Apple has revealed the chip that will power its new 2019 iPhones: the A13 Bionic. And as you’d expect, the company is wasting no time in explaining that it’s the most powerful silicon ever to grace the inside of a smartphone — just as it has every year for the past three years. But if you care about battery life, you’ll want to pay attention.
“The A13 Bionic is the fastest CPU ever in a smartphone,” Apple said onstage, adding that it also has “the fastest GPU in a smartphone,” too. Initially, it only provided these vague, unlabeled graphs for comparison:
But later in the presentation, Apple dropped some bombshells — it says the A13 Bionic is also the most power efficient chip it’s ever made by up to 40 percent, helping provide up to four extra hours of battery life for the new iPhone 11 Pro and up to five hours for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. It has hundreds of voltage gates and thousands of clock gates that can shut off power to parts of the chip when it’s not using them.
That efficiency boost is despite fitting a record 8.5 billion transistors inside and upping performance by roughly 20 percent across the board — and Apple says the chip now has the most machine learning (ML) performance, too, with an eight-core neural engine that adds “6x faster matrix multiplication.” Overall, the chip’s capable of one trillion operations per second, according to Apple.
Apple says it’s using that machine learning in the iPhone 11’s cameras to help process their images, and says the chip’s speed allows it to shoot 4K video at 60 fps with HDR enabled.
Like its predecessors, the A12 Bionic and A11 Bionic, we’re talking about a chip with two “performance” CPU cores and four “efficiency” CPU cores. The A12 Bionic previously introduced a four-core GPU, up from three cores in the A11, and we’re still seeing four GPU cores here.
For comparison’s sake, how did Apple brag about those previous chips? Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane:
A12 Bionic (iPhone XS and XS Max, 2018)
The Apple-designed A12 Bionic, the smartest and most powerful chip in a smartphone, features the first 7-nanometer chip ever in a smartphone that delivers industry-leading performance in a more power-efficient design. A12 Bionic features a six-core fusion architecture with two performance cores that are up to 15 percent faster, four efficiency cores that are up to 50 percent more efficient, a four-core GPU that is up to 50 percent faster, powerful Apple-designed Image Signal Processor (ISP), video encoder and more. A fast storage controller can deliver iPhone storage up to 512GB. All of this unlocks new experiences for games, photography, video editing and graphics-intensive apps. Even with all this power, iPhone Xs offers 30 minutes longer than iPhone X, and iPhone Xs Max offers an hour and a half longer than iPhone X, between charges.
The next-generation Neural Engine is built for advanced machine learning in everything from photography to augmented reality. A new eight-core design allows it to complete up to 5 trillion operations per second compared to 600 billion in A11 Bionic. This enables new capabilities like faster plane detection for ARKit and new features that use real-time machine learning. For the first time the Neural Engine is open to Core ML, empowering developers to build apps that utilize this highly efficient machine learning engine. Core ML running on the A12 Bionic Neural Engine is up to nine times faster than on A11 Bionic, with as little as one-tenth the energy usage.
A11 Bionic (iPhone X and iPhone 8, 2017)
A11 Bionic, the most powerful and smartest chip ever in a smartphone, features a six-core CPU design with two performance cores that are 25 percent faster and four efficiency cores that are 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion, offering industry-leading performance and energy efficiency. A new, second-generation performance controller can harness all six cores simultaneously, delivering up to 70 percent greater performance for multi-threaded workloads, giving customers more power while lasting two hours longer than iPhone 7. A11 Bionic also integrates an Apple-designed GPU with a three-core design that delivers up to 30 percent faster graphics performance than the previous generation. All this power enables incredible new machine learning, AR apps and immersive 3D games.
The new A11 Bionic neural engine is a dual-core design and performs up to 600 billion operations per second for real-time processing. A11 Bionic neural engine is designed for specific machine learning algorithms and enables Face ID, Animoji and other features.
A10 Fusion (iPhone 7, 2016)
The new custom-designed Apple A10 Fusion chip features a new architecture that powers these innovations, making it the most powerful chip ever in a smartphone, while also getting more time between charges with the longest battery life ever in an iPhone. The A10 Fusion’s CPU now has four cores, seamlessly integrating two high-performance cores that run up to two times faster than iPhone 6, and two high-efficiency cores that are capable of running at just one-fifth the power of the high-performance cores. Graphics performance is also more powerful, running up to three times faster than iPhone 6 at as little as half the power, enabling a new level of gaming and professional apps.
Ask yourself: have previous new iPhones felt faster than their predecessors? Yes, but not by much, and that’s probably the same today. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t Apple’s fastest chip ever, and it’s great to see the company continuing to give us more processor headroom for computing tasks — particularly if it’s true that Apple’s future Macs will run on these ARM-based processors, too.
For now, we’ve only seen a brief demo of a 3D game, Pascal’s Wager, as proof that this new chip has some traditional horsepower. Here’s an earlier, non-phone trailer for that game: