The Apple iPhone 6’s Revolutionary New Feature

The revolutionary feature inside the iPhone 6 could be subtle but, oh, so powerful.

Mar 25, 2014 at 7:30PM

While many (including yours truly) were blindsided by the sheer technical competence of the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) A7 -- and in particular the 64-bit Apple-designed CPU core called "Cyclone" -- anybody following this space won't make that mistake again. So, what's Apple got up its sleeve for the next iPhone?

Heterogeneous computing
Take a look at the following picture of the A7 chip:


Apple's A7. Source: Chipworks

One thing that you should immediately notice is just how much silicon real estate Apple is willing to devote to both the central processing unit (CPU) and the graphics processing unit (GPU). Apple is very serious about packing as much computing horsepower into its chips as possible. So, what's the best way to do that?

Well, of course Apple is going to continue devoting significant area to its custom-designed CPU cores, but if you'll notice, Apple also dedicates a hefty amount of space to the GPU. Now, you might think the GPU is just there to make games run faster and prettier at increasingly more demanding display resolutions -- and this is indeed a major driver -- but it is very likely that Apple's plans are far more ambitious: It's likely to be one of the leaders in GPU computing.

Why is GPU computing so important?
Think of a CPU core as being very "brainy." While it's not likely to win any contests when it comes to pure mathematical operations against a GPU that is made up of a bunch of "wimpy" cores that in aggregate can out-do the CPU core, the CPU core is much better at handling more complex code with a less straightforward execution path. Most software still depends heavily on high per-core performance, but the amount of software for which GPUs are better suited continues to grow outside of graphics.


Imagination's PowerVR Series 6 found inside Apple's A7. Source: Imagination Technologies

So, for example, something like speech recognition or augmented reality, having the ability to offload tasks that are well-suited for a GPU to the GPU without making the programmer's life too difficult would be a boon, particularly in thermally constrained environments where efficiency is key (the less work you do, the more power you save). In order to keep people upgrading to next generation iPhones/iPads, Apple will need to continue to push the envelope on its software and services.

Apple's iPhone 6 could emphasize GPU compute
The next generation iPhone 6 and, in particular, the A8 system-on-chip (SoC) will need a new "buzzword" feature -- one that will put it ahead of the competition and serve as a marketing point. With the A7 it was "64-bit" and with the A8 it could be whatever marketing term Apple comes up with for what could actually end up being an implementation of AMD's (NASDAQ:AMD) Heterogeneous System Architecture, which essentially builds exactly the kind of programming model described above.

The reason Apple is so uniquely positioned to exploit this is that it controls both the hardware (i.e., the SoC) and the software (iOS and the key apps). It also works very hard to make its development tools as programmer-friendly as possible, which suggests if any company could actually drive mass adoption of such a paradigm, it's Apple. And, it could come as soon as the A8 SoC inside of the upcoming iPhone 6.

So, what does it all mean? 
While this may not have a direct impact on the Apple investment thesis -- remember what the company sells; it's not chips -- it is likely that Apple will have a couple of neat whiz-bang features in its upcoming A8 SoC that will be quite marketable. A focus on GPU computing and the amazing performance/watt gains it can bring in the right applications could be one such selling point.

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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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