.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 05:57 1

13. dawolf (Posts: 23; Member since: 14 Oct 2011)


noway they have an A15 chip before samsung, nice try but the iphone 5 is still a disappointment.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 06:00 5

14. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


Anandtech didnt "claim" shyt. They were speculating based on Apple's numbers

Here's a simple issue though. Apple's i4s DOESNT RUN AT 1.5GHZ IT RUNS AT 800MHZ.

Modifying the current A5X found in the new ipad with a higher CPU clock and a lower GPU clock will the same results while still giving battery life. That would make it equivalent to an Exynos 4412 with Apple's PowerVR core. Thats an A9 with a quad core GPU. Clocking the chip up to even 1.2ghz would pretty much fit the "2x as powerful" compared to the A5's 800mhz setting and equivalence to the older Exynos dual core found in the SGS2.

People need to quit getting their panties in a bunch until we get confirmation one way or another. However it is very UNLIKE apple to be at the forefront of new tech. Also considering the bad blood between Apple and Samsung, I find it unlikely that they would give Apple such an advantage on their own chips by giving them A15's months before they use them for their own devices. Unless Apple threw down a pile of cash to bribe them.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 07:55

22. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5534; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


Or, contract terms require Sammy to produce what Apple designs. The A5X chip seemed to be a hybrid design that didn't have a comparable Sammy analogy. I haven't seen Apple stretch the envelope on iPhone hardware (especially as regards power consumption trade-offs), but who knows? If they had done something revolutionary, they generally like to crow about it. This time around, they are all mum about their processor.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:34 2

24. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


the A5X chip is the Exynos 4212 (thats the dual core version of the 4412 found in the international SGS3 and Note2) with a powerVR GPU that is very over clocked. That was the main reason for the heat issue and massive battery in the "new ipad".

The A5 chip is the same as the older Exynos chip found in the SGS2 and it was clocked at 800mhz in the i4s. Just going from the A5 to the A5X and upping the clock frequencies to like 1.2 or so would give them a massive power boost as well as battery savings since your going from 40nm to 32nm HKG. They tone down the overclock in the PowerVR chip or use a slightly different model, and you still get a huge GPU boost without all the battery eating of the new ipad. Call it the "A6" just to show there is a difference.
Honestly, the A5X should have been called the A6 to begin with since it was an entirely different chip. This should be called the A6x if I'm right about the chip itself.

People that keep claiming that it must be an A15 keep missing the whole "the i4S was very underclocked" fact.

If its an A15, then thats outstanding and makes the phone even more powerful than if its a rebranded 4412. However, that is very very very unlike apple as they would be paying a premium for A15's more so than they would for the 4412 chips wich are made in large quantities. A15's just dont have the output yield as well. Apple needs a massive supply of chips. I dont think even Samsung has enough output to throw out 30 million A15 chips to supply the needs of Apple. If they did, then we would have seen samsung using A15's by now as well.

There is a lot to consider. And all of it points to the rebranded 4412 chip as the most likely chip hidden under that "A6" insignia.
And if it is an A15, then that makes me excited for the next line of Samsung products, because it means the LTE issues are solved.

And your right. If it was the first A15 to market, Apple would be screaming it from the hilltops... hell, if there was ANYTHING new about the chip, Apple would make a whole segment on how "hard and difficult it was to create something new and magical" like they did with the extra 0.5 inch screen and ear buds. "years of development".. lol

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 11:24

30. kabel (Posts: 43; Member since: 06 Nov 2011)


Exynos != A5/A5X/A6 or whatever apple processor

This is a pure speculation from you. Can you prove that Apple uses some modified Exynos?

Why on earth would Samsung Mobile (which is not the same with Samsung Foundry ==> Samsung Mobile != Samsung Foundry) give SoC designs on competitor? Make no sense.

Keep dreaming that Samsung Mobile is giving away their intellectual property.

As i've said, you have no proof that Exynos == A5/A5X/A6

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 14:04 1

34. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


wow.. really? lol. you need to just stop typing and go do some mild research.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 21:33

41. kabel (Posts: 43; Member since: 06 Nov 2011)


I have not seen single link/resource supporting your claims. Why don't you post some links supporting your claims ... You are just ... what? Speculating...

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 23:30

42. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


because they have all been linked before. It is not my job to continually relink to the same crap over and over again because new people join the conversation without first educating themselves on what is discussed.

Im willing to bet you can google search at the very top of this page. Figure out how to use it to educate yourself and quit expecting others to do it for you. I am happy to discuss it with someone that actually cares enough to look up info themselves.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 06:12 1

15. fanboy1974 (Posts: 1107; Member since: 12 Nov 2011)


Speed was never the issue with the iPhone 4S. Everything else was. Does it matter if the iPhone used a 10ghz chip?
For Android devices it does matter because Google keeps adding core features to the operating system every year. IOS is still the same old thing.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 06:47 2

19. Shino (Posts: 173; Member since: 23 Jul 2012)


Now we can expect Galaxy S4 to have an aluminium unibody design...;0

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 09:15

27. ph00ny (Posts: 586; Member since: 26 May 2011)


ugh i hope not. Aluminum gets dented easily, interferes with radio signal, etc

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 10:31 1

29. xtian1103 (Posts: 352; Member since: 11 Feb 2012)


i don't think so, they will still use tupperware on their next device

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 11:40

31. RapidCat (Posts: 351; Member since: 12 Jun 2012)


if apple use cotex A15, they already announce it yesterday. the 1st phone with cortex a15.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 12:21

32. RangersK (Posts: 59; Member since: 15 May 2012)


A6 is a Cortex-A9 based quad-core processor with a better GPU.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 13:24

33. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


@Remixfa, A5X is a huge chip and it doesn't have an integrated LTE. It's also built on 45nm, right?

A6 is said to be smaller than A5 and has an integrated LTE, and is stated to be easy on the battery on top of it.

Your theory doesn't hold at all.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 14:31

36. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


The A5, which was basically the older 3 series Exynos found in the SGS2 was built on 40nm. The A5x is actually a modified 4212 dual core exynos, the dual version of the 4412 exynos found in the SGS3 and Note2. That is based on 32nm HKG technology. The A5x also has a massive improvement in GPU compared to the A5. However the PowerVR GPU was greatly overclocked in the "new ipad" which is why it was prone to heat issues and had such a massive battery to compensate for the drain.

LTE isnt integrated on the CPU, its integrated with the wifi/blutooth/ect all on one chip. That's a misconception I had at one point as well because of the way its worded. Until recently there was a separate chip for LTE and Wifi/blutooth. The all in 1 integration just puts all the "radios" on 1 single chip instead of multiple chips, but its not on the CPU/GPU itself.

My theory holds quite a bit of water if you revisit the facts I just corrected for you and look at my theory.

The A5 chip in the i4s Is a 40nm dual core chip @800mhz and a dual core PowerVR SGX543MP4 GPU
The A5X chip in the "new ipad" is a newer 32nm HKG chip @ 1ghz. with a quad core PowerVR SGX543MP4 GPU

If you simply tweak the chip a bit more, up the ram in the phone, maybe use a newer edition of PowerVR, and boom, you have a large THEORETICAL performance increase WITHOUT an A15. Remember, this is also the same company that said the A5X was 4x more powerful than the Tegra3 which powers most Android tablets these days. While it is more powerful in GPU by a good margin, its never been "4x more" in GPU or over all... in fact the chip was a much weaker CPU. Apple refused to go into details which tests they used to come up with that number and at what frequencies.

And think about the fact that the ipad3 was supposed to be "4x" stronger than a T3 which is no slouch. The new A6 chip is only supposed to be "double" that of the i4s... with "quad core graphics". The i4s's A5 chip uses "dual core graphix". Well gee.. the A5x already fits that description pretty well.

So, ill finish this little mini-debate over if my theories "hold at all" with the same thing I always say. Dont believe a damn word any SALESMAN tells you about its power. Wait until a commercial device is launched and properly tested.

http://www.redmondpie.com/a5-vs.-a5x-vs.-tegra-3-t horoughly-benchmarked-the-winner-is-rather-surpris ing/

quit trying to butt heads with me all the time and learn.
You know what's funny. When I used an alternate account, you agreed with every word I said which proves that your beef with me is some silly personal issue.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 14:36

37. richardyarrell2011 (banned) (Posts: 510; Member since: 16 Mar 2011)


Gotta say true people need to chill. True smartphone junkies care most about internals and software that's true. We will find out soon enough.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 14:42

38. OnlyiPhone (Posts: 29; Member since: 09 Sep 2012)


I LOVE iPhone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 15:07

39. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


@Remixfa, I have no beef with you, I simply think the theory is wrong.
Basically, I could repeat what I said initially.
Here you go:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5688/apple-ipad-2012-review/12

I think I had my homework done, thank you.
I do agree that this chip is a mystery, though.
I just dismiss the A5X derivative theory obviously.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 15:59

40. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


Here. Call this half right. They did die shrink to 32nm HKG. However it was the A5 chip, not the A5X chip. When they launched the "new ipad", they redid the ipad 2 with a new version of the A5 chip found originally in the i4s. Right call, wrong ipad lol. Like I said, theyve been using this tech for a lil while now. I just had the chip parts backwards. It still points to me being very likely correct though for the same reasons.

"Remember the basics of Samsung's 32nm HK+MG process: a 40% performance improvement at the same leakage"

Just to run easy numbers (which dont hold as easily true in real life all the time), if the A6 chip running at 800mhz in the i5 gets an automatic 40% boost per clock over the A5 chip running at 800mhz in the i4s just by the die shrink, then it would stand to reason that bumping the chip up to 1.2ghz would add another 50% improvement (400mhz bump is half of 800mhz.. and again, theoretical, not real world), which would mean that's an easy 90% improvement over the chip in the i4s without trying. If you go from the Dual core PowerVR to the Quadcore PowerVR.. and not even a newer model, you get an automatic GPU increase of about 50-100%. Assuming that Apple isnt resting on their laurels, they are most likely using a NEWER version of PowerVR than what's found on the iPad3. That would make it even stronger.

Thus you come very very close to Apple's "claims"... which like most salesman claims, never actually come true.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5789/the-ipad-24-rev iew-32nm-a5-tested

posted on 17 Sep 2012, 06:10

44. pikapowerize (banned) (Posts: 1869; Member since: 03 May 2012)


im confuse.. so samsung still make the chips on iPhone 5?

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