The Android-versus-Apple debate rarely ends with anyone agreeing on anything. You’ve doubtlessly heard people argue about which is better, making impressive claims about each, with or without evidence. No matter where you stand in this argument, though, you have to admit Apple’s A13 Bionic chip is a technological marvel.
According to Apple, the A13 Bionic is the fastest smartphone chip in history, not just for iPhones. So what exactly makes this tiny computer chip so impressive, and how did technology get to this point? What does it mean for the next generation of smartphones?
A Brief History of Apple Smartphone Chips
The A13 Bionic Chip isn’t the first time Apple has wowed audiences with its technological prowess. When you look at how their chips have evolved over the years, you’ll notice how they managed to pull ahead. It all starts with their first-ever Apple-designed smartphone chip: the A4.
The A4 launched back in 2010, and since then, Apple’s customized more and more components of their chips. With the A6, they designed their own CPU instead of licensing a design. When the A11 came out, it featured a custom Apple GPU and a unique processor called the “Neural Engine” as well.
Over the years, Apple has moved away from licensed designs and parts in favor of building their own. The result is smartphone chips that no one can recreate using available third-party components. This trend has allowed Apple to stay ahead in the chip game, which they’ve revolutionized with the A13 Bionic.
What Makes the A13 Bionic Chip So Special?
To make the A13 Bionic chip, Apple used a process called 7nm+ or 7NP. This process allows them to fit more components in the same space. You can see the outcome in the fact that the A13 contains a whopping 8.5 billion transistors, 23% more than the A12.
The impressive numbers don’t stop there. Apple fitted the A13 Bionic with a six-core CPU, a four-core GPU, an eight-core Neural Engine and two machine learning accelerators. What does that mean? It means the A13 Bionic chip offers ludicrous speeds and can sustain some hefty AI processes.
The A13 Bionic isn’t just faster and more powerful, either. It also uses less electricity, making it 30% more energy-efficient than the A12 you’ll find in earlier iPhones. That allows the iPhone 11 and new iPhone SE to last longer and charge faster.
What This Means for Future Smartphones
The success of the A13 will likely drive a change in smartphone chipsets in the future. It’s solidified the advantages of making your own custom silicon instead of outsourcing it. Apple’s biggest competitors, Samsung and Huawei, have already adopted this approach, but not as thoroughly as Apple.
Apple’s used custom hardware in their chips since 2010, so they have a bit of a headstart. Samsung still uses Qualcomm chipsets in some of its phones, too, so they still rely on third parties to an extent. This may change in the next few years.
The A13 Bionic chip demonstrates the value of using multi-core processors and custom-built hardware. As Samsung and Huawei fight to stay competitive, they’ll start following suit. Smartphones in the future could have entirely custom parts, which not only means better performance but more variation.
Driving Smartphone Innovation
Competition drives innovation, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find competition stronger than Apple when it comes to smartphone chips. The A13 Bionic chip isn’t just a landmark for iPhones, but smartphones as a whole. Apple’s competitors will respond with new and improved efforts to outplay them, providing users with a variety of excellent products.
The A13 Bionic chip is historic. It offers such a vast improvement over the last generation that it could be a turning point in smartphone technology. It’s hard to say what tomorrow’s smartphones will be like, but if the A13 is any indication, they’ll be something to behold.
Jenna Tsui is a tech blogger who co-owns The Byte Beat blog and writes for sites like Triple Pundit, MakeTechEasier, and Technology Networks. Check out her work on TBB or follow her on Twitter @jenna_tsui