Branding considerations aside, reusing the A15 for regular models seems quite reasonable.
For a few weeks, analysts have been predicting that Apple would adopt a whole new tactic with the iPhone 14 lineup. The regular iPhone 14 (which will reportedly come in two sizes, Standard and Max) would still use the A15 processor found in the iPhone 13 Pro this year. The iPhone 14 Pro (also in Standard and Max sizes) would get the new A16 processor.
The rumor is quite credible and describes a natural progression in the differentiation that Apple started with the iPhone 13 lineup earlier this year. For the first time in living memory, the “standard” iPhone models received a version of the A15 that is less powerful than the Pro models: the A15 has four GPU cores in the standard iPhone 13s, while the Pro models have five GPU cores. have cores. There’s also a difference in RAM – the standard models have 4GB, the Pro models have 6GB – but that’s not really new and Apple doesn’t officially state the amount of RAM in the iPhones.
Binning and supply chain challenges
To be clear, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro share the same A15 chip. The larger and more complex a processor is, the more defects there are on the wafer. Manufacturers reduce this failure rate through redundant circuitry and a process known as binning: they take defective chips, disable the defective core or cache, and sell it as a smaller/cheaper part. This is nothing new: CPU and GPU manufacturers have been doing this regularly for years.
Apple simply takes the A15, which has five GPU cores, and disables one of the GPU cores in chips that have a defect in that area of the chip. In this way you get more usable processors per wafer and can thus reduce costs. Apple simply puts the chips with four cores enabled in the iPhone 13 and the chip with all five cores enabled in the iPhone 13 Pro. This also applies to the M1, which has 8 GPU cores but is only available with 7 cores in the cheapest MacBook Air and iMac. The M1 Pro and M1 Max also have binned versions.
But what do you do when binning is not enough? If your A16 processor requires a state-of-the-art manufacturing process that is very limited and very expensive? If binning isn’t enough to produce over 70 million new iPhones a year? They’re going beyond binning and building a new iPhone using last year’s A15 processor.
More than enough power
To be honest, even the best processors in today’s Android phones can’t compete with the A15. Apple is so far ahead that it doesn’t need to add a faster processor to its $799 model this fall just to stay competitive. Especially if, as the rumors suggest, these iPhones will get the “full” Pro version of the A15 with five GPU cores and 6GB of RAM. That would still be an upgrade over the iPhone 13 (non-Pro models) and probably still quite a bit faster and more efficient than any comparably priced Android phone.
The iPhone 14 Pro, on the other hand, gets an all-new processor with industry-leading performance and features that further differentiate the “Pro” model from the “non-Pro” models. Everyone gets an upgrade, Apple gets enough chips to meet demand, and we all win.
What’s in a name?
That means everyone wins as long as this latest rumor isn’t true. It is claimed that Apple will rename the A15 (the version with 5-core GPU and 6GB RAM) to “A16”, while the new chip will be called “A16 Pro”. We saw something similar with the Apple Watch Series 7, which Apple claimed on the spec sheet had an S7 chip, despite tests showing it to be identical to the S6.
That would be a terrible idea. It makes a lot of sense to distinguish different versions of a chip with different names – perhaps Apple should have used A15 and A15 Pro for the quad-core and quintuple-core versions of this chip. But selling a chip this year under the name A15 and next year under the name A16 without changing anything substantive is pure marketing nonsense designed to confuse consumers into thinking they’re getting something new.
I think it’s likely that Apple will reuse the existing A15 chip (the full 5-core GPU version) in the iPhone 14 and reserve the A16 for the Pro model. It’s a smart move in an environment where supply is tight, especially when the company’s chips are so far ahead of the rest of the market. One can only hope that the company isn’t trying to rush the naming.
Tag: iphone design, iphone 14, apple iphone, iphone release