Why Apple won’t add a third core to their A10 chip next year

“In a recent research note from Cowen’s Timothy Arcuri (via Barron’s), the analyst says Apple is ‘brewing evidence of three cores for [the Apple] A10’ processor that will power next year’s iPhone 7,” Ashraf Eassa writes for The Motley Fool. “He notes that such a move, which would mean an increased die size, would lead to increased demand for wafers and ultimately for semiconductor equipment vendors next year.”

“Although I concur with Arcuri that the A10 will almost certainly see die-size growth relative to this year’s A9 (and the A10X may see growth relative to the A9X), I don’t think Apple will add an additional CPU core,” Eassa writes. “Many, if not most, mobile applications don’t really know what to do with more than one or maybe two CPU cores, but every application can benefit from a core that can process a single application thread at a faster clip.”

“What’s interesting is that even though last year’s A8X chip found inside the iPad Air 2 employed a triple-core CPU design, the A9X chip found inside of the iPad Pro this year goes back to a dual-core design. Each core in the A9X is much faster than the cores found in the A8X, so much so that the A9X actually delivers better multicore performance than the A8X,” Eassa writes. “In light of the fact that Apple chose to use two higher-speed versions of the cores found in the A9 for the A9X — which goes into a very large tablet that can handle much more heat from the chip than the thin and small iPhones can — why would Apple suddenly add a third core to the iPhone 7-bound A10?”

Much more in the full article here.

Analyst: Apple’s iPad Pro and its powerful A9X CPU pose threat to Intel – November 12, 2015
Should Intel and its investors fear Apple’s high-performance A9X chip? – November 5, 2015


  1. Apple will have to add the third core to A10X (iPad version) next year, if they will not be able to utilise better manufacturing norms.

    They have already raised frequency to 2.3 GHz, they will not be able to move much higher than that with today’s manufacturing technology.

    So the only way to significantly increase performance of A10X over A9X will be adding third core as in case of A8X.

    A10 (iPhone version) will hardly get third core, so unless there will be manufacturing process chance, performance growth will be relatively modest next year (not that it is lagging now, though).

  2. I agree with author that most Apps will not know what to do with multiple cores. However having one core dedicated to perform background tasks like up/download, music playing, and the like while allowing 2 cores to perform foreground multitasking would I think contribute to a smooth and stable UX going forward.

    1. True, but also would eat batteries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

      I think Apple will stick to whatever gives the best performance per watt hour. There are speed techies who want performance over everything, and there are mobile techies who want battery life over everything. Then there are normal folks who want speed with good battery life – a good balance. This last group is who Apple makes their devices for.

      1. Wonder if they could put cores in ‘standby’ mode when multitasking is not required to save battery power. In my Galaxy S2 one of the power options is to reduce CPU clock speed. Perhaps something similar could be a setting in iPhones for those that want longer battery life over performance. Location services seem to take the bulk of my standby power use to the point if I turn it off I can go almost 3 days (67hrs) on a single charge with light use. (check time, make 1-2 4min calls/day, update calendar, and send/receive a couple texts/day)

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