Apple's A8 Probably Won't Be a Quad-Core

Apple's next-generation chip is likely to be yet another dual core beast.

Mar 6, 2014 at 9:00PM

As the next-generation iPhone and iPad products draw nearer, it is interesting to see the rumors surfacing about the next-generation A8 system-on-chip that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) plans to power these devices with. It seems pretty clear at this point that Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM) has gotten most, if not all, of this business with its next-generation 20-nanometer manufacturing process. However, the details get a little bit hazy from there.

Some intelligent speculation is likely worthwhile at this point. So, what will the A8 feature?

Probably still a dual core CPU
Before the A7 chip made its debut in the most recent crop of iOS devices, many had suspected that it would feature a quad-core CPU -- a natural extension of the dual-core A6 system-on-chip powered by Apple's custom-designed CPU core called Swift. However, Apple surprised everybody with yet another brand new CPU core called Cyclone. Per core, it was a substantial improvement over the previous-generation A6, and much to everybody's surprise, it implemented the ARMv8 64-bit instruction set that offered some powerful new extensions.

The next-generation A8, which will be built on an improved 20-nanometer process, is likely to offer an enhanced version of the Cyclone core and could potentially clock much higher. Since most applications on iOS are very lightly threaded, the user experience is affected much more noticeably by improving per-core performance rather than by blindly chasing more cores. Unlike the Android crowd, Apple can focus on delivering the best user experience rather than the most marketable specs to those unfamiliar with CPU technology.

What about graphics?
It has been pretty clear for some time that Apple has at least been pursuing the development of in-house GPU IP. That being said, Apple and its longtime GPU IP licensing partner, Imagination Technologies (LSE:IMG) recently announced an extension of the multi-year IP licensing agreement that they have in place. This suggests that Apple will continue to use Imagination's IP for at least the A8 and quite possibly for several generations more. It is probably too early for an implementation of Imagination's recently announced Series 6XT IP, so a six-core variant of the Series 6 IP, known as the G6630, is probably the best bet for Apple.

Foolish bottom line
This is speculation, albeit of the reasonably informed variety, so Apple's A8 may be wildly different from the guesses outlined here. On top of that, there are many other aspects of the SoC that will need to be updated and enhanced, depending on the kinds of features that the new phone supports. Expect a faster system-level cache and potentially a wider LPDDR interface, an improved image signal processor, and perhaps other dedicated blocks to support features that we don't even know about yet. In short, the A8 should be a chip fit for the world's best smartphone.  

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Imagination Technologies. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Imagination Technologies. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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