updated 05:25 pm EST, Sun February 26, 2012
Apple may have two iOS processors in development
Apple's A5X chip might still be joined by a full-fledged A6, based on an investigation of code. A deep dig by 9to5 into the iOS 5.1 beta code has shown both a more modest upgrade, the S5L8945X (possibly A5X), as well as a previously undiscovered S5L8950X. With the existing A5 known as the S5L8940X, it hints that Apple has been working on two chips at once for the first time.
Exactly why Apple would want two parts isn't clear, although it may be dictated by energy. The A6, whether a quad-core part or just a faster dual-core, may use more energy or otherwise be too demanding on something as small as an iPhone where an A5X would work. Alternately, rumors of a smaller iPad, or just a less expensive and slightly modified iPad 2, might see Apple stratify the line with incentives to go to the bigger-screened tablet for the A6.
If an accurate representation of Apple's lineup, the finding doesn't guarantee that both chips will be ready for the suspected March 7 iPad event and could see the A5X or A6 bumped to later in the year. Apple usually includes deeper hardware references when it's getting closer to a launch, however.
Any use of more than two new processors in one line would be a change in philosophy for Apple. Many of its competitors will use a new generation of processors with each annual refresh, simply using lower-spec editions. Apple has so far only ever kept older devices intact and thus their exact processor choices.