Although there are few complaints about the performance of current iPhones, we are nonetheless obsessed with the specs. So with the iPhone 5s, benchmarks indicated that it had a dual-core A7 processor with an estimated clock speed of 1.29 GHz and 1 GB of RAM. Although those numbers seem lacking when compared to some of those high-end Android smartphones, the iPhone still came out ahead in a number of published benchmarks.
This recalls something Apple said back in the days of the PowerPC, that raw specs alone do not necessarily predict how well the product will fare in performance benchmarks. Of course, that came at a time where the clock speed of the PowerPC was far lower than those of the Intel chips used in PCs.
Nonetheless, since the competition continues to make a huge deal of specs, the speculation has grown over how the iPhone 6 will fare with the rumored A8 processor. Remember that we're talking about an unreleased product, which means no official specs have been released. Besides, Apple seldom reveals such fineries; that information is determined by independent testers, such as AnandTech, or a benchmarking app.
So what about that A8? Just what will it offer that's new and different? Well, this is the sort of information that usually doesn't appear in the rumor sites, although there is certainly plenty of guessing. This time, for example, some of the chatter suggests that the A8 will clock in at 2 GHz on an iPhone, which may seem comparable with a desktop processor, although there are clearly other factors involved in determining actual performance. RAM? Well, a story this week pegs it at 1 GB, same as the A7.
Once again, let me caution you that I have no inside information about the A8 processor, and how it will be configured for the iPhone 6 or the next generation iPad. The stories suggest Apple is sticking with 1 GB to save battery life, although I wonder whether doubling the RAM to 2 GB would have a noticeable impact, particularly if Apple is using a heftier battery. Bear in mind that the rumored larger displays will use far more current than some extra RAM.
One thing is sure, however, and that is that the next iPhone must be able to do more things faster than the current model. Both iOS 8 and apps that support the new OS will make bigger demands on resources, so it would make sense for Apple not to starve the system. That is not the sort of compromise anyone would accept.
At the end of the day, the final specs of the next iPhone will be determined at the first teardown, and benchmarks will be run the very first day units get into the hands of customers. Certainly performance will be better, and perhaps better than the competition.
Whether or not the A8 comes with 1 GB of RAM or more may be a discussion some will want to have in order to see how the iPhone 6 fares against the competition. There are already comparisons based on rumored specs, in fact.
There are also ongoing bullet lists explaining why Android gear is somehow better than an iPhone. You see the usual offenders, such as NFC and the lack of a removable battery. Individual features that Android includes but aren't available, at least not yet, in the iOS will also be listed.
As a practical matter, though, the NFC matter is debatable. Is that the very best way for mobile devices to connect to each other and payment systems, or does Bluetooth LE get the job done? Yes, there are rumors of NFC support on the next iPhone, but Apple would have to have a long-range gameplan to embrace this feature. They don't just add extra chips and support circuity to look good on a spec sheet.
The inability to quickly replace a battery, dating back to the very first iPod, is a more substantial argument. It has made for a decent business for third party companies with accessory mobile chargers and add-on battery packs. While the longevity of an iPhone's battery is competitive, there are some Android smartphones with heftier batteries, and thus you wonder where Apple is going to take this.
Certainly, the wish for a removable battery will never be fulfilled. Apple has even taken the essentially non-removable approach with Mac notebooks, because the device can be slimmer and lighter without the added bulk of some sort of mechanism for easy removal.
The rumors for the iPhone 6, the smaller and larger versions, speak of larger batteries, with some photos purporting to represent what Apple will use. Of course larger displays will consume more power, and that would, in part, explain the need for batteries with greater capacity. But some of that might conceivably allow the new iPhone to run longer between charges.
I suppose it's possible that Apple might have some significant announcements to make about battery life, since that remains one of the major criticisms of most mobile gear. Perhaps the combination of a larger battery, greater power efficiencies in the A8 and iOS 8, plus some new battery technologies might deliver credible results. Apple is already offering you all-day battery life on a MacBook Air. What about two days for an iPhone and an iPad?
It would be nice, but it's not something you should depend on.
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