Will The iPhone 5S Be 64-Bit? [Rumor]

apple_a7_chip

When last we heard about Apple’s 64-bit aspirations, a notable CPU designer was saying that Apple couldn’t outrun Moore’s Law, and that the earliest Cupertino would manage to swing a 64-bit A7 processor was by 2014.

According to a new report by Fox News reporter Clayton Morris, though, Cupertino might have been juicing. A 64-bit A7 processor could be included in the iPhone 5S.

As pointed out in a tweet from Morris, sources are apparently telling him that the iPhone 5S’s new A7 chip is running about 31% faster than the A6. “I’m hearing it’s very fast,” he says. This speed is due to the chip’s alleged 64-bit upgrade.

It’s probably worth exercising some caution before leaping upon this report. I’d be willing to bet the iPhone 5S won’t be 64-bit.

For one, making the leap to 64-bit is not going to be easy for Apple, and to make full use of those chips will require overhauling iOS with 64-bit support. If Apple is overhauling iOS for 64-bit, we should see hints about it in the code for the iOS 7 beta, but so far, nothing like that has been found.

Here’s the other problem: no one is putting 64-bit chips in smartphones yet. Although 64-bit ARM chips are a reality, they are only being used to power servers right now.So for the iPhone 5S to have a 64-bit processor, Apple would need to leap frog the competition to market.

That doesn’t really scan. Apple tends to be more conservative about making bit technological leaps than their competitors, not more so. Consider, for example, that the A6 chip inside the iPhone 5 is only dual-core, while other smartphone makers are shipping quad-core devices.

Apple may very well be testing a 64-bit iPhone 5S, but I’d be amazed if it debuts at Apple’s September 10th event. Instead, I expect the iPhone 5S chip to be similar to what we’ve previously reported: a glorified A6X SoC, in a quad-core configuration and a higher-performance GPU. But in 2014? 64-bit all the way.

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  • Adrayven

    You forget, iOS is directly built from the OS X Kernel; which was/is in both 32 and 64bit variations AND 64 bit kernel is backwards compatible. It’s not as much of a leap software wise as you make it out. Current generation apps would/should work fine. It would likely be a foundational build that Devs could take advantage of as they upgraded their apps.

    It would also increase performance in visual and multi-tasking arena’s as well as increased memory range.. which makes sense because they just lifted the multi-tasking vail in iOS 7.

  • Harvey Lubin

    John Brownlee: “Consider, for example, that the A6 chip inside the iPhone 5 is only dual-core, while other smartphone makers are shipping quad-core devices.”

    The number of cores and clock-speed are important, but they are not the only factors in determining how fast a system runs.

    Apple has proven this in the past by custom designing processors optimized to run on Apple-designed hardware, and the Apple-designed operating system. When Apple has introduced a new processor and iPhone in the past, it has been benchmarked running processes faster than competing ARM processors with quad-cores and higher clock speed.

    There are people who buy products based solely on the advertised specifications. And then there are more rational people who buy products based on the entire user experience.

    For example, if a person saw the specs for a vehicle with a larger, more powerful engine, bigger wheels, and larger capacity, would they choose it over another vehicle for the same price with smaller specs? But if that higher spec’d vehicle is a garbage truck, and the lower spec’d vehicle was a BMW, there might be other considerations that a buyer would take into account, before choosing a vehicle for their daily use. ;-)

  • daov2a

    I highly doubt this since ARM has not even begun licensing 64 bit on their architecture. I would think once ARM has it out then everyone else will follow suit, such as AMD with their server plans. No doubt Apple has an iPhone 6 they are developing and I would guarantee that ARM would give them a box full of new chips if they asked but I sincerely doubt this will be ready for the iPhone 5C/S. But you never know…

  • Harvey Lubin

    daov2a, yes there is ARM 64-bit architecture. Apple’s upcoming A7 processor is possibly using the ARMv8 architecture.

    This is a description from ARM:

    “The ARMv8 architecture introduces 64-bit support to the ARM architecture with a focus on power-efficient implementation while maintaining compatibility with existing 32-bit software. By adopting a clean approach ARMv8 processors, such as the ARM Cortex-A57 and ARM Cortex-A53, extend the performance range available while maintaining the low power consumption characteristics of the ARM processors that will power tomorrow’s most innovative and efficient devices.”

    ARMv8 was released in late 2011… plenty of time for Apple to design and produce a processor using this architecture. And since it is backwards compatible to 32-bit software, there is no barrier to creating an ARMv8 chip.

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.

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