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Apple’s iPhone 6 Specs Revealed

I know what you're thinking -- yet another article talking about the not-yet-released Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPhone 6. However, in a sea of rumors and half-truths, it's worth cutting through the noise and getting to the straight facts. While I don't have moles inside the Cupertino electronics giant, just about everything you need to know about the specifications of the iPhone 6 can be reasonably approximated with an understanding of technology and basic economics.

The iPhone's brilliance is in Apple's ability to add value beyond specs. Source: Apple. 

The display question
Remember when the world was going crazy over the Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF  ) Galaxy S5? In particular, there was a rumor that this device would sport a 2560x1440 display and feature everything but the kitchen sink. How did that turn out? Well, while the Galaxy S5 did improve on the S4 in a number of ways, it stuck with the 1920x1080 display. A 2560x1440 display would have increased costs for what would likely be marginal benefit.

This new 2560x1440 5.5" display from Japan Display is great, but probably too pricey for the iPhone 6. Source: Japan Display. 

With the iPhone 6, there are rumors of a 2272x1280 display (which would be a straight doubling of both height and width) for the rumored 5.5-inch variant and a 1600x900 display for the 4.7-inch variant (which would represent a 40% increase along both dimensions). From a cost perspective, the 1600x900 makes a lot more sense, while the 2272x1280 display would probably be so "out there" and so expensive to make that it wouldn't be feasible for a device priced just $100 more than today's iPhone 5s.

The processor -- setting some facts straight
There was recently a "leak" in which someone claimed that the iPhone 6 would sport an A8 system on a chip with a "2.6GHz processor." It's pretty obvious where that number came from -- somebody doubled the clock speed of the 1.3 GHz processor core found in the A7 and thought they nailed it. However, given Apple's architectural choices with the A7, doubling clock speed on the TSMC 20-nanometer process of such a wide architecture would completely blow a smartphone/tablet's power budget. Sorry, not going to fly.

Apple's A7 was truly a beast, worthy of the moniker "desktop class". Source: Apple via Phandroid.

The odds are good that Apple tweaks the architecture (by perhaps adding multithreading and increasing the sizes of the various buffers/structures), clocks it modestly higher (perhaps 1.5-1.6 GHz), and calls it a day. Apple already doubled the maximum power consumption of the A6 in the A7 (per ABI Research ), so the room for really off-the-wall performance improvement isn't as present as seen in prior generations. The A8 is also very likely to be a dual core, not a quad core as many have speculated.

RAM, connectivity, cellular, etc.
Many flagship Android devices ship with 2-3GB of memory, while the Apple iPhone 5s ships with "only" 1GB of memory. The ironic part about Apple's A7 is that while the processor is far ahead of everything else in the mobile space today, the phones/tablets are ultimately limited by the fairly paltry 1GB of RAM in the system. Of course, RAM is expensive, but Apple needs more to unleash the power of its next-generation processor. Apple will likely go with 2GB for the iPhone 6.

DRAM is central to all computing devices, but prices have been on the rise. Source: Micron. 

Broadcom (NASDAQ: BRCM  ) is likely to win the connectivity combo spot and could see slight chip selling price uplift when Apple transitions from 802.11n to 802.11ac. Apple is also likely to go with Qualcomm for the cellular baseband, although Intel's XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced modem could still be a candidate for some regions as it is competitive on features and very likely price (Qualcomm, of course, is a well-trusted partner, so Intel may not be able to win this on specs/price alone).

Foolish takeaway
Apple can't afford to throw "everything but the kitchen sink" into its iPhones -- the company, after all, is out to make money. The design choices that Apple makes need to be well thought out and economically feasible. Anyone can throw in any features that they'd like, but it'll drive up cost. Apple's magic is that it is able to add value outside of the cost of goods sold with its brand, software, and ecosystem.

What if I told you the iPhone 6 wasn't even Apple's next big thing?
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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (12)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2014, at 11:21 AM, iphonerulez wrote:

    Although Apple shouldn't need to go the "including the kitchen sink" approach, it will be directly compared to Samsung's Galaxy S5 on a spec by spec basis. All the industry wants to know is which smartphone has the best specs. The smartphone that has the best (or most impressive) specs is usually declared the best smartphone for consumers. Samsung will always have the upper hand because that's how that company operates. They look at every other smartphone's spec and then go it one better. Apple will decide to go less than cutting edge to increase margins and that will put the iPhone at a spec disadvantage to the Galaxy S5.

    Apple's iPhone will have just the components it needs to get by with and no more no matter when other smartphone vendors have.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2014, at 2:53 PM, keeperoftheq wrote:

    The Apple iPhone 6’s Revolutionary New Feature

    By Ashraf Eassa

    March 25, 2014

    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}}}

    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 (NYSE: AMD ) Heterogeneous System Architecture, which essentially builds exactly the kind of programming model described above.}

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2014, at 8:38 PM, tomdc1020 wrote:

    Heading is "Apple’s iPhone 6 Specs Revealed" when in reality no specs are revealed... This guy writes by far the worst articles on this site.

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2014, at 8:37 AM, Troglodytes wrote:

    Interesting thoughts. But I think Apple will also at some point soon want to address market share and defend itself against Android. So yes I expect an top-of-range iPhone 6, but I'm also wondering what they're going to do with the iPhone5c product line to reduce costs and increase the addressable market. I'm sure a lot of people would buy it if it was significantly cheaper. If Intel XMM 7260 really is cheaper or Intel want the business badly enough then I can see possibilities there - if not only to keep Qualcomm on their toes and price-competitive.

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2014, at 9:45 AM, marpincan wrote:

    hi Ash - Are you done over at SA? Articles one after another and then all of a sudden nothing? As one who liked to read your articles - Just wandering.

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2014, at 8:16 PM, mastermiki wrote:

    I tend to agree with "tomdc1020". Catchy headline "Specs Revealed" and then you say "getting to the straight facts" when the whole article is nothing but speculation. Lacking integrity perhaps? You're just trying to catch attention while writing absolute hubris. You, Ashraf, have no integrity at all.

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Ashraf Eassa

Ashraf Eassa is a technology specialist with The Motley Fool. He writes mostly about technology stocks, but is especially interested in anything related to chips -- the semiconductor kind, that is. Follow him on Twitter:

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