Inside Apple's A7 Chip, M7 Motion Coprocessor, and More from the iPhone 5s

At its media event introducing the new iPhones earlier this month, Apple highlighted several chip innovations included on the iPhone 5s including a new A7 main chip with one billion transistors and a smaller M7 "motion coprocessor" designed to efficiently measure accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass data and thus allow for enhanced fitness tracking, navigation, and more.

Chipworks and iFixit have now posted a teardown revealing what's inside these chips, as well as several other components of the iPhone 5s, offering an interesting first glimpse at these components at the heart of the device.

In looking at the A7, Chipworks noted that it is indeed manufactured by Samsung using its 28-nm process node. Apple has been seeking to shift its A-series chip production from Samsung to TSMC, but TSMC's chip production will reportedly not start until early 2014.

a7_a6_gate_pitch

Gate pitch comparison of A7 and A6 (click for larger)

For the A7, Apple and Samsung have reduced spacing between transistors to 114 nanometers, a 7.3% decrease compared to the A6 chip. That denser transistor packing plus a slightly increased die size has helped Apple to fit approximately one billion transistors on the chip.

It turns out that the A7′s “gate pitch” — the distance between each transistor — is 114 nm, compared to the A6′s 123 nm.

Those 9 nm are a big deal. Looking to improve on their current 32 nm process, Apple decided to make the A7 with the same 28 nm process as the eight-core Samsung Exynos 5410, the current flagship CPU for Samsung’s own Galaxy line.

a7_transistor_die

A7 transistor die photo (click for larger)

Chipworks also took a look at the M7, which is actually an ARM Cortex-M3 part from NXP running at 180 MHz. The chip allows for low-power collection of motion data drawn from a Bosch Sensortec accelerometer, an STMicroelectronics gyroscope, and an AKM magnetometer.

After collecting information from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, the M7 performs some matrix math processing magic to produce an absolute orientation of the phone relative to the world. This data is then passed to the A7 in a neat package, probably in the form of three headings (roll, pitch, and yaw).

Using the A7 to monitor this sort of data would be mega-overkill, so the M7 was introduced to maintain a constant, low-power watch over these sensors.

m7_die_photo

M7 die photo (click for larger)

Finally, Chipworks performed some analysis on several other components from the iPhone 5S, including the rear camera sensor and LTE modem, while iFixit pointed to the Wi-Fi module and various radio and power amplifier components that all work together to provide connectivity for the new iPhone.

Top Rated Comments

sransari Avatar
100 months ago
such gr8 advancements in dental x-ray technology
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JHankwitz Avatar
100 months ago
Chip Technology

This chip technology is mind boggeling and truely amazing. I remember building my first computer (if you can still consider it that) using a few dozen vaccum tubes back in the late '50s. Each of the tubes contained up to 4 electronic switches. That baby was hot... literally. Now this little chips contains a billion switches and just warm to the touch... truely amazing!
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SmoMo Avatar
100 months ago
Integrating

Still haven't figured out what the M7 actually does...

I'm not 100% sure but I would guess it is probably applying a Kalman filter : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalman_filter

When you have several overlapping sensor inputs you can combine them in such a way to minimise potential error.

In the case of the iPhone, the Compass heading can be used to calibrate heading and the accelerometer/gyroscope used to integrate minute changes that the compass is not sensitive enough to pickup.

The ultimate goal would be to also integrate GPS coordinates, and have a system accurate enough that it could track your movement ( by integrating accelerations twice ) but as I understand it the accuracy of the sensors is still way too low for this to be feasible.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
firewood Avatar
100 months ago
I wonder if some descendant of the A7 will be able to replace intel inside a future MacBook..

Why wait for a descendant?

I ported some of my extremely compute intensive engineering calculations from my 2009 MacBook Pro to iOS, recompiled for arm64 using the new Xcode, and found that the calculations now benchmark just as fast on an iPhone 5s as on the MacBook Pro (which BTW is a lot faster than was a desktop G5 "supercomputer").

No waiting, equal performance, better battery life, and, very unlike the G5, it fits in my pocket.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MRSucks Avatar
100 months ago
I disagree. A7/M7/64-bit technology is right here, right now.

The ball is at the hands of the iOS apps developers.

The next six / twelve months will be exciting times for iPhone 5s users.

Next year will just be going thru the motion. Another cycle of pissing contests between the fanboys.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Paradoxally Avatar
100 months ago
Best way I have heard it explained: The A7 is the chip of tomorrow; not today.

All of the side-by-side comparison tests show no significant real world performance benefit to the A6 in the iPhone 5 (basic OS use, no gaming). By the time the 64-bit architecture catches on and is fully realized by developers, the iPhone 6 will be looming around the corner...

Yes they do. The A7 is noticeably faster in many apps, not just gaming. iOS 7 stutters a bit on the iPhone 5, no stutter on the 5S (in multitasking) - but this is probably due to lack of optimization.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

prosser macbook air colors stacked

Images Reveal Colorful New MacBook Air Design

Tuesday May 11, 2021 5:06 am PDT by
Apple's next MacBook Air will feature a completely new design and come in a range of colors like the 24-inch iMac, according to leaker Jon Prosser, who has now released supposedly accurate renders of the new machines based on leaked images. In a new video uploaded to YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser elaborated on his previous prediction that Apple's next-generation MacBook Air models ...
iPhone 13 Camera Backs

iPhone 13 Models Will Be Slightly Thicker and Will Have Larger Camera Bumps

Monday May 10, 2021 10:41 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 models will be slightly thicker than the iPhone 12 models and will also feature larger, thicker camera bumps with lenses that protrude less, according to iPhone 13 schematics seen by MacRumors. The new iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models are expected to feature a thickness of 7.57mm, up from 7.4mm in the iPhone 12 models. That's an increase of 0.17mm, which won't be hugely ...
m1 ipad pro chip

M1 iPad Pro Over 50% Faster Than Previous Generation in Early Benchmarks

Tuesday May 11, 2021 11:56 am PDT by
Last month, Apple introduced a new iPad Pro with the same M1 chip found in the latest Macs, and early benchmark results indicate that the M1 iPad Pro is over 50% faster than the previous-generation iPad Pro. Based on five legitimate Geekbench 5 results (here's the fifth) for the fifth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the M1 chip, the device has average single-core and multi-core scores of...
3d printed airtag case siri remote

3D-Printed Case Lets You Attach an AirTag to Your Apple TV Remote

Monday May 10, 2021 8:11 am PDT by
Apple recently released a redesigned Siri Remote with a physical clickpad, but if you have an original Siri Remote laying around that you still plan on using, you may be interested in getting an AirTag case for the remote. Etsy user PrintSpiredDesigns has capitalized on the opportunity with a new 3D printed, made-to-order AirTag case for the original Siri Remote. The remote slides into the...
airtag hacked

AirTag Successfully Hacked to Show Custom URL in Lost Mode

Monday May 10, 2021 1:52 am PDT by
The inevitable race to hack Apple's AirTag item tracker has reportedly been won by a German security researcher, who managed to break into the device's microcontroller and successfully modify its firmware. Yesss!!! After hours of trying (and bricking 2 AirTags) I managed to break into the microcontroller of the AirTag! 🥳🥳🥳/cc @colinoflynn @LennertWo pic.twitter.com/zGALc2S2Ph— stacksmashing ...
iPad Pro Feature

Early M1 iPad Pro Orders Now Preparing to Ship

Tuesday May 11, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
Apple will soon ship out 11 and 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro models, according to multiple Twitter users and MacRumors readers who have seen their orders shift to "Preparing to Ship" status. So far, we haven't seen any shipment notifications, but that's the next step and is likely to happen in the near future. Apple has not provided an exact delivery date to those who ordered a new M1 iPad Pro, but ...
maxresdefault

Video: Make Your iPhone Last Longer With These Battery Preserving Tips

Monday May 10, 2021 1:23 pm PDT by
Maximizing battery life is something that many iPhone users deal with on a regular basis as we all want our iPhones to last as long as possible. Sometimes there are bugs in iOS that make the battery drain faster, and sometimes we just need to eke out as much as possible on a long day out and about. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, MacRumo...
Apple 5G Modem Feature

Kuo: Apple-Designed 5G Modem May Debut in iPhones as Early as 2023

Sunday May 9, 2021 10:02 pm PDT by
Apple plans to adopt its own custom-designed 5G baseband chip starting with the 2023 iPhones, meaning it'll no longer need to rely on Qualcomm to supply the 5G cellular modem for the iPhone, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in an investors note obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple plans to include its own custom-designed 5G baseband chip starting with the launch of the 2023...
tracking disabled ios 14 5

Analytics Suggest 96% of Users Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

Friday May 7, 2021 1:51 am PDT by
An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple's App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5. According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device...
macos big sur ios 14 iphone 12 pro macbook air icloud drive desktop documents hero

Apple Merging 'iCloud Documents and Data' Service With iCloud Drive in May 2022

Tuesday May 11, 2021 2:36 am PDT by
Apple plans to merge its iCloud Documents and Data service with iCloud Drive starting in May of 2022, according to a support document published late last week (via MacGeneration). iCloud Drive and iCloud Documents and Data share the fundamental ability to backup data from apps. However, iCloud Documents and Data was often a cumbersome, confusing experience. In contrast, iCloud Drive is more...