Although the Apple (AAPL 0.62%) iPhone 6s/6s Plus aren't selling as well as the iDevice maker had hoped going into this product cycle, there's little denying that the company's A9 processor is a very impressive piece of engineering, handily delivering best-in-class performance thanks to a combination of excellent chip design and the migration to new, substantially better chip manufacturing technologies.

In this article, I'd like to offer up something of a "prediction" of the kind of performance that Apple will deliver with the A10 processor that will power the next generation iPhones.

Pattern: A(x+1) typically outperforms A(x)X
Generally speaking, Apple puts out two new chips each year. The iPhone gets an "A-series" processor, while the top iPad gets an "Ax-series" chip. The "Ax" processors are typically significantly performance-enhanced versions of the vanilla A-series chips, as tablets can handle the greater power consumption and heat output associated with the additions that Apple puts into the "Ax" chips.

However, one pattern that I've observed is that, during the last several generations, the latest A-series processor is able to generally match/outperform the prior generation AX-series processors. In the tables below, I illustrate this with performance tests that should be a good indicator of generation-on-generation improvements.


Apple A-Series (Geekbench 3 Single-Core Score)

Apple AX-Series (Geekbench 3 Single-Core Score)

2011 (A5/A5X)



2012 (A6/A6X)



2013 (A7/A7*)



2014 (A8/A8X)



2015 (A9/A9X)



Data from Geekbench 3 Browser. *Apple did not introduce an "A7X" in the 2013 iPad Air tablet.


Apple A-Series (GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD Off-screen)

Apple AX-Series (GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD Off-screen)

2011 (A5/A5X)



2012 (A6/A6X)



2013 (A7/A7*)



2014 (A8/A8X)



2015 (A9/A9X)



Data from AnandTech, GFXBench website.

Although the past isn't necessarily a perfect indicator of future, it's pretty clear that, with each new iPhone, Apple tries to deliver both CPU and graphics performance in its iPhone-bound A-series processors that's at least as good, if not better than, what it delivered in its prior generation iPad-bound AX-series chips.

Prediction: A10 will deliver a significant boost in performance over A9
Thanks to what is likely to be significant architectural enhancements, and what is said to be a move exclusively to TSMC's (TSM 1.23%) 16-nanometer FinFET Plus manufacturing technology (A9 was dual sourced), I believe that the A10 will deliver A9X-or-better levels of performance in slim, handheld iPhones.

Although raw performance doesn't seem to be a big selling point in and of itself these days -- look at how the iPhone 6s/6s Plus are doing in the marketplace relative to the iPhone 6/6 Plus a year earlier -- it is always good to see Apple advance the state of the art in mobile computing performance.

As Apple's A-series processors become more powerful, and as the average level of CPU/graphics performance among the iPhone installed base continues to grow, developers should be able to come up with interesting new applications. I'd imagine that the mean and median performance levels among iPhones is quite a bit higher than on Android devices, potentially meaning that developers will be able and/or more inclined to bring richer experiences to iOS before they are brought to Android.