Apple has unveiled its latest chip for the new batch of iPhones: the A12 Bionic. The company says it’s the industry’s first ever 7nm chip and Phil Schiller, on stage in Cupertino, introduced it as the “the smartest, most powerful chip ever in a smartphone.”
He’s probably right. It has a six-core CPU (with two “performance” cores and four “efficiency” cores), a four-core GPU (which is up to 50 percent faster than the A11’s), and an updated Neural Engine, a special part of the chip designed to handle AI tasks.
While last year’s chip had a two-core Neural Engine, the A12 Bionic bumps that up to eight cores. And while the old Neural Engine could crunch through 600 billion operations per second, the new version can handle 5 trillion operations per second. It’s worth noting though, that while Apple says this is the industry’s first 7nm chip, Huawei unveiled the 7nm Kirin 980 last month, although that won’t ship until October.
The A12 Bionic was announced with a lot of big, meaningless numbers, but the end result should be the same as ever: faster apps. But as our own Nilay Patel pointed out in our live blog: “I love faster, but just a year ago we were being told the iPhone X was so fast that it would destroy our minds, so it’s not like we’re missing much in that department right now.”
More tangible, though, will be the new functionality enabled by this sort of processing muscle. Particularly apps which use the company’s machine learning framework, Core ML, which the new A12 Bionic runs nine times faster than last year’s chips. On stage, Apple showed off a new app named Homecourt, which you can set up to watch you play basketball while it records the number of shots and passes you make and miss. This sort of real-time analysis isn’t possible without a chip with meaty AI processing.
And not to be left from the party, the newly-announced Apple Watch Series 4 is also getting updated innards: an updated fourth-generation SIP (silicon in package) chip. This contains a 64-bit dual-core processor that delivers up to two times faster performance than older models. And it has an upgraded accelerometer and gyroscope that samples motion data up to eight times faster, allowing the watch to detect when the wearer falls.