The highly anticipated launch of the iPhone 5 today revealed that Apple have released the A6 processor. The new processor is reported to be 22% smaller in size than the A5, and it’s more energy efficient. This is a smaller processor by size alone, but it packs twice CPU power. That’s double the punch in terms of graphics compared to what the iPhone 4 was capable of.
The Apple iPhone 5 is the fastest iPhone yet. With Apple’s all-new A6 chip, designed by Apple exclusively for the iPhone 5, the dual core processor can clock speeds that are comparable, if not faster, than some quad-core devices. Twice as fast as the 4S and only slightly lagging behind the Galaxy S3, the iPhone 5’s A6 processor is an electrical engineering marvel.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said during his presentation that the A6 processor will mean that the Pages app will now load 2.1x faster on the iPhone 5 than on previous models. He also said that Keynote attachments will open 1.7x faster as well.
Evolution: How does the A6 compare to the iPhone 4S’s A5 chip?
The A6 has been rebuilt from the ground up and is a major improvement over the A5 in the 4S. An extra core in the CPU and three GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) cores instead of two make the iPhone 5 much speedier than its predecessor.
While the two CPU cores in the A6 function to regulate how fast the iPhone performs, the three GPUs ensure that the visuals of the iPhone are smooth and that apps run without choppy playback. It’s dual core CPU is touted as having speeds that are twice that of the 4S’s A5, and the GPU also performs twice as fast despite being 22% smaller.
CPU is the quality of the phone's 'brain' - ie. how fast it can function and how well. RAM is the capacity of the phone’s brain - ie. how many things it can think of at once and how many things it can do without sacrificing the quality of any of them. The A6 houses 1GB of RAM, twice that of the 4S, and can handle multitasking and memory intensive apps much better as a result.
Compared with iPhone 4s
- 40% faster image capture
- Two times faster graphics
- Saves images for iPhoto app 1.7 times faster
- Reduces battery heat
- New image processor
- Launch app pages 2.1 times faster
- Loads Music app with songs 1.9 times faster
- Views Keynote attachments 1.7 times faster
- Two times faster CPU, which means faster performance
A6 + 4G LTE = Faster Data Speeds
Combine the power behind the A6 processor with the inclusion of LTE technology and the iPhone 5 is set to see much faster data speeds. This means accessing the internet using the phone will be much quicker, along with offering faster download speeds and highly improved streaming times for video.
Improved Battery Life
Possibly the most astounding feat of the A6 is how incredibly energy efficient it is. Despite the iPhone 5 running 5.45 Whr at 3.8 V (for a capacity of 1434 mAh) over the 4S battery which clocks in 5.3 Whr at 3.7 V (1432 mAh), the iPhone 5 call pull the same, if not more, time in use than its predecessor. This is impressive, given the introduction of 4G LTE and the larger screen, an energy saving feat only possible because of the power saving attributes of the A6.
The A6 processor is designed to make operating the phone less power intensive overall. This is great news for improved battery life.
The statement made by Apple’s Phil Schiller during their launch presentation was that the iPhone 5 is capable of browsing the internet at LTE speeds for up to eight hours. It’s also capable of watching video for up to ten hours. Apple also pointed out that the iPhone is able to achieve up to 225 hours of battery life while just sitting on standby.
Enhanced Camera Functionality
The powerful new A6 processor is also touted to enhance the camera functionality. Apple are calling their new, improved camera the ‘iSight’ and it certainly does appear to be an improvement on previous cameras in earlier models.
Phil Schiller said that the iPhone 5 iSight camera is able to take pictures 40% faster than previous versions. It also features improved low-light performance capabilities. The actual image processor within the camera features a smart filter, which is designed to handle colour-matching more efficiently. The iPhone 5 also features improved video stabilisation.
Thanks to the added boost in power from the A6 processor, users can now record video at the same time as taking great photos.
Competition: How does the A6 compare to other smartphone processors?
The biggest threat to Apple’s iPhone 5 comes from Samsung, the Galaxy S3. Surprisingly enough, Samsung are the manufacturer of Apple’s A6 chipset.
The Exynos processor line is Samsung’s system-on-chip designs used in their phones and tablets. The S3 features the Exynos 4 Quad Core processor with 2 GB of RAM, twice that of the iPhone 5. The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is based off an ARM model and clocks 1.4 GHz, only 0.1 more than the iPhone 5’s 1.3 GHz.
The ARM processor model is a standard developed by ARM holdingswho have been designing processors since back in the 80s. They license out their designs for other manufacturers to tweak and then build their own. 90% of smartphones use an ARM based processor, including many Android phones like the Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X.
One of the best tests of a processor is the benchmark speeds that is can produce; a sampling of the real world speeds the devices can attain. The S3 does prove itself to be faster than the iPhone’s A6, scoring an impressive 1724 compared to the iPhone 5’s 1568 (the 4S come in at a depressingly low 654).
Take a look at some of the other phones currently on the market and how the iPhone 5 compares in terms of benchmark speeds, as documented by Primatelabs in their Geekbench Browser Benchmark Chart:
|LG's Nexus 4||1992|
|Samsung Galaxy Note II||1942|
|Samsung Galaxy S3||1724|
|Samsung Galaxy S3 4G||1706|
|HTC One XL||1515|
|HTC One X||1424|
While the iPhone 5 is a spectacularly fast phone, it does have competition for the title of fastest phone on the market. The Nexus 4 was only recently revealed but it’s quickly making its mark. The Galaxy Note 2 sports an impressive 5.5 inch screen and still manages to pack a super fast processor in the mix. The numbers show that the HTC One XL and One X are somewhat comparable to the iPhone 5, in terms of speed at least.
Apple’s first In-House chip
Traditionally, Apple have modelled the design of their system-on-chip processors after licensed ARM CPU designs. With the A6, Apple’s team designed a completely new processor for the iPhone 5.
No expense was spared with this one, the circuitry being laid out by hand. This doesn’t mean that someone manually made each chipset, but rather that the blueprint for the design was optimised by humans rather than a computer algorithm, a technique which is time consuming and rare but results in faster and more efficient connections. It’s no small feat, a team having to configure and reconfigure the alignment of billions of tiny lines and links.
The thought and artistry that has gone into the A6 is apparent in the speed and efficiency of the processor. It is dual core, but can rival or even outperform a few quad core processors from other mobile handsets such as the HTC One X.
While the Nexus 4 or Note 2 might be fast, you might not want an Android phone, or the Note 2’s phablet sized screen might be too much for you. If you’re looking for a fast phone that is easy to use and packs a spectacular camera to boot, the iPhone 5 is a great choice.