Apple’s custom A6 processor the result of years of effort, including a $500 million chip development program

“Apple’s A6 processor is the result of years of effort that has its roots in Apple’s efforts to achieve independence from its chip suppliers.,” Dean Takahashi reports for VentureBeat.

“As noted in a post by Anandtech, the evidence is growing that Apple took the added trouble of not only designing its own ARM-based chip; it also created a customized core (the central processing brain inside the chip) for the A6, according to a post by Lynley Gwennap, head of The Lynley Group, a chip market consultancy,” Takahashi reports. “Gwennap believes the A6 has a dual-core design running at 1.2 gigahertz. Gwennap says that Apple has spent $400 million on chip company acquisitions and probably another $100 million on four years of chip development, bringing its total investment to $500 million.”

Apple A6 processor
Apple A6 processor

Takahashi reports, “Gwennap now expects Apple to use the A6 through 2013 and then launch a new CPU design in 2014. That one could be based on the 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set. Gwennap says he believes that Samsung is building the A6 in a 32-nanometer manufacturing process. (In that respect, Apple is not completely independent. It designs the chips, but has to rely on Samsung to make them). ”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
iPhone 5 benchmark score outperforms every iOS and Android device to date – September 17, 2012
A6 is Apple’s first with custom-designed CPU cores; iPhone 5 memory size and speed revealed – September 16, 2012

46 Comments

    1. Here is a wild idea Zulkifli (if that is your real name). What if Apple partnered with Intel to build all of their mobile CPUs. Apple already has a solid relationship with Intel with their Macs and in engineering special CPUs (MacBook Air). Apple could consolidate all of their engineering efforts here in the good old USA. And Intel has probably the best fabrication technology and possibly the capacity to handle all of Apple’s needs quickly. Intel, up until now, has been unsuccessful in the mobile space and they know they must become relevant at some point. That may change with their new announcement of the Moto phone but that remains to be seen. Intel would most likely not be a competitor to Apple, at least not in the way Samesung has been. In addition, it could bring manufacturing jobs back to the good old USA and therefore be a brilliant political move as well.

      I said it was wild.

      1. Not trying to pour cold water on your idea, which is great by the way, but Intel has never done, and I don’t feel will ever do, contract manufacturing of silicon.

        Intel also does not do customized chips. The only thing Intel does is sell chips that are designed in house that is available to every other hardware vendor who chooses to adopt that chip.

        This will nullify Apple’s in house custom ARM chip design that is based off PA Semi’s expertise which is customized around the strengths of the iOS code base.

        1. Actually not so long ago Intel said that they could be open to that idea. It did not go anywhere because at that time Apple and Samsung had invested lots of money to the factory in Austin, Texas. Now when the relationship between Samsung and Apple has gone bad there could be a possibility. Though I don’t think it will happen, because Apple wants to diversify their manufacturing.

        2. Regarding: “Intel also does not do customized chips.”
          I might be mistaken, but I am very sure that the CPU for the MacBook Air was a custom design especially for Apple. Granted, it was not an Arm CPU and I will grant you that it is very rare for Intel to do custom chips, but I believe this was the case with the MacBook Air.

          Regarding: “Intel has never done … contract manufacturing of silicon.”
          Agreed. With the exception of the MacBook Air and that was still an Intel based CPU. So you are correct in that they have not done anything outside their own family. However, if Intel continues to miss the boat in mobile, they may be forced to consider other ways to utilize their facilities and more important become relevant in the mobile space. Apple could help them do that.

          1. No offense to BLN, but I just realized that I have been corresponding with someone’s “Left Nut” and to make matters worse, it is “Ballmer’s”.

            I think I might start drinking early.

            1. “New here, huh?”

              Not really and my comment is not so spontaneous as it may appear. I have read many of BLN’s comments for some time. And I have commented on MDN for some time. I never had the honor of a reply from BLN before until today. Because of his name, during this stretch of time I have planned and I have waited, oh how I have waited, so patiently until this glorious day.

              Please forgive me BLN. 🙂

      2. @ Grwisher,
        Do you really think that Apple hasn’t considered every possible alternative to Samsung building their chips, especially an option that obvious??? Whatever Samsung is doing for Apple, it is because there is NO reasonable alternative.

        1. Regarding: “Whatever Samsung is doing for Apple, it is because there is NO reasonable alternative.”
          You may well be right, but if I had $110+ Billion in the bank I think I could find one. Don’t get me wrong, I think that replacing Samsung would be an extremely complex undertaking. However, IMHO the existing relationship with Samsumg should be replaced if possible.

        1. Congratulations davylow (if that is your real name?).

          I have used that question on several posts, probably due to my warped sense of humor. And you are the first one to point out my “Pot calling the kettle black” tactic.

  1. look. rotten apple is still depending on Samsung. just show me when rotten apple will build their own at their own factory. before then I don’t think that apple can’t deny to use samsung parts for iphone 5. what an ironical.

    1. So a brick maker is greater than a architect, or a structural engineer. BTW, following your line of thought, a mud digger is the greatest contributor of a finished grand architecture.

    2. edward, you’re the best! I agree with you–it certainly is an ironical that Rotten Apple ™ doesn’t have its own chip foundry.

      You’re an ironical too, edward. But you’re still the best, way better than that “Pat” guy or even Zune Tang. Stay ironical, edward!

      1. Hey, Dea, do all the new people around here even remember who ZuneTang®, The Legend, was? Or has he still been posting and I’ve been missing them? If not, it seems to me The Legend is becoming old history by now.

  2. “before then I don’t think that apple can’t deny to use samsung parts for iphone 5. what an ironical.”

    You don’t think Apple can’t deny? So they can? What on earth are you saying? You have contradicted yourself in one sentence!

    I’ll just leave it at that Edward, spare you any more embarrassment.

  3. I’m sure there are many other foundries worldwide to manufacture to apples specifications. Samsung just happens to be under contract at this moment, but don’t blink. I’m sure that will change.

    1. So be it! Android and Windows phones can stay the course with Samsung and Apple can go at it alone. Why is this such a big deal? According to iSheeps (editorialists, reviewers, bloggers and users) Apple can go at it alone then as Nike puts it Just Do It!

      Samsung’s displays, chipsets, memory, SSD etc… are the best in the market and Apple has made good money promoting this as part of the quality products argument. Now they can sing their owns praises based on their ability to supply themselves with equal or better quality components!

      Just Do It!

      1. Can you explain to me why all you hemdroids feel the need to constantly post on Apple related sites? I somehow seriously doubt that the Android forums are full of crazed iOS users posting drivel all over them.

        If you are truly so happy with your choice in a smartphone, why do you care what others choose? It reeks of insecurity…

        1. Not sure who you are chastising. Gary J or me. Both were not trolling remarks.

          I don’t think apple should build or buy a foundry. They are high maintenance cost and unless it is running 24/7/365, it’s going to lose money.

          1. I was responding to Gary J, with his “iSheeps” reference.

            I agree, Apple should not build a foundry – it is much more cost effective to continue to outsource component manufacturing as well as using contract assembly.

            I *do* hope that they continue to wean themselves off of Samsung as a parts supplier and go with other manufacturers. Samsung doesn’t deserve to make the money they do currently from Apple.

            1. Please read my comment again. iSheep is used as a term given that this is the only segment of the tech world that somehow think that Apple and more importantly Apple shareholders have any type of appetite to go at it alone.

              My point is simple…. Just Do It!

            2. My apologies Gary J, I indeed misunderstood the the gist of your message.

              There has simply been such a large amount of inane trolling going on that my cynicism got the best or me while reading your post – I so tire of seeing those of us who are long time Apple users referred to as “sheep” that it completely overtook my reading comprehension. 🙂

              It is so ironic that those of us that who for longest time were looked at as crazed loners are now so often referred to as sheep.

              My original comment still stands in reference to the crazed android fans, it just doesn’t apply to you. 😉

  4. Does anyone have a clue as to why Apple is reinventing the wheel, so to speak? Based on benchmarks, Apple’s A6 doesn’t perform any better than off-the-shelf chips those high-end Android smartphones are using. There are a couple of Android smartphones using standard quad-core processors that seem to be doing the job just as well (on paper) and they’re claimed to offer even better battery life than what the iPhone can deliver. It’s possible that as time goes on, Apple will be able to design chips that are powerful, yet less expensive than off-the-shelf designs and that will matter when a company needs to fabricate hundreds of millions of processors. I’m all for what Apple is doing because benchmark specs don’t mean all that much when you’re looking at the whole package.

    I’m not questioning whatever Apple does and if it were up to me, I’d have them construct their own fab plants if that was the case. I’m just curious as to what the big picture really is and I’m happy that Apple has its own unique processors that no one else can duplicate. I just hope Apple has the skilled people that can make very efficient processors and tailor them specifically to their individual needs.

    1. benchmarks are a series of generic tasks. Custom CPUs are designed to run very specific tasks. In the case of iOS, it runs the iOS functions.

      Apple’s chips may do generic benchmarks equal to existing processors, but when iOS is ran on the 2, the custom Apple chip kicks the butt of the generic CPU many times over at the same speed and power. Thats the advantage to custom design for specific tasks rather than using a generic be everything for every process chip

    2. How much more shelf life do you think Apple has in terms of maintaining the current momentum? That is the question that probably slows Apple up with respect to doing everything themselves. They know that iPhone 5 might well break records but then what…. same challenges as everyone else that has ever ruled the roost in their respective product category. There comes a time that consumers are content and not looking to replace their existing toys and devices.

      I bought a new MBP 15 RD 16/512 and unless the thing blows up, it will take some magical product to sway me into spending another $3200.00 to replace this great piece of tech.

    3. quad core phones that have decent battery life will be massive In order to accommodate a massive battery. Apple wants a small, thin and powerful phone with good battery life. The A6 is integral to making that happen. By all accounts it has incredible power management, beating all the stock chips.

      1. And why is that? Simple really… Hardware is perfectly matched to OS. Advantage Apple. Android will never be able to match this until they rid themselves of their OS fragmentation and Windows Phone might have a chance to at least call for a close sync between their OS and hardware specs but with Microsoft you never quite know what to expect.

    4. Based on benchmarks, the A6 *does*perform better than the off-the-shelf parts those Android phones use. In fact, the A6 does so while consuming significantly less power. The A6 also provides unexcelled graphics performance within the same chip.

      Stay informed, Laughing_Boy48…

  5. Who the fuk really cares what fuk’n chips are inside! When it all comes together and looks, feels and operates like a gorgeous sexy model! Oh, and i like my models tall and slender.

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