ARM’s dual-core Cortex-A15 powers the iPhone 5

Apple’s long-awaited iPhone 5 is apparently powered by an indigenously designed A6 processor based on ARM’s dual-core Cortex-A15 chip architecture.

According to to analysts at Nomura Equity Research, the A6 was manufactured for Cupertino by Samsung on a 32-nm HKMG manufacturing process. 

As Peter Clarke of the EE Times points out, this means Apple is one of the very first companies to introduce a Cortex-A15-based processor in a smartphone.

“Samsung said it had started sampling the industry’s first dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor late in 2011, the Exynos 5250, made with its 32-nm HKMG process and intended for volume shipment in summer 2012,” writes Clarke.

”The Exynos 5250 includes Mali graphics, and is intended for use in high-end tablet computers. Its 2-GHz clock frequency is claimed to double the performance of the previous 1.5-GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 based Exynos.”

However, unlike Samsung’s lineup of Exynos processors, Apple is widely expected to retain graphics IP licensor Imagination Technologies Group for the graphics rendering portion of the A6.

”The Apple A5 processor is reported to use the dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2, so the A6 could use the quad-core version, the PowerVR SGX543MP4,” said Clarke.

Meanwhile, Anand Lal Shimpi of Anandtech noted that Apple’s A6 chip was a “huge deal” because it means Apple beat both TI and Samsung on bringing A15s to market.

AppleInsider’s Daniel Eran Dilger expressed similar sentiments, saying a 32nm A6 in the iPhone 5 would explain how the much faster chip retains an 8 hour battery lifespan – all while packing faster processors and LTE support, as well as boasting a 22 percent smaller form factor than the A5.

“In addition to Samsung’s Exynos 5, TI’s OMAP 5 series and Nvidia’s Tegra 4 also use ARM Cortex-A15 cores. Broadcom and LG have also announced plans to license ARM’s Cortex A15 cores, while Qualcomm’s S4 Snapdragon also implements a ‘Krait’ architecture similar to the Cortex-A15,” added Dilger.