updated 08:55 am EDT, Tue June 16, 2009
Dual Core A9 and iPhone
ARM has teased the future of the iPhone and other smartphones with added early details for its first dual-core mobile processor design. The Cortex A9 will shrink the manufacturing process from the 65 nanometers used on the single-core Cortex A8 used in the iPhone 3G S to 45 nanometers, letting it add the extra core without significantly affecting the power draw. Although it consumes more energy at peak, the smaller process and multiprocessing should ultimately lead to longer battery life.
The design also better handles executing out-of-order instructions than the A8 and can therefore handle a large batch of code more efficiently. A9 can scale up to four cores but is less likely to be used for smartphones in the near future.
Multiple cores better supports multitasking on those phones with supporting operating systems but would also allow for more efficient background processing, such as encoding a video or playing audio without affecting a user's existing tasks.
Importantly, the launch of A9 should also line up for the next wave of smartphones. ARM anticipates the technology being in shipping products by approximately this time next year. Texas Instruments has explained that its future OMAP 4 processor will use A9's technology and hints at sequels to the OMAP 3-based Palm Pre getting the more advanced processor. OMAP 4 will have multiple cores and should also have faster graphics built into the processor package, including 1080p decoding and encoding as well as 20-megapixel still image processing and support for larger displays.
Samsung is believed to make the Cortex A8 processor used in the iPhone 3G S, but its role in future iPhones is uncertain. Apple is actively recruiting for future Cortex programming and is therefore likely to support A9 technology, but its acquisition of PA Semi for the purposes of designing custom ARM chips suggests that future iPhones, possibly as early as next year, will have Apple-developed processors and won't be tied to roadmaps from others. [via CNET]