iPhone 5’s custom ARM core could offer over 2X performance

After being out of town at IDF last week, I spent part of Saturday morning trying to get a fix on what I thought of the iPhone 5. The media coverage was largely disappointed in tone, which wasn’t a surprise since many details about the device had leaked beforehand, so Apple lost the shock value of past unveilings. Worse, however, was mainstream media coverage of the specs and such, since they literally offered no sense of key technical information.

What I mean is that listing "Yes" for 4G LTE support offers zero insight into what could be substantial hardware differences. One phone could support LTE with two hours of talk time and another with ten, but both would show up as "Yes." These giant tables of specs are virtually useless without better info and more context.

Such things were no idle concern for me, since I intend to upgrade from my iPhone 4 soon but was on the fence about the iPhone 5 (or, perhaps, the Lumia 920 or something).

Looking over the various specs tables out there told me something important: that we had very little meaningful information about the iPhone 5’s hardware, especially the new A6 SoC. Apple, though, claimed a 2X increase in both CPU and graphics performance over the iPhone 4S—and they have a very good track record in recent years of delivering on such claims. That’s a big deal, in my view, since it also means a ~2X increase over the iPad 3 in CPU performance, and that tablet seems very fast in daily use. This realization led me to seek out a hands-on video of the iPhone 5 in action, because I’m weird enough that I come at these things backward from everybody else, I guess. Anyhow, I soon found AnandTech’s hands-on video, which showcased absolutely silly fast speed from an iOS device, in my estimation.

At that point, I figured Apple had implemented the new ARM Cortex A15, as rumored in places. Turns out Anand was tracking this story and found out something unexpected: Apple built its own custom, ARM-compatible CPU core for the A6. Looks like they didn’t buy PA Semi for nothing. Then someone leaked some purported GeekBench results for the iPhone 5 that show it to be well over twice the speed of the 4S on average—and up to six times faster in certain tests, especially in memory-intensive workloads.

If those numbers turn out to be correct, it means a lot of things.

For one, it helps explain the how behind a pretty big generational leap, since the iPhone 5 is ~20% lighter, ~18% thinner, and ~2X faster than the 4S. That may not be innovation along the vectors you care about—I was hoping for a much larger display, for instance—but it’s undeniably solid progress along the fronts Apple has pursued for multiple generations. On those fronts, it takes Apple well beyond today’s competing phones, in terms of the size/weight/speed combination.

Also, it means Apple has arrived as a chip design company, and it raises all sorts of possibilities going forward, including Macs eventually making the transition to a different, higher-performance custom ARM core from Apple itself.

I’m sick as a dog and only following this story from a distance, but it seems to me the flock of "expert" media that have sprung up in the wake of the "post-PC era" have completely missed this story. I suppose reviewers would have gotten some clues eventually about the performance, once they used the phone for a while. Or, I dunno, perhaps folks have been trained by Apple’s "post-PC" hype to truly believe that speed no longer matters in a computing device. Clearly, Apple doesn’t buy its own rhetoric there. (Blame Apple, too, if you wish, for obscuring just about everything related to the A6 SoC.) Whatever the case, there are layers here that were previously unexposed, and they run contrary to the initial spin about the fundamentals of this product.

Comments closed
    • Diplomacy42
    • 7 years ago

    ~The First interesting article on any site about the iPhone 5~

    thank you.

    • Shinare
    • 7 years ago

    I like how the entire world’s media, from internet giants down to local TV morning shows have become free advertising for Apple, and you never see any other views on other devices… EVER. Watching my local news this morning which had a “news story” about how great the iPhone 5 was. Apple must be elated.

    • hoboGeek
    • 7 years ago

    My question is, since there is an ARM cpu in the new Iphone, can i install Android on it?
    Don’t get me wrong, I was just saying about a test run. For comparing purposes.
    That would be really interesting to see, from a purely scientific point of view.
    Probably less interesting for Apple fans, who always say their apps are better than ours…

      • ermo
      • 7 years ago

      This is going to come off as pretty naïve, and I suppose that to some extent it is, but as someone who has only ever owned a single Android-based phone (HTC Desire Z) and who has rooted it and ditched the stock ROM and uses CyanogenMod 7.x on a daily basis, I can’t help but wonder what, exactly, it is that I’m missing out on compared to e.g. the iPhone 5 and one of the good, modern Android phones?

      By all means, the new iPhone looks to be a well engineered piece of hardware with a good screen and nicely balanced and powerful-ish CPU/GPU combination. But why would anyone recommend it over an Android phone? What is the sell?

      In other words: Why do I [i<]need[/i<] one?

        • adisor19
        • 7 years ago

        If you even HAVE to ask the question, then you don’t need one. Stick with what you have.

        Adi

    • Silus
    • 7 years ago

    Ahh so this is why the idiot at SemiAccurate has so much traction in here…I mean, a leaked benchmark is now grounds to praise the A6 SoC, although we have no confirmation of the leaked benchmark, other parties confirming those leaked benchmarks with their own, or any info regarding the SoC itself….But hey, Apple “claims” so it must be true right ?

      • Beelzebubba9
      • 7 years ago

      The iPhone 5 will be shipping in the millions this week. You really going to bet against what appear to be completely reasonable benchmarks just because you hate Apple that much?

        • Silus
        • 7 years ago

        So what you’re saying is that we shouldn’t question this, because it “appears to be completely reasonable benchmarks” ?…
        Then my point is made! We don’t really need actual facts now…what we need is “someone” on the internet “claiming” something…Hell why don’t we take NVIDIA or AMD benchmarks as fact! No way those can be biased right ? Plus Apple “claims” 2X so it must be true right ?

        And you’re a pathetic Apple fanboy that when someone questions anything related with Apple, just flat out assumes that person “hates” Apple. It’s no secret I don’t like Apple’s practices (how can anyone?). Their products are ok, although in no way they justify their outrageous prices for the most part, but this has nothing to do with hate. It has to do with the simple fact that NONE OF THIS HAS BEEN VERIFIED! It’s just a so called “benchmark” on some site…

        As I said, no wonder the idiot at SA gets so much credit around here…All it takes for you to believe in anything is “some” guy/girl on the internet saying it is true…

          • Beelzebubba9
          • 7 years ago

          [quote=”Silus”<] And you're a pathetic Apple fanboy that when someone questions anything related with Apple, just flat out assumes that person "hates" Apple. [/quote<] I'm such a fanboy: [url<]http://vvcap.net/db/QJOwLzf0eK6P6GO7pTLQ.htp[/url<] If the Apple benchmarks end up being accurate, will you admit that you were wrong? HRM?

            • Silus
            • 7 years ago

            Why do I need to admit to anything, when all I’m saying is that these are UNCONFIRMED. I suggest you look up the meaning of “unconfirmed” to understand the implications. This is not rocket science…it’s a simple word that means there’s nothing to confirm it yet. It may be true, but it may also be a bunch of lies. Get it ? A company claiming its product is something without showing proof, doesn’t make it true. And even the proof given by the company needs to be checked by third parties to be CONFIRMED or DEBUNKED. This is why we have sites like TR, that reviews hardware and puts it to the test…And this isn’t even released by he company…it’s just some supposed benchmark of that company’s product, leaked by “someone”. Yeah, totally trust that source! Best source ever!…………….

            If it ends up being confirmed, awesome! Until then, it’s just a rumor and should be viewed as such.

            • Beelzebubba9
            • 7 years ago

            Yeah, that’s why I used the term ‘what [b<]appear[/b<] to be' in my OP. Anyway, the reckoning day is at hand: [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/6309/iphone-5a6-sunspider-performance[/url<]

    • glynor
    • 7 years ago

    Totally agree, Scott. Well, with everything except for your wish for a bigger display. But otherwise, spot on.

    I was also surprised I didn’t see more about the new display, which looks like it (again) will raise the bar in color accuracy in a mobile device display. Perhaps this stuff will all be said during the reviews, but… Meh.

    If I’m disappointed by anything, it is the coverage (except Anand), not the device.

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    How much more performance did they achieve by going custom vs. simply adopting the Cortex A15 cores?

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 7 years ago

      This is the real question.

      • Rza79
      • 7 years ago

      I’m sure they didn’t go for a custom design to beat A15 on performance (because I think that it will be slower than an A15) but for lower power consumption than A15 but higher performance than A9. If it can match the current revision of the Krait core on performance then I would say, a job well done.

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 7 years ago

        Sounds to me like a lot of work for a company that doesn’t even want recognition for designing its own CPU cores. Perhaps Apple can win this “battle” but what about the war?

          • Beelzebubba9
          • 7 years ago

          …remember that the iPhone generates more revenue and profit than Intel does, so Apple certainly has the cash to fight this war for a very long time.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    I’m happy that apple is pushing forward on the hardware front. Only wish their camera’s didn’t stink so much. Additionally their software design for mobile is as convoluted as the desktop ever was and could really benefit from a overhaul as android offers dramatically more functionality in the widgets alone, never mind the half dozen other design flaws with the OS.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]Only wish their camera's didn't stink so much.[/quote<] I thought the iPhone cams where second only to the best that Nokia offers. (N8, 920, 808) Anyway Apple has a huge disadvantage here: They feel that they need to offer one phone which does everything, and meets certain stylistic requirements, including being thin and having no protrusions.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 7 years ago

    Seeing that superchip in the iPhone 5 makes it all the crappier they cheaped out and put a crap chip in the new iPod Touch. Thin is so overrated. I’d rather have a device I won’t have to replace a year sooner.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      Battery life > thickness and weight at this point. Those are both well within tolerable ranges.

      Of course, better battery life means less frequent charging means less frequent upgrading. No wonder the companies with non-replacable batteries would rather promote thickness than battery life.

    • blitzy
    • 7 years ago

    My SGS1 is still doing the job fine for me, I can phone, txt, google, maps and set up reminders and other things.. don’t care about gaming on a phone, so don’t really get why people are caught up on phone performance so much. I can do pretty much anything on my phone without it being perceivably slow, network speed is really the only thing that slows me down

    it’s kind of sad that iphones can get so much attention when there are way more interesting things like occulus rift that hardly get any attention. I know incremental performance jumps are a important and expand the capabilities of phones in a broader sense, but it’s not something that remotely excites me.

    • Arag0n
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t agree with several sentences in your post.

    For once, your saying about LTE lasting 2h or 10h in talk time but both phones showing yes it have it. That kind of sentence implies that iPhone is the first phone that will have a proper battery life with LTE… Really? I can tell you, GS3 and Nokia Lumia 900 both offer plenty battery life and both use LTE. So no, do not try to spread the believe that apple is the first manufacturer to do LTE right.

    Second, you imply the nee A6 is A15 based and at the same time you point andatech. Funny, because they explain clearly that the new apple design is a custom A9 not A15 based.

    Third, you still use the iPhone 4S as a reference to say that iPhone 5 showed to be twice faster and it means it should be twice faster than iPad too. However, iPhone uses A5@800MHZ and iPad uses A5X@1.0Ghz. Just that little difference means iPad is 25% faster than iPhone 4S. 2/1.25 = 1.6. So iPhone 5 should be 60% faster than iPad 2/3.

    Forth, Samsung galaxy s2 used the same or almost equal SoC inside A5 with different GPU. SGS2 is clocked at 1.2Ghz, so it’s already 50% faster than iPhone 4s. Doing the math again, it means A6 should be only 33% faster.

    And last, can do we agree that S4 IPC improvements alone from exynoss make up that difference and then, you also have a 1.5Ghz base clock? So, any mobile using S4@1.5Ghz should be significally faster than A6. Even the quad core tegra 3 at 1.3Ghz is more than two times faster than last year A5. So, sorry, nothing new to see here. Is A6 faster than A5? Should be! But it’s not and it won’t be the fastest chip out here.

    • Da_Boss
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t think that Apple doesn’t believe in speed, they just don’t believe in numbers.

    Better yet, they only believe in numbers that help tell the story of the experience of the device.

    e.x. 4x resolution got sold as “it makes text eye-blisteringly crisp”

    Otherwise, the big stories here for me are:

    1) Without any real fanfare, the A6 suddenly became the fastest SoC you can buy in a phone, and Apple’s relative silence shows that they couldn’t care less. All you need to know, according to them, is that it’s twice as fast as the 4S. Perfe

    2) Apple is making chips now, and as a result, their phones have reached a whole new level of integration. Being able to design your own chips will certainly give them an advantage going forward, and I feel like history will look back on this as the first step towards more sophisticated idevices (or even Macs) with ARM CPUs at heart.

      • blastdoor
      • 7 years ago

      I really think you’ve nailed it here. Just to add a tiny little bit of nothing….

      Re: 1. We’re accustomed to seeing new CPUs introduced by companies that sell CPUs as their end product. Those companies have good reason to talk a lot about the details of the CPU because (duh) that’s their product.

      For Apple, the product is the phone. The only thing about the CPU that matters is that the phone runs faster, so that’s all apple says about it. Putting up block diagrams of the CPU cores would make as much sense for Apple as a diet soda company putting up slides showing the molecular composition of a new sweetner.

      Re: 2. While there will be plenty of opportunities for missteps and while the strategy is not a guaranteed success, you’re right — this has the potential to be a very big deal. One example why: Apple can keep its new CPU designs a secret right up until the point that they go on sale in an iDevice. Compare that with Intel (or any other CPU maker) who has to spill a lot of the beans on its designs well in advance as part of the process of marketing their CPUs to OEM customers and to inform OS writers. Apple is its own customer, so no need to spill those beans. And when you combine designing your own CPUs with Apple’s massive pile of cash… well, it’s a big deal.

        • ronch
        • 7 years ago

        I also wanna add a tiny little bit of nothing to your post….

        Remember, Apple’s customers are a certain kind of folks who [u<]do not[/u<] care about those ARM processors or SoCs or what not. They probably don't even know what ARM is! And they certainly wouldn't care about what the graphics component of the SoCs are called (PowerVR, Mali, they just don't care). They probably don't even care whether Apple combined CDMA and LTE circuitry into just one chip. All they care about are how the iPhone 5 looks and feels, what apps are in there, an improved Siri maybe, how large/nice the screen is, and whether it has Wifi or LTE or some other communication protocol. That's about it. If Apple was selling to the Linux crowd or PC enthusiasts, yeah, maybe they should spill some beans out about its SoC, but doing that would probably ruin the iPhone's 'magic'.

      • Silus
      • 7 years ago

      No, Apple is not “making” chips. They designed A6, the same way they designed A5X or A5 and all the others before these.
      Qualcomm also has its own custom designed SoCs (ARM instruction set, but not the same as A9 or A15) for a while now, much sooner than Apple.

      As for their silence, what you consider to be a good thing, I consider a bad thing. We know nothing about the chip. Yeah, it might be fast, maybe even the fastest at this point in time (not for long though), but by not knowing anything about it just questions what it actually can do (or not do) when compared to other less “fast” but feature packed SoCs. Once more the “walled garden” hurts consumers, at least those that care about features and specifications and not just how “good” a phone looks, which basically represents 90% of the iPhone fans.

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]They designed A6, the same way they designed A5X or A5 and all the others before these.[/quote<] The important claim here is that they have for the first time designed their own CPU core.

        • Beelzebubba9
        • 7 years ago

        Apple licensed the Cortex A9 cores in the A5 and A5X; the A6 is a ground up custom design along the lines of Krait or nVidia’s Project Denver. There’s a massive engineering gulf between designing a core in-house and licensing someone else’s design as Apple had done previously (and every other SoC manufacturer that isn’t Qualcomm does in the smartphone space).

        And Apple’s silence about the technical details of the A6 doesn’t hurt consumers. As long as developers have to tools to write fast, efficient code (and if the benchmarks/subjective speed of the A6 is real, this will not be an issue), how the CPU goes about its business on the backend is irrelevant to 99% of the buying public. The remaining 1% will be made up of the curious (me) and Android/WP fanboys trying to substantiate their own personal worth by smartphone proxy. The former won’t likely have their buying decisions swayed by a clever CPU architecture, and the latter were never going to be customers anyway.

    • flip-mode
    • 7 years ago

    Is iPhone 5 more powerful than a Citrix thin client at this point? When are we going to start seeing phone-sized small form factor HTPCs, desktops, and thin clients?

    I gotta say, the smart phone race has become a boring spectacle, although still not as boring as most of what happens in the PC sphere. It’s nice to see faster CPUs. It’s fantastic to see better quality cameras. Panoramas? Sure, that’s cool. But also kinda “whatev”.

    I want a smart phone that plugs into a dock connected to dual monitors, a keyboard, and a mouse. I want to be able to do basic office tasks on the thing. I’m actually confident that’ll happen, but until it does, I’m Krogoth not impressed.

      • UberGerbil
      • 7 years ago

      We’ve been headed in that direction for a while, and that’s obviously why Apple is so keen on Thunderbolt. It’s a bit of a nightmare for some IT departments, since the fleet management tools aren’t as mature on the PC side (this is one area where Windows legacy stuff might actually have some traction, if Intel can ever get x86 into a real phone). And there’s all sorts of issues with regard to inter-leakage of personal and private data, since most people will resist having separate “life” and “work” phones, but that’s been going on with company laptops for a long time now. Though it’s not quite as easy to lose a laptop.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]I want a smart phone that plugs into a dock connected to dual monitors, a keyboard, and a mouse.[/quote<] I'm not sure I care about this. At that point you've already dedicated a good amount of space to a computer, why not have the tower with full desktop performance too? I'd rather just have better ways of accessing storage and transferring information between my desktop and phone.

        • internetsandman
        • 7 years ago

        It depends on your need. People who dont play games or transcode video or anything would probably be better off with a phone that can give desktop class web browsing, email, and video playback. I think within the next couple generations, Apple might have a product akin to their Thunderbolt display for MacBooks, in which a single connector runs from the phone to the monitor, and from there branches out to USB, audio, and perhaps even Ethernet support. The phone to dock with it could probably have hardware very similar to phones and tablets available today, maybe a bit better, and for those who don’t game heavily or transcode video, it would be an amazing solution

        Personally, if such a product were available, I would seriously consider selling my laptop and maybe my desktop, and replace it with this solution. Incredibly convenient and portable outside, massive display and connectivity inside

      • blastdoor
      • 7 years ago

      I’m not sure that the scenario you describe is actually so appealing or necessary. If a $25 smartphone SOC has the power to perform the functions of a basic PC (and if the A6 doesn’t, it sure is close), then why not just add $25 to the cost of a monitor and there’s your PC? No need to plug your smartphone in at all — all relevant data can be streamed wirelessly.

      • ronch
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]I'm Krogoth not impressed.[/quote<] I KNEW you were Krogoth under a different name! Just kidding. Seriously though, I wonder how many folks here at TR use more than one username ...

    • grantmeaname
    • 7 years ago

    This level of thought is why I read this site. It’s difficult to find this depth elsewhere.

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      Um… how about Anandtech? Most of the info here came from Anandtech

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        Anandtech tends to be the best site for phone stuff because they put their PC methodology into a huge variety of phones. TR doesn’t, probably due to a lack of man-hours.

          • NeelyCam
          • 7 years ago

          Yep.

          Overall, I regularly visit only three tech sites: Anandtech (early reviews, technical excellence), TR (technical excellence, THE SHORTBREAD!!), and SemiAccurate (rare rumors, trolling)

            • Wirko
            • 7 years ago

            Visited SemiAccurate after a really long time … then The Inquirer.net … hey, what happened while I wasn’t looking? Both used to be first class trolling sites, and both are unrecognizable now, they have become so serious that it’s just unbearable.

            [url=http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1597046/sap-pull-socks<]Then[/url<] vs. [url=http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2203105/oracle-grits-its-teeth-promises-to-support-itanium<]now[/url<]

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            I haven’t checked out The Inquirer for a long time..

            S|A forums are supremely anti-troll, with grandma wielding weapons and using them on anyone saying bad things about AMD. But article comment sections are free-for-all

            • brucethemoose
            • 7 years ago

            I go all over for reviews, but ya, I visit TR most of the time (+1 for shortbread), stop by anand every once in awhile, and keep up with S|A for leaks and rumors (and for drashek’s profound wisdom)

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            I think I’ve seen Drashek here at TR once or twice. But yeah – his posts are pure gold

            • brucethemoose
            • 7 years ago

            We should adopt him (/her/it?) here at TR.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      Always… I used to visit Toms, then Anand, and finally settled here… Haven’t really looked at other sites since, unless TR isn’t covering it and I NEED to know.

        • blastdoor
        • 7 years ago

        Man, I haven’t looked at Toms in years. They really rocked the world with their exposure of the weaknesses of RDRAM relative to plain old PC100 RAM when paired with a P3. Those were exciting times!

        These days the only PC techie sites I look at are Anand and here. (I used to go to Ars Technica, but I hate their latest design, and they are so scattered… I feel like they’ve lost their editorial “voice”).

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          Yeah, Ars is a schizophrenic mess without rhyme or reason. It really is painful visiting their site. It reminds me of a tag area only in full screen form.

            • Wirko
            • 7 years ago

            It’s sad to remember what a brilliant site Ars was … often I just didn’t dare to go there because I knew I wouldn’t leave for many hours.

      • Wirko
      • 7 years ago

      Don’t forget Real World Tech if you’re looking for depth … David Kanter’s detailed coverage of all aspects of chip design and manufacturing, from physics to lawsuits, is fascinating. I’m hoping to see a long article on Apple’s custom SoC designs there soon.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    It’s humorous that when Apple is behind in specs or benchmarks Apple fans defend it, but when it’s ahead in specs or benchmarks that aspect is praised. It’s like Scott wrote “Apple doesn’t buy its own rhetoric there”

    In light of this, I have coined a new acronym for RDF: Reality Doublestandard Field.

      • Beelzebubba9
      • 7 years ago

      Oh, you mean just like fanboys of all stripes do?

      Do you want me to start quoting posts from the iPhone 5 thread from last week in which many here warble on about how the Lumia 920 or whatever Android fanboys love these days will crush the puny iPhone 5 in benchmarks because of Krait and benchmarks are awesome and important? Bet we won’t see many of those posters following up with a mea culpa in this thread….

      Or can we just agree that this type of behavior isn’t specific to the devotees of any one product and agree that the A6, if those numbers are true, is an engineering achievement and we now have a 3rd horse in the ARM CPU race.

        • bcronce
        • 7 years ago

        “Oh, you mean just like fanboys of all stripes do?”

        Yes, everything things seems to have a fanboy, but Apple products seem to have the most and the loudest and the least educated in related topics of technology.

          • Beelzebubba9
          • 7 years ago

          Depends on which corners of the internet you frequent – most of the tech sites I read have distinctly anti-Apple readerships, and sometimes to a pretty absurd degree.

            • deathBOB
            • 7 years ago

            Many people on this site suffer from Apple derangement syndrome.

            • Beelzebubba9
            • 7 years ago

            Like?

          • Chandalen
          • 7 years ago

          I dunno CoD and Halo fanbois might have issues with this statement.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_distortion_field[/url<] For people that don't get the joke.

      • brucethemoose
      • 7 years ago

      Actually, some of fanboys I’ve seen on forums/talked to seem disappointed that the new iPhone isn’t a quad core.

      For once, their own ignorance is working against their devotion.

      • Decelerate
      • 7 years ago

      Apple fans are Apple fans, and Android fans are Android fans. idem for Microsoft fans. Overall though, there [i<]are[/i<] nerds present at Apple. Not just marketing.

    • UberGerbil
    • 7 years ago

    My impression is that the “Post-PC” media experts, as trained by Apple, don’t so much think that speed doesn’t matter, as they think “that gobbly-gook alphanumeric gigahoozits terminology doesn’t matter: it’s either fast, or it isn’t.” Apple has been simplifying, or dumbing-down, that sort of thing pretty much forever, whether you go back to iPod capacity measured in number of songs or all the way back to color depths of 8bit/16bit/24bit reported as hundreds/thousands/millions of colors. To a great extent, of course, that’s actually how the non-technical public thinks about these things, when they think about it at all — is it fast, or isn’t it? How many songs does it hold? — and that’s only increased as we’ve transitioned from serious computers on office desks to social computers in everyone’s pockets. The computer market, in its broadest sense, now encompasses a lot more people than the segment TR caters to.

    The trouble is, we didn’t go away — even if we’re now a tiny drop in the sea — and we still care about the details. And at some level, the broader public does too, since they rely on the presumed experts to pay attention to those details and cry foul when something doesn’t add up. Every company is tempted to fudge things when some aspect of their product isn’t quite as magical as they would have liked, and the only counter to that is eternal vigilance. So while Apple understandably is going to handwave the details in its public marketing, that doesn’t mean the supposed experts shouldn’t demand those details, test the reality against the claims, and report the results. That’s something TR has always done well, but unfortunately it’s a discipline that hasn’t yet permeated the smartphone world. Even more unfortunately, the closed nature of the hardware and ecosystem of phones makes it very difficult, even as that very closed-ness makes it all the more vital.

      • UberGerbil
      • 7 years ago

      And to expand on something I meant to mention above: we need [i<]objective[/i<] tests, not just "is it fast or isn't it"? Because "fast" is a subjective measure: fast enough for me may not be fast enough for you. We have different needs and expectations, so we're not necessarily going to agree on a common definition of something like "fast." We can, however, agree on the numbers that benchmarks give us. We may quibble with the choice of benchmarks, or their quality, but at least we have a common ground for the conversation. It's easy to be fooled by subjective impressions at the application level (much easier than you think, no matter how expert of an observer you think you might be). And that's all the more the case when the developers themselves are trying to fool you (this isn't necessarily a bad thing: adding progress bars and other illusions of activity gives the viewer a sense that progress is being made, even though they somewhat slow down overall throughput, and objective testing repeatedly shows that users think the resulting app is faster than the same one with those busy-work indicators removed). Not all apps are equal, and neither are all user requirements, so you need to be able to quantify [i<]fast[/i<], more precisely and extensively than just a handwave of "2X."

        • NeelyCam
        • 7 years ago

        People are questioning Apple?

        Forget post-PC.. we have entered the Post-Jobs Era.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 7 years ago

          People have always questioned Apple, but it does finally seem that Apple users are REALLY questioning Apple.

          The tagline for the 3GS was actually the same as what they’re using for the 5 – the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone. Can you keep saying that? Is this really a bigger leap than the 3GS was? I dunno, maybe. Having used a 2nd-generation iPod Touch and then a 3rd generation iPod Touch, the difference in speed and responsiveness is pretty astounding. In part because iOS 4 was so awful.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        As usual excellent posts Uber.

        I’ve been so spoiled by TR, I’m always shocked how bad other sectors are at measuring and testing company claims. Smart phones reviews a desert of subjective opinions, parroting company lines, and claiming rumors for truth.

    • Meadows
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]"Such things were no idle concern for me, since I intend to upgrade from my iPhone 4 soon but was on the fence about the iPhone 5 (or, perhaps, the Lumia 920 or something)."[/quote<] Admit it, you just put in the part in parentheses to appease sweatshopking.

      • Beelzebubba9
      • 7 years ago

      …actually I’m in the exact same iPhone 5 vs. Lumia 920 boat.

      I’ve had iPhones since the first launched, so I’m itching for a change. I really like the iPhone 5’s hardware, but iOS is starting to feel old and I’m hoping Nokia can make a compelling case for the 920.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      I am THE KING!!!!

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        It’s good to be the king.

          • superjawes
          • 7 years ago

          Hail to the king, baby.

          • ronch
          • 7 years ago

          Especially if you’re the sweatshopking!

    • sweatshopking
    • 7 years ago

    yep. it does look quicker.

    but I still think the 920 looks nicer. SUERPRISEDED?

      • Decelerate
      • 7 years ago

      The 920 sure is impressive, specs-wise. If Nokia dies, it will do so [b<]fighting[/b<]. Unlike HP and WebOS...

    • jstern
    • 7 years ago

    I can’t wait to some point in the future where there would be enough with iPhone talk from everywhere. It’s just a phone, like so many others.

    • BIF
    • 7 years ago

    My philosophy on this one is to take my time on this decision. There are LOTS of great smartphones out there, and even with my 2+ year old Droid X, I still have a great device.

    That means that I won’t be buying any phone on Friday, i or otherwise. Might just be worthwhile to wait a month or more if only to see what Anand and others have to say after spending some time with the devices.

    And even aftar all that, I might still make a decision and later change my mind. So what, the only downside is time and money. What a wonderful era during which to be alive! 😀

      • oldog
      • 7 years ago

      I think your experience is prescient. Eventually, most smartphone owners will believe that their current device is “good enough”. This is what happened to the desktop.

      When the TelCos start extracting a greater premium for the newer devices then the upgrade cycle will probably slow considerably.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        Yes and no. It then becomes two other things outside of performance:

        1.) Durability – if your phone is semi-fragile or doesn’t hold up well cosmetically, enough people will continue to jump on new models every year or two

        2.) software. If a device manufacturer refuses to support old hardware (which is already the case – how many pre-2011 models have upgrades to even ICS, let alone Jelly Bean?) That, IMO, is why Apple is still supporting the 3GS – it’s another distinguishing factor between them and the Open Handset Alliance (and even between them and MS – no WP7 device is eligible for a WP8 upgrade).

          • NeelyCam
          • 7 years ago

          On durability: removable/replaceable batteries have gone away to promote planned obsolescence. When your battery life starts to suck, you’ll pretty much buy a new phone, regardless of how good the old one is otherwise

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            Yet it is in later designs that Apple included use-replaceable batteries. Two screws and slide off the back cover. Older iPhones are certainly guilty of that, though, and I’m sure there are other phones on other platforms that are just as bad.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          Apple is (I’d say was now) still supporting the 3GS because they still sold it until the iPhone 5 came out. Of course, the iOS 6 experience on a 3-year model is not going to be great and certain things just won’t work, kind of like how older versions of Android aren’t as good. I am willing to bet that going forward the 3GS will see no meaningful OS updates.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            It’s honestly not terrible, which is about as nice a thing as you can say about a relatively low-res phone with a 600MHz A8 and 256MB of RAM. You can update to the iOS 6 GM already using a manual process in iTunes, and I did so for my wife’s iPhone 3GS (yes she has an iPhone and no she hasn’t bludgeoned me with it yet). And it’s no worse than iOS 5, which isn’t bad until you try to multitask too much. I think it’s a little too aggressive about trying to keep stuff in memory. In particular Scramble with Friends (Which is a hog on my Android phone).

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