iPhone 5 A6 chip made by Samsung, ARM cores ‘were laid out manually – as in, by hand,’ iFixit confirms

by: Chris SmithSeptember 25, 2012

Since the competition’s flagship smartphone for the following year or so was launched officially in several markets a few days ago, we took it for a ride, literally, and compared it against the most important Android handsets out there, and particularly against the Galaxy S3.

We measured their build quality by arranging a close encounter between each device and some hard concrete in Hong Kong, but we also looked at various other comparisons done by others, including an iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S3 benchmarking comparison and an iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S3 display battle.

The benchmark tests performed by various sites revealed that the iPhone 5 has a powerful A6 processor, and that in various of those tests the device was actually able to beat the Galaxy S3, itself a very powerful device.

And that’s why we’re definitely interested to know more about the custom A6 chip inside the iPhone 5, that lets the new device perform so well in tests. The guys over at iFixit and Chipworks have performed an A6 chip teardown and were able to prove some of the things that were already rumored about the A6.

The chip is a custom Apple creation based on the ARMv7s instruction set, but one that was mass-produced by Samsung on its 32nm CMOS process. But maybe the most interesting finding of this chip teardown is the fact that the ARM core blocks “were laid out manually-as in, by hand:”

When compared to the rigid, efficient layout of the GPU cores directly below it, the layout of the ARM cores looks a little homespun—at first.

Generally, logic blocks are automagically laid out with the use of advanced computer software. However, it looks like the ARM core blocks were laid out manually—as in, by hand.

A manual layout will usually result in faster processing speeds, but it is much more expensive and time consuming.

The manual layout of the ARM processors lends much credence to the rumor that Apple designed a custom processor of the same caliber as the all-new Cortex-A15, and it just might be the only manual layout in a chip to hit the market in several years.

Speaking of internal components, the teardown notes that the A6’s 1GB LP DDR2 SDRAM provided by Elpida is also found in the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx.

In addition to the manual layout of the A6, the other takeaway of this teardown is that Apple still relies on Samsung to produce one of the most important components of the new iPhone, and that’s despite the worldwide Apple vs Samsung patent-based legal conflict, which can’t break, at least for now, the multi-billion dollar supply deal between the two. Do you have any comments on the matter?

  • Andreas Weigl

    Pssst, typo in the article. It’s the IPhone 5, not the IPhone 6

    …revealed that the iPhone 6 has a powerful A6 …

    • Pssst

      technically, it is the iphone 6. count it: 3, 3g, 3gs, 4, 4s, 5

      • Idj

        specifically it is the 6th iphone.but its called the iphone 5

  • Cheerful Charlie

    Hmm, Samsung chip. Well, get ready, Apple is going to sue Samsung for making it for them.

    • PeterBlood

      Another cheerful bit of nonsense. Hyuck hyuck.

  • RoboKiller

    I think all the new Iphone/ipad pigs are laid out by some delta robots. You’re probably seeing path accuracy issues. A company in Canada made the assembly line.

  • yanotsomuch

    Samsung’s invoice to Apple should include a $1bn “revenue recovery fee” just for fun…

    • PeterBlood

      They’ll be sending that to you instead, just for fun and the hilarity of seeing you in Debtor’s Prison.

  • you give me migrains

    i hate when you reverb what was already quoted by said person.. seriously?

    • PeterBlood

      Apparently it can’t be said often enough to Fandroiders with short memories. You would be shouting from the hilltops ad nauseum if the opposite were true,

      • miloy

        Eeeeeengggggk..low iq apple kiss ass around

  • Darktanone

    The result is one heck of a device. In your tests and the one performed over at Pocket Now, it consistently out performed all Android devices. It thrashed them in the browser, camera, app launching, built quality, and drop tests. It is the phone to beat and Apple gets credit for branging it.

    • Kro

      Thats nothing a root and custom rom won’t fix. The Droid Platform’s embracing open source, them not going after devs for rooting and making custom roms gives me a lot more respect for them. Apple’s lock down approach and risky jailbreaks are crap

  • I would cut Apple off. Make your own damn processors.

    • PeterBlood

      No worries, thats the direction it’s going. Samsung will eventually not supply Apple anything as they move on from untrustworthy partners like them and Google.

      • miloy

        Ennnggggk apple kisser around

  • Andriod

    its a multi billion dollar deal contract… if that ends, apple will definitely go down.

    • PeterBlood

      Yeah cuz no one else in the word makes chips. Oh waitaminute – hello Intel!

      • oh yeah intel would be happy to make you arm chips

        • PeterBlood

          Granted Intel is a little behind at the moment but is an ARM licensee. I think they may be up to the challenge. There’s also GlobalFoundries, Texas Instruments, Wave Systems, Qualcomm or Nvidia. Or Apple itself manufacturing it’s own ARM design as it designs them now. That day is coming.

    • So be it. Let them make their own or make a deal with Intel or something. It’s a slap in the face if I have to provide my competitor the goods to power their technology. I know it’s billion dollars but sometimes integrity and values holds truer than the almighty dollar.

      • lol where do you live man, itegrity and values … please give me a sec to go screw my eyes..
        you’re definitely not qualified to be the next aplle ceo

  • Styx_Ray

    Whay did I get the thought that maybe all the leagal stuff is just a way to market products. Imean Appla and Samsungs name is talked about everyday due to the court issue. Cheap way to get free Press.

  • Styx_Ray

    Why do I get the thought that maybe all the legal stuff is just a way to market products. I mean Apple and Samsung get thier name talked about everyday due to the court issue.

    Cheap way to get free Press.