Chipgate FAQ: Everything you need to know about iPhone 6s controversy

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Save your battery with this pretty extreme trick.
"Variable performance depending on who made your processor" was maybe not high on Apple's feature list.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

If you’re confused about the so-called ‘Chipgate’ controversy swirling around the Internet today, we’re here to help.

It just wouldn’t be an iPhone launch without something going awry, and the latest outcry concerns the relative performances of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus’ A9 processors, especially their effects on the phones’ battery lives. And if that all sounds a bit technical and boring, it is. But it’s not too hard to understand.

So what’s going on?

Apple outsourced production of the A9 processors for the new iPhones to two companies, TSMC and Samsung, and the two companies’ chips are different sizes. Samsung’s version is 96 square millimeters, and TSMC’s is a slightly larger 104.5 square millimeters. The size difference is simply due to the two manufacturers using different technologies and shouldn’t affect performance at all, some iPhone 6s owners are claiming otherwise.

The video below, by YouTube user Austin Evans, compares battery performance between a Samsung-chipped phone and one with TSMC’s hardware and shows that under some circumstances, the latter phone saw a markedly longer battery life, but in others, they ran about the same.

Evans uses an info app for his experiment called Lirum that could identify which processor a phone has, and he managed to pull the model numbers for reference. The Samsung chips are numbers N71AP (iPhone 6s) and N66AP (iPhone 6s Plus), and the TSMCs are N71MAP (6s) and N66MAP (6s Plus).

Those numbers are obviously the same regardless of the diagnostic tool you use, but Lirum quickly disappeared from the App Store.

You mean Apple pulled it? That’s shady as hell!

It’s okay, imaginary, overreacting person. Lirum pulled the app on its own due to compatibility issues with new hardware like the iPhone 6s and the iPad Air 2. And we’ve since heard that developer Lirum Labs is putting the app back up.

“As the App was an old version, some crashes were reported and the lack of detailed specs for the newer devices made us take the app down to avoid negative reviews,” a Lirum spokesperson told Cult of Mac over e-mail. “But due to popular demand, we put it back online. An update is still on the way.”

So don’t even worry about that, folks. It was a non-spiracy.

You can grab both paid and free versions of the app now.

The A9 processors inside Apple's new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus come from two different manufacturers and appear to perform differently. And thus "Chipgate" is born.
The A9 processors inside Apple’s new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus come from two different manufacturers and appear to perform differently. And thus “Chipgate” is born.
Image: Austin Evans/YouTube

What if I want to be extra, extra sure?

Lirum isn’t the only way to know which chip your iPhone 6s has. You can check out our convenient guide to other diagnostic tools that might interest you.

Is it just battery life, or do I have anything else to worry about?

Since the chip differences are a recent discovery, people are still experimenting to see if it’s affecting other parts of the new iPhone’s performance. We’ll get more information over the next day or so as findings emerge, but preliminary research claims that while the Samsung chips may rob battery life and run a bit hotter (3 degrees Celsius), but they may also run slightly faster.

It’s a mixed bag, really.

I don’t want this crappy chip! Can I return my phone and get one with the ‘good’ chip?

If you bought your iPhone 6s on launch day, you’re still within Apple’s 14-day return period. But just barely; it expires tomorrow. So if you feel compelled to exchange your phone, now’s the time.

The bad news, however, is that it’s impossible to know which A9 processor your iPhone has until you’ve taken it out of the box, so you could still end up with the one you don’t want.

CPU chipgate A9
It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.

What does Apple have to say about this?

We’ve actually gotten some official word out of the company on “Chipgate” — this is how much noise the Internet has made about it. And Apple isn’t impressed with the real-world tests.

Here’s its statement:

“With the Apple-designed A9 chip in your iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, you are getting the most advanced smartphone chip in the world. Every chip we ship meets Apple’s highest standards for providing incredible performance and deliver great battery life, regardless of iPhone 6s capacity, color, or model.

“Certain manufactured lab tests which run the processors with a continuous heavy workload until the battery depletes are not representative of real-world usage, since they spend an unrealistic amount of time at the highest CPU performance state. It’s a misleading way to measure real-world battery life. Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other.”

So according to the people making iPhones, the people testing the devices aren’t accurately re-creating “real-world” circumstances because they are applying unrealistic stress to the CPU. Your phone’s guts aren’t likely to be cranked up that high for so long in day-to-day use, so these kind of stress tests aren’t the best way to compare, Apple says.

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  • Carlos

    yep, “your iPhone guts aren’t likely to be cranked up that high for so long in day to day use”, if it is, then you are using it wrong.
    ahaha

    so there is a difference. If you use your iPhone heavily and it has a Samsung chip you will have less battery life. Are you joking Apple!!?

    • The Gnome

      Samsung seems to be on a roll here as well… figures theirs would be the one that underperforms.

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    • CelestialTerrestrial

      Why do you think Apple’s been trying to get away from using Samsung for everything. Could it be something Samsung’s doing and not telling Apple? You know, Samsung will resort to anything I think of Samsung as slimy. I can’t help it. I just never thought too highly of Samsung and this was long before iPhones came to market.

    • WingXBlade

      Remember that time when Apple told consumers that they are holding their phone wrong? Yeap same old response from Apple

  • Ben Kenon

    The continued coverage of this is why I am never buying another iPhone. It’s a phone, not your soul.

    • niico100

      yet you wasted even more time commenting?

      • Ben Kenon

        Sure did.

      • healeydave

        Knob!
        Go comment on a samscum praise thread if you can find one.
        I know which company & quality I’d rather support and follow than an unscroupulous Korean manufacturer!?!?

      • Ben Kenon

        Ok?

    • Garrett Fahey

      You’re not buying an iPhone because an unrelated third party writes articles about Apple? Makes sense.

      • Ben Kenon

        No, because of the iPhone users having temper tantrums over the thought of Samsung chips in an Apple product. It’s pretty much the saddest thing ever.

      • Garrett Fahey

        It is sad. Almost as sad as allowing it to influence your buying decision.

  • CelestialTerrestrial

    I would have liked to have seen an in depth Chip Gate Study when Samsung ships different processors for some of their Galaxy products a few years back. They were shipping to some customers the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and to others they were shipping an Exynos processor, but no one gave a rip and I never even saw a single comparison over battery life or performance between the two. At least Apple’s uses the same chip design.

    • niico100

      Actual the design of the chips is internally very different – just the inputs & outputs that are deterministic across both chips.

      • Faslane

        “actually” not “actual”. And no need for the word “that” “just the input & outputs are deterministic across both chips”.

      • Sawabyar K King

        wrong. do you really think they will make different designs? same design except for some sizing differences to account for the different processes.

  • GadgetCanada1

    Apple is wrong in their statement. The tests were not done to measure battery life, they were done to compare battery life between the two chips. One is better than the other.

  • James Leseke

    Let’s see runs hotter, and faster, since heat is an indication of work and the phone is working harder something has to give. That would be the battery which is supplying the power for the work. 16u vs 19u does mean the Samsung is more cutting edge chip, as the smaller the chipset, the further along Moore’s Law it is. Meh, pretty mixed bag of nuts I would say. Real world results would be all over the map. Where is Consumer’s Reports when you need them?

  • c_hack

    Too many people with nothing better to do than measure battery life vs chipset in their mobile phone.

    There are people fighting for their lives around the world, millions of homeless refugees, the US governemtn is about to shut down again because it has run out of money.

    And you seriously have nothing better to do than be preoccupied by which chip is in your phone?

    • niico100

      ….and you’re doing your bit, brave soul, by commenting on what you see as a pointless article.

      America salutes your brave work.

    • BalaclavaBivvyGuy

      And you have nothing better to do than reprimand those people who are preoccupied?
      Piss off

  • Grahame Dawes

    Could it be the batteries are from a different source as well as the chips. Are the Iphones with TSMC chips made in one place and the Samsung ones in another, with the batteries coming from different suppliers as well as the A9 chips.

  • niico100

    Plenty of real world tests conclude this is way more than 2-3% – Apple should reveal THEIR testing methodology – why take their word for it when they have a vested interest in playing this down.

  • Lirum apparently doesn’t work on all phones. You pays your money, you takes your chances! Caveat Emptor!

  • wanabe342

    how much did samsung pay you to write this? you even didn’t say something enough about how samsung’s chip comsumes more power, but trying to lie everybody that samsung is slightly faster, actually according to some tests, samsung’s chip is slower.

  • Diametric

    Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other.

    Though I have multiple email accounts and synced calendars and contacts and various other background apps, my 5S lasts between 24 and 48 hours.

    If we take Apple’s word for it then a 3% variation in my usage is still 2 hours! A difference of that size in supposedly identical models is just ridiculous. It’s something that can only hurt used values of iPhones with the ‘wrong’ chip, and it shows (again) that Apple still doesn’t understand that most of its customers would be happy with more battery life at the expense of some performance, not the other way around.

    I can’t say they’re losing the plot, exactly, but they are slowly losing their appeal.

  • Roy Barck

    That is a big ass chip! 104.5mm =
    4.11417323 inches!

    • RW911

      I hope you aren’t joking… but the size of the chip is 104.5 square millimetres. That is a square of 10 ish mm or 0.4 inches a side.

  • Enigmatic87

    So the battery depletion difference is 2-3% under Apple’s ideal, low-energy conditions? That still represents up to 20 minutes battery life, and who even knows that Apple considers “real world” conditions anyway? I routinely have multiple apps open, wi-fi, 4G, bluetooth, many chrome tabs & watching a youtube video all at the same time, & I know I’m more the rule than the exception among young people at least.