Apple A6 Processor is a Custom Apple Design, Prioritizing Performance and Power Efficiency

As part of their iPhone 5 announcement, Apple revealed that the new iPhone is powered by a new "A6" processor from Apple. The A6 is said to have twice the CPU power and twice the GPU power of the previous generation Apple A5 processor. Beyond that, however, Apple offered few other details about the nature of the processor. For example, it's not clear how many cores the processor has or what the clock speed is.

img0138
Early speculation had led some to conclude that that the A6 was based on the yet-to-be-seen Cortex A15 ARM processor design. The Cortex A15 is licensable processor design from ARM that promises significantly faster performance than the existing Cortex A9 design which is what Apple uses in their A5 processor (iPhone 4S).

Anandtech now reveals, however, that the A6 is a custom Apple design:

The A6 is the first Apple SoC to use its own ARMv7 based processor design. The CPU core(s) aren't based on a vanilla A9 or A15 design from ARM IP, but instead are something of Apple's own creation.

Anandtech explains that Apple is one of a few ARM architecture licensees, which allows them to create their own custom ARM processor designs.

While Anadtech goes into the finer details, the ultimate benefit for Apple is the ability to tune their chips towards their own specific goals. In particular, Apple's design goals prioritize both power and performance while the generally licensable Cortex A15 design was reportedly targeted at server configurations.

Rumor has it that the original design goal for ARM's Cortex A15 was servers, and it's only through big.LITTLE (or other clever techniques) that the A15 would be suitable for smartphones. Given Apple's intense focus on power consumption, skipping the A15 would make sense but performance still had to improve.

Apple seems to finally be benefiting from some previous company acquisitions including P.A. Semi and Intrinsity, both chip design companies. The ability to tune their CPU designs specifically for their products could serve as a competitive advantage over other companies that are reliant on the licensable designs provided by ARM. Apple's previous processor designs have been based on these more traditional designs, so this represents Apple's first departure into a more custom design approach.

Image from Engadget

Top Rated Comments

iregret Avatar
111 months ago
Thank you for reporting actual news.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
eezing Avatar
111 months ago
AnandTech is tech journalism at its finest. Hats off to them!

2x faster with 4G and longer battery life... Hats off to Apple for that.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KPOM Avatar
111 months ago
Apparently it's a custom core.
http://www.anandtech.com/show/6292/iphone-5-a6-not-a15-custom-core

Interesting. Maybe Apple really is becoming a leading fabless designer like AMD.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Geckotek Avatar
111 months ago
I'm gonna say something like this falls under the term "innovation". :D
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
samac92 Avatar
111 months ago
This will probably destroy the Galaxy S3's processor.

The S3 processor wasn't that much better than the A5, especially in graphics performance.

Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
maxwelltech Avatar
111 months ago
This will probably destroy the Galaxy S3's processor.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

imac pro featured black

Apple Confirms iMac Pro Will Be Discontinued When Supplies Run Out, Recommends 27-Inch iMac

Saturday March 6, 2021 7:33 am PST by
Apple on late Friday evening added a "while supplies last" notice to its iMac Pro product page worldwide, and removed all upgrade options for the computer, leaving only the standard configuration available to order for now. We've since confirmed with Apple that when supplies run out, the iMac Pro will no longer be available whatsoever. Apple says the latest 27-inch iMac introduced in August...
bloodoxygenapplewatch

Apple Watch Series 7 to Gain Breakthrough New Health Feature

Friday March 5, 2021 5:34 am PST by
Apple is reportedly planning to bring a new, first-of-its-kind health technology to the Apple Watch Series 7, in what could be a breakthrough for managing conditions such as diabetes more easily. According to a recent report from ETNews, the Apple Watch Series 7 will feature blood glucose monitoring via a non-invasive optical sensor. Measuring blood glucose levels, also known as blood...
Top Stories 48

Top Stories: iPhone 13 Leaks, OLED iPads and Macs, New AirTags Evidence

Saturday March 6, 2021 6:00 am PST by
iPhone rumors are heating up, with noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo this week releasing a wide-ranging report outlining his expectations for the iPhone lineup over the next three years. This week also saw rumors about OLED displays potentially coming to iPad and Mac starting next year, increasing signs of AirTags functionality in iOS 14.5 betas, and more, so check out all of the details below! i...
apple products refurbished store banner

Class Action Lawsuit Over Apple Providing Refurbished Replacement Devices Proceeding to Trial in August

Friday March 5, 2021 9:53 am PST by
Initially filed in 2016, a class action lawsuit that accuses Apple of violating the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and other U.S. laws by providing customers with refurbished replacement devices is set to proceed to trial August 16, according to a notice this week from law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP. Apple's repair terms and conditions state that,...
Oled iPads and MackBook Pro

OLED 10.9-Inch iPad Rumored for Early 2022, 12.9-Inch iPad Pro and 16-Inch MacBook Pro Could Follow

Thursday March 4, 2021 8:37 pm PST by
Earlier today, DigiTimes shared a preview of an upcoming report claiming that Apple is working on both iPad and Mac notebook models with OLED displays that could launch starting in 2022. The full report from DigiTimes is now available, and it includes several new alleged details about Apple's plans. According to the report, the first of these devices to adopt an OLED display is likely to be...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature2

iPhone 13 Rumor Recap: Smaller Notch, Larger Batteries, 120Hz for Pro Models, Improved 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and More

Friday March 5, 2021 8:20 am PST by
While we are likely at least six months away from Apple unveiling the so-called iPhone 13 lineup, rumors about the devices are starting to accumulate, so we've put together this recap of everything that is expected so far. The upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will consist of the same four models and the same screen sizes as the iPhone 12 lineup, according to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo,...
imac pro while supplies last

iMac Pro No Longer Custom Configurable, Available 'While Supplies Last'

Friday March 5, 2021 10:14 pm PST by
Apple appears to be on the verge of discontinuing the iMac Pro, with the store page for the high-end all-in-one Mac including a "While supplies last" tagline and only the base model with no custom configurations available for purchase. The iMac Pro launched in December 2017, and while there have been a few tweaks to the available configurations over the years, it has received no substantial...
hlh030121feafutureoffitness012 1614286673

A Look Inside Apple's 23,000 Square-Foot Fitness+ Studio

Friday March 5, 2021 10:59 am PST by
Apple Fitness+, the latest service to join the Apple family, integrates tightly with the Apple Watch to offer a comprehensive and growing selection of workout and exercise videos made by a team of professional trainers. Apple Fitness+ Studio (via Men's Health) Apple curates and records all of the videos at a location in Santa Monica, California, and each video features a similar background...
maxresdefault

What's on Your iPhone Home Screen?

Thursday March 4, 2021 10:31 am PST by
Over on our YouTube channel, MacRumors videographer Dan has a new video up where he shares his Home Screen, wallpaper, and all of his current favorite widgets. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Check out Dan's video to see his setup, and then comment below and show us your own Home Screens. It's always fun to see other peoples' Home Screens, and with widgets and...
microsoft edge vertical tabs

Microsoft Edge 89 Brings Vertical Tabs and New History View

Friday March 5, 2021 4:06 am PST by
Microsoft has officially released version 89 of its popular Chromium-based Edge browser, bringing its long-trialed vertical tabs feature to Mac for the first time. Vertical tabs are intended to make more efficient use of screen space, and should prove a welcome addition for users browsing on 16:9 ratio displays in particular. Users can click vertical tabs to switch between them and...