updated 11:59 pm EDT, Thu July 5, 2012
Quad-core ARM expected for new device
Notorious source DigiTimes, citing its usual Chinese manufacturing contacts, claimed that Apple's next-generation iPhone will be powered by a quad-core ARM processor based off of Samsung's Exynos 4 architecture. Other details, such as clock speed, or graphics processor technologies, were not provided. Analysts expect that Apple's move to a quad-core chip is necessary to keep them ahead in the smart phone arms race.
The chip, possibly given the A6 name, would be Apple's first true quad-core iOS device. The A5X in the current-generation iPad is a dual-core processor with a quad-core graphics processor unit. The A5 processor was first used in the second generation iPad running at 1GHz, then installed in the iPhone 4S at a lower clock speed (800MHz) for heat and battery concerns.
The shift to Exynos would still use ARMv7 addressing, as Apple's native Ax technology does. Early Exynos fabrication is based on 45nm techniques, but more modern and faster chips are based on 32nm processes. While Apple's choice for the next iPhone is probably quad-core, Apple's notorious secrecy surrounding its chip improvements and frequently-contentious relationship with Samsung in other areas, DigiTimes' assertion that Samsung will take over the chip design as well as its manufacture raises some doubt.
Apple purchased companies like P.A. Semi and Intrinsity, both ARM-based processor specialists, to maintain maximum flexibility in processor development and fabrication, which strict licensing arrangements with Samsung wouldn't likely allow. Similarly, when biographer Walter Isaacson spoke with Jobs about his choice of an ARM processor versus Intel as the chip provider for the iPhone and iPad, Jobs said "There were two reasons we didn’t go with them [Intel]. One was that they are just really slow. They’re like a steamship, not very flexible. We’re used to going pretty fast. Second is that we just didn’t want to teach them everything, which they could go and sell to our competitors."