During today's iPhone keynote, Apple announced the new A7 chip, featuring supercharged graphics powers and a new motion-sensing "M7" chip that enables all of iOS 7's powerful new features. Let's take a look under the glass at the speedy monster that makes the magic happen—and will open the door to all sorts of new apps in the future.
The new A7 is Apple's first 64-bit system-on-chip, which as the company quickly clarified, means that apps in iOS 7 will also be 64-bit. The chip features graphics that are 56-times faster than those on the original iPhone. It also enables CPU performance up to 40-times faster than the original iPhone, and twice as fast as the iPhone 5's A6. How far we've come!
Also, here's a bonus, impressive-sounding stat: the chip features over 1 billion transistors, which are about the same size as those on the A6.
M7: Letting your iPhone stay rested
Working alongside the A7, the M7 is what Apple calls a "motion co-processor." Essentially, its job is just to deal with data coming from sensors without actually activating the full power of the A7—saving tons of battery life. This makes a whole bunch of new fitness tracking capabilities possible, because the iPhone 5S can collect data without having to be ON on.
The M7 also comes with its own API, meaning that developers will be able to leverage all that new half-asleep power in whatever ways they see fit. Nike+ Move, for instance, uses the M7 and GPS to track your activities throughout the day.
In the end, the M7 will give the iPhone 5S constant access to much more sensor data, while still delivering battery life on par with the 5. According to Apple, that's ten hours of 3G talk, ten hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 40 hours of music, and 250 hours of standby.
Apple's chip future
The A7 is the smartphone world's first 64-bit chip, and follows directly from Apple's commitment to branching off the path of stock designs for its processors. The A6 was the first major departure from the mainstream, featuring a unique, three-core GPU configuration, and custom-tuned ARM architecture, which allowed Apple to keep its hardware size compact while still getting great performance. Even if we don't know exactly what's inside just yet, we would expect that Apple has continued developing its ARM-based designs, and that in the future Apple silicon might not bear any resemblance to the reference designs Apple started with in the beginning.
The A6 chipset runs on dual ARM-based CPU-cores clocked at 1.3 GHz, triple PowerVR GPU cores, and 1GB of RAM. The larger A6X chip was introduced when the fourth-generation iPad was announced last October. It packed a more robust quad-core GPU than the smaller A6.
Of course, none of this geekery means anything unless the A7 actually makes the phone better. We'll see if the new chipset really blazes when the new iPhone hits stores soon.