Apple's Xcode supports quad-core ARM CPUs for future iPhones, iPads

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Hidden inside Apple's Xcode developer tool is support for quad-core ARM CPUs, hinting at next-generation processors that will power Apple's future iPhones and iPads.



The references found in the default compiler in Apple's Xcode were discovered by ArsTechnica on Friday. They show that Apple recently added support for Marvell's quad-core ARM-based Armada XP processor.



Author Chris Foresman concluded that it's "most probable" that Apple is using the Marvell chip in prototype versions of future iPhones and iPads. The existing chip could serve as a placeholder while Apple works on its own custom-built next-generation processors.



Reports have indicated that Apple's next anticipated ARM CPU, dubbed "A6," will be built on a 28-nanometer process and use 3D stacking technology. There has been no mention of a quad-core ARM CPU from Apple in 2012. The A5 CPU found in the iPad 2 is a dual core processor.



It's also possible that the Xcode references signal that Apple will begin using Marvell chips in future iOS devices, or even a next-generation MacBook Air, something that Apple has been rumored to be testing in its internal labs. However, Foresman noted that Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and improve battery life, while ditching Intel would require developers to recompile Mac OS X software for ARM-based Macs.



Apple's so-called "A6" CPU is believed to be in trial production for a 2012 launch, presumably in a third-generation iPad. The company is believed to have even signed a new foundry agreement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to build an "A7" CPU, which would be projected to debut in devices in 2013.







Apple began designing its own chips following the acquisition of boutique microprocessor design company P.A. Semi in 2008 for $278 million. Then in 2010, Apple acquired Intrinsity, another chipmaker, for an estimated $121 million.



Apple's custom chips debuted last year in the first-generation iPad, in the form of the A4 processor. That same chip later appeared in the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch, while the A5 debuted this March in the iPad 2.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,290member
    And not made by Samsung soon!
  • Reply 2 of 56
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Foresman noted that Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life,



    Either Foresman doesn't know what he's talking about or AI is continuing its trend of publishing nonsense.
  • Reply 3 of 56
    "Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life"

    I watched IDF presentations and I am pretty sure it should be "increase battery life".
  • Reply 4 of 56
    asciiascii Posts: 5,633member
    Maybe the reason they finally used the Big Cat for the latest version of OS X is that it is the final version. The next iOS will add OS X desktop, and all Apple products will move to ARM. It is the advantage Apple has over Google (Java-based) and Microsoft (.NET based), that their C-based software is more efficient, and can match Microsoft and Google performance on a slower processor.
  • Reply 5 of 56
    kotatsukotatsu Posts: 1,010member
    This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.
  • Reply 6 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    Maybe the reason they finally used the Big Cat for the latest version of OS X is that it is the final version. The next iOS will add OS X desktop, and all Apple products will move to ARM. It is the advantage Apple has over Google (Java-based) and Microsoft (.NET based), that their C-based software is more efficient, and can match Microsoft and Google performance on a slower processor.



    No Way.



    Apples MAC's will not move to ARM.



    They may come out with an ARM based laptop but it would run on iOS.
  • Reply 7 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Garysturn View Post


    Apples MAC's will not move to ARM.



    There are already plenty of ARM devices that use MAC addresses.



    For the love of?



    Quote:

    They may come out with an ARM based laptop but it would run on iOS.



    No. iOS doesn't work as a laptop. OS X doesn't work as a tablet. Neither is happening.



    Because a desktop-style multitouch OS would require a full OS redo (popularly called OS XI), there's absolutely nothing stopping Apple from having that OS run only on ARM-based computers (beside the obvious hurdle of ARM sucking balls when it comes to actual power).
  • Reply 8 of 56
    Quote:

    Foresman noted that Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life,



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    Either Foresman doesn't know what he's talking about or AI is continuing its trend of publishing nonsense.



    Could be true though actually.
  • Reply 9 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by vijay875200 View Post


    "Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life"

    I watched IDF presentations and I am pretty sure it should be "increase battery life".



    yeah...
  • Reply 10 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Garysturn View Post


    No Way.



    Apples MAC's will not move to ARM.



    They may come out with an ARM based laptop but it would run on iOS.



    ARM-based MacBooks are absolutely inevitable. It's not a matter of "if." It's a matter of "when."



    The advantages of a cool-running, energy-efficient ARM chip on, say, a MacBook Air far outweigh the disadvantages. Just a few of the many immediate advantages: longer battery life, no need for a cooling fan, smaller enclosures, lower cost.



    The one disadvantage: no Windows (or possibly slow emulation.) Well so what. Apple could still sell legacy Intel-based desktops and laptops alongside its ARM-based MacBook Air. The vast majority of Mac users don't run windows on their Macs.



    The ARM-based MacBook Air (or whatever it will be called) will be aimed at the consumer market. The consumer market is price-sensitive. And using ARM-based A6 or A7 designs in a laptop will allow Apple to lower the price of the low-end MacBook Air while still maintaining their 30% margin. No need to pay off-the-shelf prices for legacy Intel chips.



    Just imagine how well a $799 MacBook Air would sell. The Ultrabook wannabes won't be able to match the price. Times change.
  • Reply 11 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post


    This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.



    You are wrong! The Apple chips have an Apple logo on them.



  • Reply 12 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post


    This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.



    ARM does't produce or sell any components, they sell reference designs, and yes, these are customized by the client. In some cases the customizations are minor, but the Apple A4 and A5 are actually customized quite specifically for what Apple needs, to the point you could say they are 'custom designed'. For example the A4 was largely the same chip as the Samsung Hummingbird, based on the same Cortex-A8 reference design, but with lots of unnecessary bits stripped out or disabled to reduce power consumption.



    Apple didn't buy Intrinsity and PA semi for marketing purposes, but to have more expertise to create custom ARM designs.
  • Reply 13 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post


    This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.



    Everything says you are wrong. Can you defend your position?
  • Reply 14 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Everything says you are wrong. Can you defend your position?



    A4 and A5 were samsung Soc's with some minor modifications by apple. mostly getting rid of circuitry that wasn't needed in their products for better battery life. the GPU's are just the powerVR cores that apple licenses



    it's been documented by ifixit, isuppli and many others with every product release. qualcomm does more custom work on CPU's than Apple
  • Reply 15 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post


    This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.



    While the building blocks are mostly off the shelf, Apple adds its own tweaks (like the Cortex A8 was not designed to scale to 1 GHz) and customizations based around performance and battery optimizations.
  • Reply 16 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    A4 and A5 were samsung Soc's with some minor modifications by apple. mostly getting rid of circuitry that wasn't needed in their products for better battery life. the GPU's are just the powerVR cores that apple licenses



    it's been documented by ifixit, isuppli and many others with every product release. qualcomm does more custom work on CPU's than Apple



    That proves that Apple's A4 and A5 PoP/SoCs are custom chips. Kotatsu is arguing they are off-the-shelf with zero, zilch, nada modifications.
  • Reply 17 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post


    This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.



    Whoa there. I'm not sure how one goes from "Marvell Armada XP quad-core" embedded SoC data in a compiler to the Apple A6/A7 SoC will be a quad-core Cortex-A9 and PowerVR SGX543MP4 like in the Vita.



    The Apple A5 is indeed a custom Apple-designed ARM SoC. No other SoC in the market looks like it. It has by far the best GPU for 2011 SoCs, and it shipped or will ship 8 months before Sony's Vita SoC will. It's die size is strange. Very strange. It is 30% to 50% larger than it should be, or 30% of the floor plan is unaccounted for. It really doesn't look like anything else in the market.



    As for the A6 and A7, who knows what will be in them. Quad-core is obviously everyone is preparing for, and Apple maybe doing that with these Marvel embedded SoCs, but Apple isn't playing the "most-cores" race. The A6 could simply be an iterative A5: 45 nm to 28 nm die shrink (60% shrink!), increased clock from 1 GHz to 1.5 GHz, and lower power.
  • Reply 18 of 56
    If these were Samsung's designs with minor modifications then how is Apple able to move its ARM chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    A4 and A5 were samsung Soc's with some minor modifications by apple. mostly getting rid of circuitry that wasn't needed in their products for better battery life. the GPU's are just the powerVR cores that apple licenses



    it's been documented by ifixit, isuppli and many others with every product release. qualcomm does more custom work on CPU's than Apple



  • Reply 19 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    ... No. iOS doesn't work as a laptop. OS X doesn't work as a tablet. Neither is happening.



    Because a desktop-style multitouch OS would require a full OS redo (popularly called OS XI), there's absolutely nothing stopping Apple from having that OS run only on ARM-based computers (beside the obvious hurdle of ARM sucking balls when it comes to actual power).



    iOS is not a "tablet OS", it's the version of OS X that runs on ARM processors -- iPhone, iPad, AppleTV, currently -- so an ARM laptop would run iOS, perhaps wit ha new UI layer we haven't yet seen, or perhaps with an iPad-like UI.
  • Reply 20 of 56
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,434member
    Many people buy Mac Books because they can do Windows emulation free. This is a big deal for those running old legacy software.



    Times do change and I believe that Apple has something up it's sleeve. However I can't see them calling the devices Mac Books. This would lead to all sorts of problems. Rather I expect them to market them as an enhanced iOS device. Oh they are very likely to be much cheaper than $800 as they won't be even remotely competitive with Intel hardware in that price range.



    Look at how they have handled iPods, they won't kill Intel based Mac Books until sales wane. To much money to be made especially when you are the market leader.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post


    ARM-based MacBooks are absolutely inevitable. It's not a matter of "if." It's a matter of "when."



    The advantages of a cool-running, energy-efficient ARM chip on, say, a MacBook Air far outweigh the disadvantages. Just a few of the many immediate advantages: longer battery life, no need for a cooling fan, smaller enclosures, lower cost.



    The one disadvantage: no Windows (or possibly slow emulation.) Well so what. Apple could still sell legacy Intel-based desktops and laptops alongside its ARM-based MacBook Air. The vast majority of Mac users don't run windows on their Macs.



    The ARM-based MacBook Air (or whatever it will be called) will be aimed at the consumer market. The consumer market is price-sensitive. And using ARM-based A6 or A7 designs in a laptop will allow Apple to lower the price of the low-end MacBook Air while still maintaining their 30% margin. No need to pay off-the-shelf prices for legacy Intel chips.



    Just imagine how well a $799 MacBook Air would sell. The Ultrabook wannabes won't be able to match the price. Times change.



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