LONDON – The A6 processor inside Apple's iPhone 5 mobile phone is a dual-core Cortex-A15 manufactured for Apple by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. in its 32-nm HKMG manufacturing process, according to analysts at Nomura Equity Research.
This would mean Apple is one of the first companies to introduce a Cortex-A15-based processor. Cortex-A15 is the highest performance processor core from intellectual property licensor ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England).
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Samsung said it had started sampling the industry's first dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor late in 2011, the Exynos 5250, made with its 32-nm HKMG process and intended for volume shipment in summer 2012. The Exynos 5250 includes Mali graphics, and is intended for use in high-end tablet computers. Its 2-GHz clock frequency is claimed to double the performance of the previous 1.5-GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 based Exynos.
Apple provided few details when it launched the iPhone 5 on Wednesday (Sept. 12) about the smartphone's application processor and graphics capability. The company did say the A6 processor provided twice the CPU performance and twice the graphics performance of the A5x used in the iPhone 4S.
Nomura provided no source for its report nor a clock frequency for the processor. Typically, mobile phone application processors run with clock signals of up to 1.5 GHz. However, designing in the Cortex-A15 could help explain how Apple has achieved performance equivalentto the iPhone 4S
Apple is expected to retain graphics IP licensor Imagination Technologies Group for the graphics rendering portion of the chip. The Apple A5 processor is reported to use the dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2, so the A6 could use the quad-core version, the PowerVR SGX543MP4.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) was reportedly working on a version of the A6 processor for Apple in 2011. It was rumored then to be a quad-core design for implementation in 28-nm manufacturing process and was expected to debut in the third-generation iPad.
If Samsung is the sole supplier of the A6 processor – as indicated by Nomura analysts – this squares with recent predictions that TSMC is working on pulling in its 20-nm process and working to supply Apple in the second-half of 2013 using that process.
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