Apple's iPhone 6 Will Have This Revolutionary Feature

While many are looking forward to the next-generation Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPhone because it will likely be thinner, feature a larger screen, and even offer improved pixel density on its display, the really impressive part about the new iPhone will probably be the A8 processor. In fact, while Apple's A7 was touted as "desktop class" (and in many respects it was), the A8 should bring new meaning to that phrase.

The Apple A7 was a massive jump from the A6
The Apple A7 chip, according to Apple, sported "over 1 billion" transistors and fit all of that into a die area of 102 square millimeters. Apple has claimed that this is roughly twice the number of transistors found in the prior-generation A6, which implies some pretty substantial efforts on the design side of things as Samsung's 28-nanometer process did not offer anywhere close to twice the gate density of the 32-nanometer process.

Furthermore, the A7 also offered roughly twice the performance of the A6 chip, thanks to a significantly beefed-up CPU core, much faster graphics block, and a lot of system-level improvements. The trade-off here is that the A7 also seems to consume more power than the A6 at full load, but because the chip is much faster it can finish workloads more quickly, racing to an "idle" state more quickly and ultimately saving power consumed.

The A8 could be an even bigger jump
In moving from Samsung's 28-nanometer process to TSMC's (NYSE: TSM  ) 20-nanometer, Apple will again roughly double the number of transistors that it can put in a given chip area. Assuming it sticks to the roughly 100 square millimeter die sizes that have characterized its last couple of product generations, Apple should have north of 2 billion transistors at its disposal. To put this into context, this is about 43% more transistors than the Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) Haswell chip found inside the MacBook Air.

It is very likely that with such a transistor count, as well as the performance/power improvements that the 20-nanometer transistors bring, the iPhone 6 will offer peak CPU and graphics performance that is well ahead of many of the Intel Bay Trail-M based notebooks and Bay Trail-D based desktops that will be shipped during this back-to-school season.

Did you just say Apple's iPhone 6 could outperform PCs?
Yes, you heard that right: Apple's iPhone 6 could offer more performance than many PCs. In fact, the A7 chip inside of the iPhone 5s already offers superior graphics performance to Intel's Bay Trail-M and Bay Trail-D parts found in low-cost notebooks/desktops, respectively, and the CPU performances of Bay Trail and Apple's A7 -- at least in the few cross-platform benchmarks out there -- seem roughly equivalent (A7 has higher single-core performance, but Bay Trail has more cores).

With A8, this will only get better for Apple, particularly as Intel is not planning to refresh its low-end PC chips this year in any meaningful capacity. The higher-end Haswell/Broadwell parts should still be noticeably faster (particularly Broadwell), but the fact that Apple will soon be selling customers a phone that will be across-the-board faster than the lowest-end PCs is quite exciting.

Foolish bottom line
The upcoming iPhone 6 will break ground in a number of key ways, but by far the most interesting from a technological perspective will be its performance. Apple's chip designs are world class, and with the increased transistor budget afforded to it by TSMC's 20-nanometer manufacturing process, the iPhone 6 should offer pretty unreal levels of performance.

Desktop class, indeed. 

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Read/Post Comments (26) | Recommend This Article (73)

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 May 15, 2014, at 11:58 AM, StockgeniusII wrote:

    If Apple wanted to make the iPhone 6 revolutionary; all they have to do is add 4GB of RAM or more and turn on the 64 bit mode in the SoC! But Apple wants to hold this back because it may drain the battery life, no 64 bit apps, etc...

    So we are stuck with this, until one of their competitors decides go 64 bit!

    Not sure how much Apple share you have; but Apple needs to step up and do a decent iPhone hardware and software to sell well with the growing competition from Android!

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 12:36 PM, chastenruin wrote:

    Samsung doesnt have a 64 bit processor, nor does Android support 64 bit processors yet. Apple is far ahead of the competition on this front.

    Hey Webguy and Applehater, you guys pasted the same copy. Must be getting paid.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 12:36 PM, Ihatesamsung wrote:

    Stop all the hate samsung will find that you will live a happier life

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 12:37 PM, skippywonder wrote:

    Wow, two identical comments from two different screen names. It's almost like someone is copying and pasting a generic anti-Apple rant from multiple accounts. I hope this person is getting paid per post or he just wasted his time with duplication.

    It is a nice post though. Its personal attack to word ratio is very high for a post disguised as an actual contribution.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 12:43 PM, AceOfSaves wrote:


    Wow, did you just create another account (AppleHater) to post the exact same rant? Or are you guys paid commenters that post from the same template?

    If this article kills you, it must kill you more that an increasing amount of iPhones get sold every year. I'm glad you enjoy your Samsung. Let other people enjoy their iPhones. To each his own.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 1:24 PM, Schloiz wrote:

    At least you are honest to post as AppleHater. This article talks about a revolutionary feature, the A8 processor. Samsung and HTC have never had this feature. Did you read the article before you copy and pasted your complaint?

    And regarding your list of complaints. Despite your fervent claim, the s5 [who is copying whom with their naming scheme?] is 30% heavier and 6% thicker than Apple's 5S. Beyond a certain density, screen resolution doesn't matter, that what Retina displays bring to the table. Apple's LED is recognized for its color rendering while Samsung uses a cheaper AMOLED screen that gives "punchier" but inaccurate color. Apple's 5S camera has won many blind comparisons against the s5 with its camera sensors that battle more pixels with better pixels.

    This leaves battery, oS and screen size from your list. People will argue all day about whether it's better to be "easy to use" vs "can be adjusted to do more technical things", and whether a one hand phone is better than a phone size that requires two hands to operate.

    You are right the battery life is better.

    Given your batting percentage on the claims that can be viewed somewhat objectively, in which you were accurate 1/7 of the time, I wonder what credence to give the claims in the second half of your screed.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 1:45 PM, makelvin wrote:

    As far as cpu performance goes, I doubt too many people even noticed the speed difference for most of their apps going from A6 to A7 even though technically it is about twice as fast for the A7 in most benchmarks. So for the A7 to try to double its speed once more to go faster than a low end PC would seem pointless other than to try to get gain some geek cred. What Apple could do with their A8 is to focus more on how to make it a lot more power efficient while maintaining roughly the same speed as A7 would make a lot of its users very happy.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 2:40 PM, reload wrote:

    hmm seems like Samsung is hiring people to just to put down apple product everywhere. copying and pasting?

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 3:08 PM, h1a8 wrote:

    Most apps you will not see a difference. From iphone 5c to 5s I don't notice a different tbh.

    Apple should focus on insane battery life and maybe changing some policies that are quite deal breakers (1 phone to 1 computer?).

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 3:42 PM, SemiWiki wrote:

    Samsung does that, it's called astroturfing and they have been fined for it in the past:

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 4:42 PM, webguy76 wrote:

    Awe looks like I really stirred some emotions there huh guys? Awe did I hurt your feelings? And yes I posted twice because the Motley Fool keeps deleting my comments because they are scared of the truth. I don't care that you like Apple and the iPhone, heck I even had the 3G for 2 years before growing tired of it. I however look at the devices objectively. I have no brand loyalty, I buy whatever I like. I just think its funny that these Foolish writers can say that some is "revolutionary" when it has been done before, many times years ago.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 4:50 PM, ctk wrote:

    Wooohooooo more power to have more icons on the screen!!

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 4:52 PM, webguy76 wrote:

    Man this must be the Apple fanbois meeting in here! You all get together an console each other at night time too huh? Tell each other its okay, Apple is still cool, hold on to the past, Apple will be cool again some day huh? No I don't work for Samsung. I don't even like Samsung. I wish there were a legitimate American company making products instead of outsourcing everything overseas. You all have a nice day and enjoy your phone which was made by Sony, Samsung, and Foxxconn in China...

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 6:12 PM, youngliz wrote:

    What's the point of having a more powerful processor in a phone that runs a phone OS? I read the article several times and can't find anything revolutionary about this new phone? It will still have the same boring square icons. Still have a million flashlight apps. Still have Facebook, maps, email, safari, a camera, and several million other worthless apps that I'll never see if i spent every single day of my life looking through the app store. This won't replace my work computer. This won't replace my home computer. This won't even replace my current phone unless it happens to die and I feel like throwing my money away on another overpriced apple product. I just don't get what all the hype is about.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 7:47 PM, normgarry wrote:

    I'm upgrading from iPhone5 16GB to iPhone6 64GB. I need that 64bit CPU to finalize my videos faster in iMovie. It will probably make the camera even better for recording at events. Hopefully they'll stuff enough RAM in there to make the phone stand out for the two years I'll have it till iPhone7.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 8:51 PM, webguy76 wrote:

    Let me ask a legitimate question at this point: What do you think 99% of iPhone users do with their phones? Update Facebook statuses? Post pictures from Instagram? Text message people? Play angry birds? What exactly do you need a 64 bit quad core processor on your phone for? Don't you think at this point it is just a game from each manufacturer to dupe you into buying a new phone every 6 months?

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 10:38 PM, Ryder wrote:

    i love my iphone products but they need to do 2 things. 1) have the ability to change themes and color schemes... iOS7 is UGLY and 2) move headphone jack back to top. almost impossible to use single handed for a right handed person while the headphones are plugged in.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 1:48 AM, khaozzer0 wrote:

    Tegra 4 on android outperformed the A7 chip and now that NVIDIA is about to release the 192 core Tegra 1K chip we will se how it fairs against the A8.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 5:31 AM, ReturnPrivacyNow wrote:

    The first thing Apple has to do is FIRE Tim Cook! Second, put USB ports on iPads!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Third, unlock that stupid iOS crap. OSX (up to 10.6 anyway) was pretty good, so why isn't it on iPhones and iPads? It's all about control people, nothing more.

    Let the iPhone and iPad be what they "could" be, real computers, not neutered "toys".

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 6:49 AM, mba120 wrote:

    how much were you paid for this bs article..this reeks of apple advertising is clear that the large screen, a revolutionary jump for Apple!!, is not good enough to lure more fools to its closed prison::))yeah sure you are so fast, the battery will be gone in nanoseconds...:::))apple senior management is so scared of their dropping like a market share in smartphones in Q1-Q2, they are spending like crazyy:::))

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 8:14 AM, LSNSLRND wrote:

    I need someone to tell me why/where I'm wrong when I say that what I'm about to: Every Smartphone has pros and cons. My husband uses a Motorola Photon Q Android for his personal phone. I use my iPhone 4s running on 7. His reason for the Q is a 5 row physical keyboard and Android OS. He works in the IT world. His employer recently provided him with an iPhone 4s he's still trying to 'get used to it'. I 'settled' for the Q on his recommendation. My 4s is much better on 7, the improvement extended the battery life considerably. It's not as much about the smartphone as it is about how when, where and why we need/want a certain list of 'features'. For that reason, no one smart phone will be 'better' than the rest. We want better apps, we want a better os. I'm 90% sure that I'll wait for the iPhone 6 to come out as my new phone, replacing the 4s. The contract on the Q is up in 5 months. I'll say bye-bye then. I'm pretty sure that the majority of us will always want to have it ALL. Truth is, that's not going to happen. So, we'll settle on which ever we need/prefer at the time of purchase. I want ONE phone, not two

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 8:38 AM, TheReaper81 wrote:

    After owning iphone 3,4 and 5 but now own the HTC android i can say i have little hope for the iphone 6. Don't get me wrong iphone is nice but after buying the HTC i can say Apple is light years behind not ahead.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 8:42 AM, TheReaper81 wrote:

    After owning iphone 3,4 and 5 but now own the HTC android i can say i have little hope for the iphone 6. Don't get me wrong iphone is nice but after buying the HTC i can say Apple is light years behind not ahead.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 10:13 AM, ezhill wrote:

    I worked in a chip factory, and our process at the time was 35nm. The performance boost by Apple going to 20nm, will be astonishing!

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 12:02 PM, vernr75 wrote:

    It's amazing. Not the phone...not the processor....but the level of cluelessness on display. You're boasting about transistor counts and comparing Apple's processors to desktop processors...but why do you just stop there with the comparison? The reason why we don't just dump desktop processors in mobiles was because they drain current like a vampire loose in a blood bank. Therefore, putting a desktop capable processor in a phone is only noteworthy IF that processor isn't sacrificing the one thing that is more important in a mobile device than any processor....the battery.

    Here's the reality:

    Tests show that the old iPhone 5 with its A6 drained 485mA during fixed point operations and 320mA during floating point operations.

    The iPhone 5S with its 'billion transistor' A7 is now draining 1100mA during fixed point operations and 520mA during floating point operations.

    And yet you're boasting about 2 billion transistors in the next iPhone?

    Adding more transistors tends to offset the power-saving benefits of dropping down the process. In other words, if Apple were to take the A7 schematic and shrink that down from 28nm to a 20nm process while keeping the transistor count the same, THAT resulting smaller chip would have lower power consumption while retaining the same level of application processing capabilities. The more transistors you use per core, the more power is required. That's why other companies have been leveraging the use of quad cores...and 32bit chips (64bit chips require more transistors and therefore use more power per core than its equivalent 32bit chip). You turn off three cores for light tasks and your power consumption drops because of much lower transistor use. But because Apple only has 2 cores, they can't use as few transistors and save as much on the processor's battery consumption as devices running with 32bit quad cores.

    So lets look at the trend laid out before you, folks. You have a dual-core Apple chip that is increasingly sucking more power per core than ever with each generation despite incremental drops in the manufacturing process. You have bigger and therefore more power-sapping screens coming packaged with their future processor. But you also have a company that is so obsessed with prioritizing aesthetic appearance over practical engineering that they've been putting batteries of inadequate capacity into recent iPhones just so they can market that they made the iPhone thinner than ever. And the latest rumor is that the next iPhone upgrade will be....guess what....almost paper thin. Meanwhile, the biggest complaint from iPhone users is now about battery life...not about application processing speeds. A paper thin iPhone with a larger, sharper screen and 2 billion transistor dual core processor? Recipe for disaster from a daily use point of view. Good luck with that.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2014, at 3:03 PM, H2323 wrote:

    This generation is about efficiency, Your hopes are to high about performance. And there is a lack of RAM and the RAM is not super fast. The cores maybe fast....but that's fast "for" low frequency, and its only dual core so it still benches with a low end PC if that PC only had one core.....and they don't have one core do they.

    The iPhone 6 will be like every other release, gradual improvements.

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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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