Both the already presented iPad Air (2020) as the yet to be introduced iPhone 12 will bring the new A14 Bionic chip designed by Apple. A chip that, according to the information available so far on Macs with Apple Silicon, could reach more devices in addition to the iPhone and iPad.
A chip with more features and for more devices
In a new interview in Endgadget Apple Vice President of Platform Architecture Tim Millet and Mac and iPad Senior Marketing Director Tom Boger tell what the team’s approach is when developing new processors.
It has been a long time since the first iPhone 4, that Apple designed the chips of their devices and since then they have been adding more and more components within the same chip to perform more functions. In this sense, the arrival of the 5 nanometer fabrication gives the team much more room to keep adding features and specializations, as well as expanding existing ones. The new A14 chip, for example, doubles the number of cores in the Neural Engine to 16, allowing it to perform up to 11 trillion (b) operations per second.
“We saw an opportunity to do things that would have been impossible to do with a conventional CPU instruction set,” said Millet. “In theory you could do many of the things that the neural engine does in a GPU, but you can’t do it inside a closed, thermally constrained room.”
An approach to multi-device design.
At a general level, both executives comment how since the first processors for the iPhone, the chip design team has been expanding responsibilities. Now, When considering the design of the new generation of the A series, it is considered for more than one device. Thus, the same A14 chip, or at least a variant of it, can end up on an iPad or an Apple Watch. In this sense, adaptations are made in the numbers of nuclei, but the general design is shared.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure that when we build a CPU for one generation, we are not necessarily building it for just one generation,” Millet said. While that doesn’t mean the A14’s six-core CPU is going to be seen in something like an Apple Watch, the architecture developed for the company’s flagship iPhone chipset could well be adapted and repurposed elsewhere.
With the arrival of Macs with Apple Silicon, which the most recent rumors place in the middle of next month, this approach to chip development makes more sense than ever. The same generation, for example the A14, it can vary in power, performance and consumption depending on the device in which it will work. Something that, in fact, we are already seeing with the A12X or the A12Z, to give a few examples.
It is clear that Apple has learned a lot from the first processor for the iPhone 4 and that they are able to offer processors that, in several cases, are well above the current offer. Let’s hope Apple tells us more in this afternoon’s keynote and we get a preview of what is to come in November.