Apple announced its 6th generation iPhone, the iPhone 5, at a special event in San Francisco this morning. The iPhone 5 brings a huge list of improvements. Apple unexpectedly used the iPhone 5 to introduce its next-generation SoC: the A6.

Apple didn't say anything about core counts and clock speeds, but it did give us a good indication of performance: 2x faster CPU and GPU. Based on the performance gains, Apple's history of SoC naming and some other stuff we've heard recently, it looks like Apple has integrated two ARM Cortex A15 custom designed Apple ARMv7 cores on Samsung's 32nm LP HK+MG process. This is a huge deal because it means Apple beat both TI and Samsung on bringing A15s to market.

The GPU side isn't entirely clear at this point, but the 2x gains could be had through a move to 4 PowerVR SGX543 cores up from 2 in the iPhone 4S.

The new SoC is paired with Qualcomm's single-chip 28nm MDM9615 LTE baseband. Apple claims support for EDGE, EV-DO, HSPA, HSPA+, DC-HSDPA and LTE. The WiFi gets updated to dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n, using 20MHz channels Apple can hit a peak link rate of 150Mbps over WiFi.

The display sees a big upgrade from 3.5-inches to 4-inches diagonally. The new resolution is 1136 x 640, same width but with a taller height (16:9 ratio). Legacy applications will be letterboxed until they are updated to support the added real estate. Within iOS the biggest change will be a fifth row of icons on the home screen; along with added content within apps like the calendar and Mail. 

The camera saw an upgrade in silicon and software, though it seems to be the same optical package as the previous generation. Multiple stills will be integrated for better low light performance, in an all ISP solution. The package has been reduced in size by 25%, it's unclear whether that will have any effect on image quality, though. The software has been updated to included a panorama mode that yields 28MP images. Video performance on the front facing camera gets boosted to 720p and now bears that FaceTime HD moniker, while rear-facing video gets better image stabilization and face detection while shooting. 

The iPhone 5 includes three mics, including support for beam forming. The ear piece also now features a noise cancelling feature. As expected there's a new dock connector: the 8-pin Lightning connector. The Lightning connector is reversible and significantly smaller than the previous 30-pin dock connector introduced in 2003. 

Pricing hews to tradition, with configurations starting at 16GB and $199 and adding $100 to the price at each step up in storage (32GB and 64GB). The rest of the lineup shuffles its way down, with the iPhone 3GS being led of stage, and putting the iPhone 4S at $99 and the iPhone 4 gratis, all on contract of course. Preorders start September 14th and will be available in stores September 21st. 

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPhone 4S Apple iPhone 5 Samsung Galaxy S 3
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 115.2 mm (4.5") 123.8 mm (4.87") 136.6 mm (5.38")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 58.6 mm (2.31") 58.6 mm (2.31") 70.6 mm (2.78")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 7.6 mm (0.30") 8.6 mm (0.34")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 140 g (4.9 oz) 112 g (3.95 oz) 133 g (4.7 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz Cortex A8 Apple A5 @ ~800MHz Dual Core Cortex A9 Apple A6 (Custom Apple ARM CPU) 1.5 GHz MSM8960 Dual Core Krait
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 543MP2 PowerVR SGX 543MP3(?) Adreno 225
RAM 512MB LPDDR1-400 512MB LPDDR2-800 1GB LPDDR2-1066 2GB LPDDR2
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 16GB, 32GB or 64GB integrated 16GB, 32GB or 64GB integrated 16GB or 32GB NAND with up to 64GB microSDXC
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8MP with LED Flash + 720p Front Facing Camera 8 MP with LED flash + 1.9 MP front facing
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 4" 1136 x 640 LED backlit LCD 4.8" 1280 x 720 HD Super AMOLED
Battery Integrated 5.254Whr Integrated 5.291Whr Integrated ?? Whr Removable 7.98 Whr


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  • lowlymarine - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Application launch times are 95% about the speed of your storage and memory, which makes it a fantastically bullshit benchmark to talk about CPU performance with. A 1.5x increase in app launch speed could easily be accomplished by improvements in NAND and controller performance. You don't buy a faster CPU to make your programs launch faster, you buy a faster SSD. While I realize that current ARM CPUs are dog slow compared to even the lowest of low-end current x86 CPUs, I'm not going to believe the marketing noise until actual fully-CPU-dependent benchmarks can be run.
  • mavere - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    In terms of marketing speak, "quad core" is a more impressive selling line than "2x faster". I think Apple would have specifically wrote quad core for any promotional materials if they could have.

    Also, I was gonna mention something about preferring to defer to Anand over Xbit, but I looked at Xbit's article and they wrote:

    "iPhone sports brand-new Apple A6 system-on-chip with two ARM Cortex-A15 cores with NEON SIMD accelerators, quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics adapter"

    They too are jumping on the A15 bandwagon.
  • lowlymarine - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Then again the presence of "quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics adapter" doesn't inspire confidence in their sources.
  • zzing123 - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    With Passbook but no NFC in the iPhone 5 causes a massive set back to NFC adoption. The problem is that for retailers to make use of NFC, they need a large install base of phones, and if the iPhone began to support it, it becomes a viable solution.

    Apple could also gain, because they could create a Google Wallet-style service on the back of iTunes that allows Apple to control the NFC transactions.

    Nevertheless the lack of NFC is a feature that the iPhone 5 should have had, and it's pretty stupid that it doesn't, as it's to everyone's detriment, including Apple.

    As for the rest of the iPhone 5? Beyond the A6 and LTE, it's rather underwhelming, and iOS6 really only serves to lock in customers even more, tbh.

    I also think that the new iPod touch should have had the full 8MP camera as the iPhone at the very least, if not have *a better* camera than the iPhone to make it a defacto point and shoot device that also is a gaming platform. I don't understand why Apple continues to make the iPhone the 'better' device and not allow the iPod touch to carve out it's own niche as a fully-enabled device.

    Missed opportunities and underwhelming.
  • name99 - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    "Apple could also gain, because they could create a Google Wallet-style service on the back of iTunes that allows Apple to control the NFC transactions."

    Let's live in the real world here, as opposed to fairy land.

    The credit card companies (which is all the banks) make money off transactions right now. They aren't willing to give up that control and reduce their take by helping NFC move forward.
    The phone companies aren't interested in NFC and would rather implement their own half-assed unsuccessful solutions (see how VZW has treated Google Wallet).

    So how do you move forward? Either Apple
    - works through credit card companies and makes no money on the transactions (so why bother?) OR
    - Apple makes money on the transactions (so they cost more than credit card transactions)

    Neither of these seem like a particularly winning strategy. Google may be willing to lose a little money on Google Wallet because it fits in with their model of learning everything about everyone (in this case their financial transactions) so they can sell more targeted advertising, but that doesn't fit Apple's business model.

    Their are alternative models.
    * Apple could essentially become a bank --- you deposit some amount with them, and then use NFC as a debit card against that amount. Yeah, you think Apple want's all the hassle and regulatory scrutiny that will invite to get into a low-margin business?
    * Apple works with money-market companies to withdraw money from those accounts rather than bank accounts. MIGHT work, but
    (a) only a fraction of the population have money market accounts AND
    (b) many of those are held either AT banks, or at institutions with such close ties to/dependencies on banks that they aren't going to go against the banks' wishes.
  • Impulses - Friday, September 14, 2012 - link

    Last I checked the credit card companies AND the carriers have mostly lined up behind the ISIS initiative to push NFC... It's taking forever but it's got the most backers AFAIK. Then there's Google Wallet and half a dozen other competing players because apparently we enjoy birthing new products and standards in the most painful and competitive way possible!
  • orresearch - Sunday, September 23, 2012 - link

    Anyone has any insight into the 3 microphone noise reduction usage on the iPhone 5?

    Since 1 of the microphones is located so close to the earpiece, I believe that one is being used for ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) function and uses the earpiece to cancel some of that ambience noise. The remaining two microphones are for voice communications beamforming type of usages.

    Normally, you do not put a microphone so close to the earpiece due to acoustic coupling of the earpiece signal back into the microphone and the acoustic echo is then difficult to cancel.

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