Chipworks continues examination of A7 processor, finds new architecture, quad-core GPU

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Date: Monday, September 30th, 2013, 07:57
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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There’s some cool stuff going on with the iPhone 5s’ new A7 processor.

Per an analysis published by Chipworks, the A7 contains assorted changes from the previous A6 processor, including the addition of a mysterious SRAM cell never seen in A-series silicon.

Continuing its comprehensive investigation of the new A7 SoC, which on Tuesday confirmed a 28nm manufacturing process, silicon experts at Chipworks are digging deeper into the processor’s major structures and overall design.

The firm notes in the report that the latest findings are currently just “best guesses,” as circuit extraction testing has not yet been performed to yield conclusive data.

Taking the caveat into consideration, one of the more interesting findings would be the “secure enclave” used for Touch ID fingerprint data storage that Apple discussed during the iPhone 5s reveal earlier this month.

Chipworks was unable to identify a given area it had noted, but guesses that a new SRAM cell located above the GPUs is a prime suspect as the rather large storage space is a new addition to the A-series lineup. Extrapolating the size of the memory block and comparing it with metrics of known technology, the firm estimates the SRAM module to have a density of about 3MB.

Moving to the CPU, the A7′s dual-core unit and accompanying memory, estimated at 1MB for L2 cache and 256KB for L1, takes up about 17 percent of the die area. Located across from the CPU setup is a quad-core GPU with shared logic, which accounts for 22 percent of on-die space.

A side-by-side comparison of the A7 and last year’s A6 show the chips’ CPUs do not share the same layout. The new A7 appears to be closer to a conventional automated design, which would be a departure from Apple’s most recent custom-architected A-series SoCs.

Aside from the above discoveries, the rest of the A7′s design appears to be carried over from the A6. Of note, the USB, LCD and camera interfaces are identical to those found in Apple’s A5, A6 and A6X chips.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iHS iSupply support states Retina Display “iPad Mini 2″ may not ship in 2013

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Date: Friday, September 27th, 2013, 06:42
Category: Hardware, iPad mini, News, Rumor

The next-gen iPad mini may not possess the fabled Retina display, or at least the yield numbers on production may not be quite high enough yet.

Per AppleInsider, and CNET, a report published on Thursday claims Apple may not be planning to release a Retina display iPad mini alongside an expected next-generation “iPad 5″ next month, citing low manufacturing volumes unsuitable for mass shipments.

According to IHS iSuppli’s supply chain checks, the next-generation 9.7-inch iPad is on track for an October launch, but production of a high-resolution iPad mini is “>not yet at levels that would indicative of a simultaneous release, reports CNET.

“The Retina Mini looks less certain for that time,” said IHS iSuppli’s director of Tablet and Monitor Research, Rhoda Alexander. “Manufacturing volumes on that would match better with a Q114 [first quarter 2014] launch.”

Alexander qualified the statement by noting Apple may introduce such a device in October with the fifth-generation iPad, but could choose to ship it at a later date.

The publication notes that, while analysts have discussed Retina panel yields, they claim mass production could be less than optimal for a 2013 launch. In either case, it appears that Apple will likely be face with supply constraints, a situation that has become increasingly familiar for the company.

Earlier this year, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Retina display yield issues would push back Retina iPad mini production until October. In a more recent report, the analyst predicted the “iPad 5″ and “iPad mini 2″ would both see release in the fourth quarter of 2013, with Apple pushing up the mini’s launch date due to increased competition in the sector.

All should be revealed in the coming weeks, as Apple is rumored to be planning a special event next month to introduce a revamped tablet lineup.

Stay tuned for additional coverage and, as always, let us know what you think in the comments section.

iSuppli runs numbers, finds $199, $183 build costs for iPhone 5s, 5c handsets

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, September 25th, 2013, 07:47
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

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If you’re wondering how much Apple’s new iPhone handsets cost to manufacture, they’ve got a number.

Per AllThingsD, a forthcoming IHS iSuppli report posits that Apple spends at least US$191 on components to build a 16GB model of the iPhone 5s and between US$167 and US$176 for a low-end iPhone 5c. Those prices are just a few dollars lower than what Apple spent in order to build the iPhone 5 according to iSuppli’s year-ago report on that device. The firm adds another US$8 in assembly costs for the iPhone 5s, while iPhone 5c assembly tacks on another US$7 to assemble, giving full construction estimates of US$199 for the 5s and between US$173 and US$183 for the 5c.

The iPhone 5, released in 2012, cost Apple about US$205 to produce and sold for between US$649 and US$849 off-contract. Apple saves about US$13 to produce the new high-end iPhone, even considering its beefed up processor and biometric sensor, and Apple sells it for the same price point.

Memory capacity plays a part in the price of an iPhone, with the jump from a 16GB module to a 64GB module adding US$19 to the component cost, plus another US$8 in assembly.

The display components are among the biggest cost contributors for the device, though, amounting to US$41 out of the component cost. IHS believes that Apple’s displays came from a number of vendors, including Sharp, Japan Display Inc., and LG Display.

The use of a polycarbonate shell for the iPhone 5c helps Apple drop the component cost of what is essentially an iPhone 5 even further. Whereas the iPhone 5 was machined from a single piece of aluminum in a costly process, Apple spends only US$173 to build a 16GB iPhone 5 model and US$183 to build the 64GB model.

IHS’ look at the new iPhones seems to agree with some observers’ opinion that the iPhone 5s, despite the addition of a number of technologies, is more of an incremental progression over its predecessor.

“I would say that they’re almost the same phone,” said IHS analyst Andrew Rassweiler, “except for that the 5s has the fingerprint sensor, the A7 processor and some newer memory chips that consume less power. Beyond that, they’re basically the same.”

The lower production cost per unit could work in Apple’s favor going forward. The Cupertino company recently revised its guidance for the September quarter after selling more than nine million new iPhone units in the launch weekend. Part of that guidance revision was to orient investors to look toward the upper range of its previous estimate, possibly due to the improved margins on its hot-selling new devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases updated iMacs, incorporates Haswell processors, PCIe architecture, 802.11ac Wi-Fi into new models

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Date: Tuesday, September 24th, 2013, 07:40
Category: Hardware, iMac, News

It’s not a huge change for the iMacs, but it’s the bump you’ve been waiting for.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday issued an update for its all-in-one iMac desktop, bringing Intel’s latest-generation Haswell processors, speedy 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Nvidia’s new GeForce 700 series graphics.

The new iMac also sports faster PCIe flash storage options to boost performance. It comes in the same thin design debuted by the company last year.

The entry-level 21.5-inch iMac features a 2.7-gigahertz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and new Iris Pro integrated graphics. It starts at US$1,299.

The high-end 21.5-inch model and both 27-inch models feature quad-core Intel Core i5 processors up to 3.4 gigahertz and Nvidia GeForce 700 series graphics with twice the video memory and up to 40 percent faster performance than the previous generation.

Apple’s new top-of-the-line iMac is a quad-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 3.5 GHz and Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M series graphics with up to 4 gigabytes of video memory. It starts at US$1,999.

The updated iMac also supports next-generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi. When connected to an 802.11ac base station, iMac delivers wireless connectivity up to three times faster than the previous generation 802.11n.

Apple’s new iMac also features support for PCIe-based flash storage that makes Fusion Drive and all-flash storage options up to 50 percent faster than the previous generation. Fusion Drive option combines the large storage capacity of a hard drive with the high performance of flash to deliver shorter boot times and faster access to apps and files. Customers can configure their iMac with a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte Fusion Drive, and all-flash storage options are now available in configurations up to 1 terabyte.

iMac comes standard with 8 gigabytes of memory and a 1-terabyte hard drive, and customers can choose to configure their iMac with up to 32 gigabytes of memory and up to a 3-terabyte hard drive. iMac also comes with two Thunderbolt and four USB 3.0 ports for connecting to external storage and other high performance peripherals.

iMac also meets Energy Star 5.2 requirements and achieves an EPEAT Gold rating. The desktop features LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. iMac includes PVC-free components and cables, contains no brominated flame retardants, and uses highly recyclable materials and material-efficient packaging designs.

iMac ships with OS X Mountain Lion, bringing Messages, Notification Center, system-wide Sharing, AirPlay Mirroring, Dictation, Game Center and Gatekeeper security.

The new iMac is available today through the Apple Online Store, Appleā€™s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers. The 21.5-inch iMac is available with a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.2 GHz and Intel Iris Pro for a suggested retail price of US$1,299; and with a 2.9 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.6 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M for a suggested retail price of US$1,499.

The 27-inch iMac is available with a 3.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.6 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 755M for a suggested retail price of US$1,799; and with a 3.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.8 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M for a suggested retail price of US$1,999.

If you pick up a new iMac within the new couple of days and have any feedback to offer about your experience, please let us know in the comments.

iPhone 5s’ 64-bit A7 processor shows possible road map for Apple’s future

Posted by:
Date: Monday, September 23rd, 2013, 14:55
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Software

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If nothing else, the iPhone 5s and 5c launches – and the processors within – offer a glimpse of things to come down the line.

More to the point, they show a future without Intel.

Per Jason Perlow’s excellent column over on ZDNet and pointed out the us by reader Robert Snow, the piece brings up the notion that no one really expected to see a 64-bit System on a Chip this soon and that the term “Desktop Class”, which was being thrown around, seems appropriate and not just hype.

The article also points out that the biometric authentication that Apple is incorporating with its new Touch ID system requires a significant amount of CPU horsepower to pull off without being sluggish, as would strong end-to-end VPN encryption, both of which are likely necessary for the iPhone to continue to attract corporate attention. This, also with increased image-processing power that can push gaming console-quality graphics similar to those found on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 show that 64-bit mobile architectures are ready for the prime time.

The piece also makes the strong argument that this is where Apple wants to be with its processors and that perhaps Intel – and its mobile offerings – may be left behind, as ARM’s offerings show a more mature platform that various development environments can converge towards.

Take a gander at the article, see what you make of it and, as always, please let us know what you think in the comments.

iFixit completes iPhone 5s teardown, finds interesting new changes in current handset

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Date: Friday, September 20th, 2013, 08:14
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

eliphone5s

The gents at iFixit got busy again.

Granted, they were a little behind the Aussie teardown, but they still found some pretty cool stuff within the new iPhone 5s.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, the iFixit teardown revealed the following:

- The confirmation of AuthenTec as the company behind the fingerprint sensor, which was expected since Apple acquired the biometric hardware company last year. The sensor uses a CMOS chip and requires 5 to ten images to create a complete profile of your fingerprint ridges.

- iFixit also noted that the display in the 5s should be familiar to everyone as it is “no bigger, better, or badder than the [iPhone] 5.” In fact, it is the same 326 ppi Retina display assembly.

- iFixit has reported that the teardown is done and has given the iPhone 5s a 6 out of 10 for repairability. It gets a lower score for using pentalobe screws, a battery with a more sticky adhesive and an all-in-one front panel that includes the front glass, digitizer, and LCD.

- Other goodies include the potential identification of the camera module as a Sony component and the sighting of 1GB of RAM.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Aussie-based tech shop iExperts performs initial teardown of iPhone 5s, reports findings

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Date: Thursday, September 19th, 2013, 14:56
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

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The Aussies completed an initial teardown of the iPhone 5s and there are some impressive components inside.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog and Australia-based tech shop iExperts, the guys at iExperts were able to remove the standard pentalobe screws holding the handset together, then used a suction cup to remove the screen. The team noticed that there’s a special cable that connects the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5s to the charging port assembly — not sure of the reason, but some speculation has indicated that it’s for grounding the sensor when the iPhone is docked and charging.

The batteries on the new devices have higher capacities than the one on the iPhone 5 (5.45 Whr), with the iPhone 5s coming in at 5.92 Whr and the iPhone 5c at 5.73 Whr. Those batteries, according to iExperts, are made by Apple Japan, something they’ve never seen before on iPhone batteries.

The logic boards for the new iPhones are quite compact in comparison to the one in the iPhone 5, and iExperts noted that the 5s and 5c boards share a similar design. The team also marveled at the “incredible functionality for such little circuitry” found in the Touch ID sensor on the 5s (below).

If you’re one of those people with an iPhone 4, iPod touch, iPod nano (sixth generation) or iPhone 5 that had a power switch failure, you’ll be happy to know that the switch assembly has been changed in the new iPhones.

The iExperts team will be posting more information on the chips located on the logic board later, so bookmark the page for additional information as it becomes available.

Leaked images show possible “space gray” second-generation iPad mini shell

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Date: Wednesday, September 18th, 2013, 08:19
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, News, Pictures

This “space gray” color’s hip with Apple and the kids today…

Per AppleInsider and French web blog NowhereElse.fr, a series of newly-leaked images shows an available “space gray” color for Apple’s upcoming second-generation iPad mini tablet.

Apple’s upcoming refresh of the best-selling iPad mini will see the device’s slate coloring dropped in favor of the company’s new gray, according to newly-leaked photos purported to show the device’s rear shell. The images, which also depict slight structural updates match up to another recent leak of purported iPad Mini 2 and iPad 5 sim trays.


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“Space gray,” introduced with the new flagship iPhone 5s, succeeds “black and slate” as the darkest color on offer from Cupertino. Following the phone’s introduction, the company’s iPod lineup was also updated to introduce the new shade.


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The second-generation iPad mini is expected to be announced by Apple at an event in October, alongside a new fifth-generation iPad. It’s expected that Apple’s next 7.9-inch tablet will feature a high-resolution Retina display, while the new full-size iPad will sport a redesigned chassis similar to the iPad mini.

Both devices have been outed in numerous part leaks that have arrived throughout 2013. But Wednesday’s latest leak is the first indication that the anodized aluminum back may adopt Apple’s new “space gray” coloring.

As always, please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple job posting alludes to solar power features for upcoming mobile devices

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Date: Monday, September 16th, 2013, 07:30
Category: Hardware, News

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One day, your Apple mobile products will drink in the sun for energy.

Or at least that’s what can be speculated from their hiring boards.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is seeking an engineer with thin films experience as applied to semiconductor or solar manufacturing, suggesting the company is investigating viable alternative energy source for future mobile products like a smart watch.

The post, discovered on Apple’s employment web site, describes a position for the Mobile Devices group, with suitable candidates having experience with thin film deposition technology in either semiconductor processing or solar industries.

Looking into the Key Qualifications section of the listing, which was posted on Thursday and spotted Friday, it appears that the position will deal with the applications side of R&D, rather than the development phase. Applicants are asked to have experience in sputtering, vacuum evaporation, electroplating and other technologies commonly associated with disposing thin-films on circuitry.

While the word “solar” is mentioned twice in the listing, it may not necessarily mean that Apple is working to bring a solar-powered iPhone to market. Many advanced technologies require engineers to have multidisciplinary backgrounds, as these systems are intricately tied together.

Perhaps most interesting is a qualification that reads, “Knowledge of thin-films in the context of RF shielding is highly desirable.” This suggests Apple may be looking to develop a new method of radio interference blocking for its smartphone lineup that could possibly reduce dependence on the current metal RFI shielding seen in wireless-capable devices.

As with many Apple job postings, other desirable qualities include experience in working with Asian manufacturers, problem solving skills and an ability to work as part of a team.

Apple has a number of patents regarding solar-powered devices, many involving portable devices like the iPod and iPhone. Most recently, the company outlined a system that uses a display’s electrodes to both collect sunlight and act as capacitive touch sensors.

Solar power is becoming increasingly popular as light conversion efficiency increases, but the technology is not yet at the point where a panel can simply replace wall charging. A more likely scenario would be battery life augmentation for smaller portables, like a watch. Interestingly, Apple’s smart watch patent also directly mentions such a solution.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

FCC filings hint at larger battery for iPhone 5s, 5c handsets

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Date: Thursday, September 12th, 2013, 07:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

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If you were hoping for a larger, longer-lasting battery on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c handsets, it looks like it’s on its way.

Per AnandTech and 9to5Mac, the FCC filings for the new iPhones to reveal that the iPhone 5s battery offers approximately 10 percent more capacity than its predecessor, while the 5c battery offers a more modest 5 percent gain.

Actual battery-life for the iPhone 5s will be interesting to see. While the handset’s beefier A7 CPU will consume more power, the M7 coprocessor that handles some of the background tasks should reduce battery consumption. How the two balance out is not yet known, though Apple did promise better battery-life than the iPhone 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.