64-bit ARM chips in iPhone 5s serve up taste of Intel-free future for Apple

“By far the most the most important new thing that was announced at [Apple’s media] event [this week] was that the iPhone 5S uses a 64-bit ARM chip of Apple’s own design, the A7,” Jason Perlow writes for ZDNet.

“While it is surprising for many to see a 64-bit System on a Chip (SoC) on a smartphone so soon, I can certainly understand why Apple wanted to get one out into the wild,” Perlow writes. “The phrases ‘Forward-Thinking’ and ‘Desktop Class’ were thrown around during the launch event when discussing the iPhone 5S and the A7 processor. That stuff isn’t just marketing hype in place here, it’s a glimpse at the thought processes that are going on within Apple as it pertains to their long-term device and operating system strategy.”

“The reason why Apple wanted to get a 64-bit ARM chip into the wild is largely an issue of platform convergence,” Perlow writes. “I expect that our smartphones will become the center of our computing experience and even extend themselves to tablets and the desktop, through a unified operating system that runs identically on all three form factors and is supplanted by back-end Cloud services which will do the heavy lifting for our line-of-business applications and data… At some point, iOS will end up on some kind of laptop or tablet convertible device using a 64-bit ARM chip of Apple’s design. I think that will happen sometime around 2015, when the future 64-bit SoCs are powerful enough to actually assume the type of creative content desktop workloads Macs are actually used for today…”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
The world’s first 64-bit smartphone is just the beginning, Apple’s A7 chip paves the way for Apple’s long-term future – September 11, 2013
Apple attacks two key markets; price on iPhone 5c, speed on 64-bit iPhone 5s push the envelope – September 10, 2013
Apple reveals flagship iPhone 5s with Touch ID, the world’s first and only 64-bit smartphone – September 10, 2013


    1. Back in the late 70’s there was a computer sold by Ohio Scientific called the Challenger III with three processors: 6502, 6800, and Z80. (The Z80s are still used by TI for their current 84 series calculators.) It could run Apple ][, CP/M, and OS-65. The beast could actually handle up to 16 terminals logging in.

      So… Arm SoCs may come in cheaply enough that it’s feasible to make an iMac or Pro be a varied-CPU machine.

  1. ARM. It sounds like Acorn’s legacy lives in modern tablets and smartphones. It’s too bad they have been out of business for a decade or so. I read some great reviews of Acorn’s RISC OS. At least RISC is now an open-source community project now days, from what I understand.

  2. ARM chips are for iOS, not Macs. Period.

    Macs already have, and deserve, more power than ARM processors can deliver for the near future. And this year, Apple essentially lashed its Mac Pro sales future to an Intel technology: Thunderbolt. Apple is snuggling closer to Intel, not the other way around.

    Whoever proposes that Apple sever ties to Intel obviously has little understanding of Mac architecture and Apple business needs. The last thing Apple needs to do is to attempt a Windows 8 merging of mobile and desktop computing.

    May Macs forever remain powerful and touch-free. Just like your organic produce doesn’t show up at your local Whole Foods on solar-powered electric cars, computing heavy lifting (content _creation_) still happens on “trucks” … and it will remain that way forever. Truck drivers don’t care one iota about battery life and slim profile — they want POWER.

    1. “Whoever proposes that Apple sever ties to Intel obviously has little understanding of Mac architecture and Apple business needs.”

      Funny, that’s exactly the same thing I heard a decade or so ago about why Apple could never drop PPC for Intel.


  3. This could be a possibility with these new processors. I wonder how Apple will handle the enterprise space if that’s the case? The current processors support the use of Windows on Apple hardware, dropping Intel would impact their enterprise accessibility. Apple may not particularly care, but like it or not, you’ve got to speak Windblows to somewhat play in that space today. Should be interesting.

  4. The only advantage with 64 bit processors is there ability to address more than 4 gb ram. There is actually more overhead to run a 64 bit processor vs a 32 bit processor. This is more a marketing hype at the moment. Intel is years ahead in their processor technology, so it will be a while before we see these used in macbook pro’s. Besides, us developers will not be able to run Windows, which would not be good for Apple in the business market.

    1. Wrong.

      Breaking the 4GB limit isn’t even the biggest advantage of 64-bit processors. The big win is the CPU speed gain from operating on 8 bytes at a time instead of 4.


      1. Yes, your partially correct, you do calculate 8 bits vs 4 bits. This isn’t “twice as fast” though like apple advertised so you wont see huge performance gains. There is a certain amount of overhead required to run calculations through a 64 bit processor.

  5. This is silliness. IOS may or may not end up on some convergence device in a couple of years (my prediction is that it won’t), but even if it does, Apples doesn’t need to push out a 64 bit iPhone now to make it happen. It really doesn’t do a whole lot. The only slight thing it does for the future is they can obsolete the current 32bit iphones and 32bit IOS that little bit sooner since 2013 is the year 64 bit made it in. But hardly a big deal. Remember when the 64 bit intel Macs came along, the OS didn’t even take advantage of it. It was years and years before we even got a 64 bit kernel, and when we did, people hardly noticed.

  6. At some point, iOS will end up on some kind of laptop or tablet convertible device using a 64-bit ARM chip of Apple’s design.

    What is this guy going on about?! He thinks the world of technology is going to go BACKWARDS? Baloney.

    Hey Jason Perlow who writes for ZDNet! Your vacation is OVER! Get to work and write some REAL technology analysis please!

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