ARM has provided a little bit of information which suggests that the next iPhone model will sport a dual-core processor. The current iPhone 3G S uses a single-core Cortex A8, whereas the upcoming Cortex A9 will “shrink the manufacturing process” from 65 nanometers to 45 nanometers. This extra space will allow room for another core, and will ultimately help improve battery life in addition to providing better support for multitasking.
The design also better handles executing out-of-order instructions than the A8 and can therefore handle a large batch of code more efficiently. A9 can scale up to four cores but is less likely to be used for smartphones in the near future.
At the same time, keep in mind that Apple purchased the boutique chip design company PA Semi, while also hiring a slew of other chip experts. With that backdrop, it’s also possible that the next iPhone model might sport an entirely new chip designed in-house at Apple. Either way, as long as Apple keeps upgrading the iPhone’s hardware, we can only hope that across the board multitasking is on its way.
Since the iPhone first launched, geeks have lambasted the iPhone for not supporting multitasking across third party applications. Apple’s stance has simply been that doing so would drain the batter life like a mother. Indeed, the Palm Pre does support multitasking and reviewers and users have complained about its atrocious battery life as a result.
You can bet that as soon as processors can support system-wide multitasking without significantly compromising battery life, that Apple will gladly implement the feature. Notably, PA Semi was renowned for creating low powered and battery efficient chips.
Initial reports that Apple was looking into multi-core chips surfaced this February when InfoMobile ran a piece about how the iPhone was slowly but surely evolving into a “graphics-savvy gaming platform.”
What’s important here is Apple’s motivation for wanting to have complete control over chip design. Simply put, Apple wants to incorporate multi-core functionality into future iPhone chips. And, the only way to ensure that future processors will meet Apple’s exacting standards was to buy their own chip-design firm and crank out their own chips. Customized chips would also help differentiate the iPhone lineup from most other mobile phones on market.
It’s also worth noting that the next version of OS X, Snow Leopard, will include built-in support to more efficiently take advantage of multiple cores. Apple calls this upcoming feature “Grand Central” and it will create a more efficient and less resource hungry OS while also improving software performance. Seeing as the iPhone OS is based off of OS X, it might not be long before we see Grand Central technology ported over to the iPhone.