Apple’s Chip Roadmap: Quad-Core A6X In 2013, 64-Bit A7 In Time For 2014?

Apple’s Chip Roadmap: Quad-Core A6X In 2013, 64-Bit A7 In Time For 2014?

When the new iPhone 5 is officially released on Friday, it will be powered by Apple’s custom-designed A6 chip, a 1.2GHz, dual-core chip that is the first Cortex-A15 class CPU to market.

How did Apple get to this point? Just four years ago, they made their first step into custom chip design: now they are releasing cutting edge chips that are months ahead of the competition.

Over the weekend, Linley Gwennap, who heads the Linley Group chip consultacy, posted up a brief history of Apple’s chip development. It’s not just illuminating because of how we got here — from Apple buying up P.A. Semi in 2008 to signing secret deals with ARM — but in that it predicts when and what the next-gen A7 chip will look like.

Stressing that the A6 is Apple’s first “from scratch” CPU design, Gwennap 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.

What Gwennap predicts, then, is that next year, we will see an A6X chip which will mostly be the same as the A6, but with a couple more cores and new graphics. Then we’ll be hit with the A7 in 2014 in time for the iPhone 6, which will be true 64-bit. Otherwise, Apple’s chip roadmap will be fairly predictable: even Apple can’t thwart the laws of physics, it looks like.

  • cheese

    um, A6 chip is not Cortex A15. Anand did a write up of this and confirmed the A6 chip is completely in-house design from Apple.

  • gettysburg11s

    Yes, but they still had a starting point, which was the A15 core.

  • Bob Smogango

    a couple of things to note. Apple bought Anobit, which has the best SSD controller designs. I’m they imbedded that on the chip as well, plus is Apple going to still license Anobit’s current and future SSD controller chip designs to other ARM makers?

    The other thing is the GPU. That’s what is really being used when playing video, games and rendering the screen. Who’s design are they using and how does it compare to other ARM chips?

  • Bob Smogango

    um, A6 chip is not Cortex A15. Anand did a write up of this and confirmed the A6 chip is completely in-house design from Apple.

    From what I’ve read, the S4 is not a Cortex A15, but I think they are both using the A15 instruction set is what I have read. Obviously, they have to get these things in their hands and pull them apart. But I think Apple might have a better SSD controller since they OWN Anobit, and the GPU is what we don’t know much about. The GPU is what is doing all of the graphics rendering for movies, photos, games. Actually for these devices, I think the importance is in the GPU, but most people focus on the CPU.

  • ddevito

    64-bit now we’re talking. I might be joining back to the dark side.

  • Bob Smogango

    I’m wondering what’s going to happen on the desktop/laptop front since CISC X86 chips have reached their limits. I wonder what would happen is Apple pulled out some sort of ARM chip or the use of ARM chips for multiple processing for the laptop/desktop market and it they could actually develop something that actually blew away X86 chips that ran on less power, smaller and cheaper.

  • Shilly Devane

    In this case I’m ready for the iPhone 6s!

  • KarimRonaldo11

    as Lillian replied I’m amazed that anyone can get paid $8205 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this website (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/vI2A1

  • Sean_Mapstone

    I can see a super thin MacBook Air running on a A7 chip. Oh yeah!

  • SamuelBrock

    I can see a super thin MacBook Air running on a A7 chip. Oh yeah!

    That would be a compatibility nightmare.

  • theotherphil

    The A6 in the iPhone 5 is 1GHz, not 1.2GHz

  • Matthew Gonzales Landry

    John, just a couple notes:

    1. The A6 doesn’t use the ARM A15. Apple build this new chip themselves.

    2. The A6X is probably going into the iPad, and it’s not going to have more cores since this design just debuted. It will, however, attach a more capable GPU to the SoC, making it the best SoC on the market.

  • Matthew Gonzales Landry
    um, A6 chip is not Cortex A15. Anand did a write up of this and confirmed the A6 chip is completely in-house design from Apple.

    From what I’ve read, the S4 is not a Cortex A15, but I think they are both using the A15 instruction set is what I have read. Obviously, they have to get these things in their hands and pull them apart. But I think Apple might have a better SSD controller since they OWN Anobit, and the GPU is what we don’t know much about. The GPU is what is doing all of the graphics rendering for movies, photos, games. Actually for these devices, I think the importance is in the GPU, but most people focus on the CPU.

    It’s probably another SGX543MP2, just clocked higher than in the 4S. That GPU is beyond impressive. The dual-core chip was already overkill in the iPhone 4S. In the iPhone 5, a higher clock-rate will help with the larger resolution, but it’ll mainly just make everything look even prettier. If you’re looking for some serious graphical horse power, wait for the next iPad.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged: , , , , |