If Apple had stuck to its playbook from the past few years, the 5C would not exist, and instead, the year-old iPhone 5 would have hung around for another year, at $99 on contract, with 16 GB of storage. Engineering-wise, the afore-noted exceptions aside, they’ve stuck to the old plan. But marketing and branding-wise, they’re in all new territory. The mid-range iPhone model is no longer an afterthought, but instead a full-fledged family member, with its own TV commercials, two storage/pricing tiers (16 GB for $99, 32 GB for $199, on contract), and most importantly, a distinctive new appearance and brand.
Feel-wise it’s not too dissimilar from the old 3G and 3GS (both of which I still have sitting here in my office), but it presents a far more premium overall effect than those previous forays into plastic iPhones. The 3G/3GS had more seams (because of the metal bezel between the plastic back and front touchscreen), and those seams were more noticeable. The 5C has just one seam, between the plastic and the glass, and that seam is very tight. The 5C is not as thin as the 5 or 5S, but it’s so much thinner than the 3G/3GS it’s not even funny. Side-by-side it’s hard to believe the 3GS is only four years old. The 5C buttons — power, ringer toggle, volume, and home — all feel good, with nice crisp clickiness.
First, performance. Apple claims this is the biggest year-over-year improvement in computing performance in the history of the iPhone, and in both my day-to-day experience and some benchmark testing over the past week, I have no reason to doubt them. The iPhone 5S is fast.
To put that in context, the iPhone 5S beats my 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro by a small measure in the Sunspider benchmark (with the MacBook Pro running the latest Safari 6.1 beta). The iPhone 5S is, in some measures, computationally superior to the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro from just five years ago.
A fingerprint sensor could be one of those cool features that everyone talks about, but nobody ends up using in their day-to-day lives because it’s too much of a hassle. I’ll be honest, heading into the event, I was wondering if Apple’s implementation of the sensor would be good enough to actually make it useful. Not just for a demo to make people gasp and clap, but could I use it every day.
The answer is unequivocally yes.
The new space grey finish is lighter in color (truly a grey rather than a black) and has more prominently colored chamfers. The move to a lighter color is likely to not only offer a little bit of visual differentiation, but also to minimize the appearance of scuffs/scratches on the device. My black iPhone 5 held up reasonably well considering I carry it without a case, but there’s no denying the fact that it looks aged. Interestingly enough, I never really got any scratches on the back of my 5 - it’s the chamfers that took the biggest beating. I have a feeling the new space grey finish will hold up a lot better in that regard as well.
The most visible change to Apple’s first ARMv8 core is a doubling of the L1 cache size: from 32KB/32KB (instruction/data) to 64KB/64KB. Along with this larger L1 cache comes an increase in access latency (from 2 clocks to 3 clocks from what I can tell), but the increase in hit rate likely makes up for the added latency. Such large L1 caches are quite common with AMD architectures, but unheard of in ultra mobile cores. A larger L1 cache will do a good job keeping the machine fed, implying a larger/more capable core.[…]
Unlike the 64-bit x86 transition, ARM’s move to 64-bit comes with a new ISA rather than an extension of the old one. The new instruction set is referred to as A64, while a largely backwards compatible 32-bit format is called A32. Both ISAs can be supported by a single microprocessor design, as ARMv8 features two architectural states: AArch32 and AArch64. Designs that implement both states can switch/interleave between the two states on exception boundaries. In other words, despite A64 being a new ISA you’ll still be able to run old code alongside it.
The iPhone 5c leverages the entirety of the iPhone 5 hardware platform, but moves from a glass + aluminum construction down to a more cost effective glass + polycarbonate design. The iPhone 5c retains all other features of the iPhone 5 including in-cell touch, Lightning connector, the same rear facing iSight camera stack and A6 SoC. It even brings some new features to the table like sharing the same front facing FaceTime HD camera as the iPhone 5s. Other elements aren’t necessarily newer but are at least shared with the 5s platform. For example, the WiFi, cellular and BT hardware is different than the iPhone 5, but shared across the 5c and 5s. Having as many common components between Apple’s two iPhones at this point is another great way to capitalize on economies of scale.
Curiously, iFixit didn’t notice anything that looked like that M7 co-processor that Apple talked up at its September 10 event. The teardown bosses speculate that it might not be a separate chip after all, but rather a block integrated into the main A7 chip itself—iFixit doesn’t seem sure of this, however, and neither are we.
We have confirmed through early analysis that the device is fabricated at Samsung’s Foundry and we will confirm process type and node later today as analysis continues. That being said, we suspect we will see Samsungs 28 nm Hi K metal Gate (HKMG) being used. We have observed this same process in the Samsung Exynos Application processor used in the Galaxy S4.
The M7 is dedicated to processing and translating the inputs provided to it by the discrete sensors; the gyroscope, accelerometer and electromagnetic compass are mounted throughout the main printed circuit board. Traditional Apple techniques lead us to believe that these discrete sensors will most likely be STMicroelectronics for the accelerometer and the gyroscope, while the electromagnetic compass would again be an Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM). We have since confirmed the compass to be AKM’s AK8963.
Update (2013-09-24): iFixit:
With the help of fancy, expensive equipment, Chipworks produced a die photograph of the A7. It looks a lot like its predecessor, the A6.
The edge chamfer leading to the top of the screen is no longer as easy to scratch as it was on the iPhone 5 (some black iPhone 5 phones look very worn), and the plastic border around the screen is now recessed about 1mm further than on the 5.
As far as I can tell, the screen is absolutely identical, but the 5s screen appears to attract fingerprints more easily; this could be due to a change in the oleophobic coating application, formulation, or design.
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