The iPhone 6 Will “Only” Have 1GB of RAM Because…

August 19th, 2014

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 note-books, 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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5 Responses to “The iPhone 6 Will “Only” Have 1GB of RAM Because…”

  1. Constable Odo says:

    Don’t forget Apple’s lack of a Micro-SD slot which Android users must have to boost their storage far beyond any iPhone in existence. No iPhone has IP67 certification either. The iPhone can easily be said to be lacking in features that most flagship Android smartphones have. Lack of smartphone features is another flaw Wall Street has found to devalue Apple. The thing is, Apple has to compete with dozens of companies all doing their own thing when it comes to Android smartphones. New Android smartphones are coming out every week or so and many of them have limited production runs so they don’t require tens of millions of components. If there’s something wrong with an Android smartphone it’s just quietly put to rest and a new model goes in its place. The iPhone is completely different. If even the tiniest flaw is found, every blog on the internet has something to say about how Apple is failing since Steve Jobs died or some other similar crap. In order for the iPhone to have every feature that all Android smartphones have would probably require a larger smartphone with more weight and even greater cost. Yeah, so the iPhone may only have 1GB of RAM again and the cries of anguish and derision will again be heard because some Android flagship smartphones have 3GB and soon 4GB of RAM. Apple can’t possibly win any spec race.

  2. David says:

    I would posit that the main “problem” with having 1GB of RAM is multitasking. Apps are quietly shut down in the background and browser tabs are closed when iOS runs out of memory. As Apple adds more features to iOS, more apps gain background abilities and iOS 8 extensions become the norm it will happen more frequently and more users will notice it. That’s not something Apple wants huge numbers of iPhone users to notice. For that reason I suspect the A8 will have a bit more RAM than the A7. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s only a small increase like 256 or 512MB because a 25% or 50% increase in RAM should be plenty.

  3. Peter says:

    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?

    I’m not sure that word means what you think it means.

    As a practical matter, there are probably hundreds of thousands–perhaps millions–of NFC terminals out there for payments. Heck, they have terminals on busses and trains (TAP cards here in LA), in stores, gas stations, etc. These terminals are in place and working and providing benefits for many.

    Yes, it might be better to use Bluetooth LE in that you don’t need to add another radio to do similar things. But Bluetooth LE doesn’t do anything better than NFC. So there isn’t really a good reason for a shopkeeper to get rid of the NFC terminals that they have already bought.

    So as a practical matter, it’s probably better for Apple to go with the flow rather than fighting the current.

    • @Peter, As a practical matter, do all those terminals use the same standard? Remember, too, that those terminals are still not widely dispersed, although they might be popular in LA.

      Here, in the Phoenix metro area, I’ve yet to see any signs indicating the presence of an NFC terminal anywhere I’ve visited in recent months. Maybe they keep it under the radar?


  4. SteveS says:

    Speculating on future Apple products is pretty stupid. It’s a waste of time. It’s also rather sad how much credibility is given to such rumors. Much as been said about the iPhone 6. I’m sure some of it may end up being true. I’m also sure most people writing about such rumors don’t even understand the “evidence” they have before them. Given the RAM rumor, it’s funny how people are assuming this is the SoC ram as opposed to the type of NAND storage being used. Sorry, but I don’t trust the ability of these people to understand the purpose of a schematic diagram, even if it is from a legitimate source. Let’s all just take a deep breath and wait for the actual product to be announced. We’ll know the details soon enough and I doubt we’ll be disappointed.

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