Apple revealed the newest iPhones today at their big event in Cupertino, California, but amid all the hoopla about the colorful (and inexpensive) iPhone 5C and the “gold” iPhone, and along with reveals of a significantly improved iSight camera and Touch ID fingerprint passcode system, Apple execs also announced the first 64-bit smartphone with the iPhone 5S.
Apple’s senior VP of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, changed the game for smartphone manufacturers (and mobile OS developers) when he notified the assembled Apple faithful that the newest, most powerful iPhone would have Apple’s A7 chipset included and be able to provide 40 times faster processing than the original iPhone released back in 2007. While most smartphones have focused on power and speed, Apple is now a huge leap ahead of other handset manufacturers. Previously, the fastest, most capable processor out there was the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad core processing chip available on the Samsung Galaxy S 4 which was twice as fast as the A6 chipset Apple used in the iPhone 5. This could end up being much like the megapixels wars that digital camera manufacturers used to engage in, as Apple has now defined what a
mobile computer smartphone could be.
What does this mean for the consumer interested in the newest and best smartphone? Well, for casual users, data-intensive users, this definitely means faster browser loading times and refresh rates, speedier app booting, incredibly smooth playback of movie and audio content, and zippier calculations when using business apps. Heck, most of this will go largely unnoticed (or, to paraphrase Louis CK, the crappiest cell phone in the world is still a miracle)… but for gamers and fans of shooting prosumer-level photos and videos, the difference will be very noticeable indeed.
The 64-bit A7 processor supports OpenGL ES version 3.0, which for hard-core gamers is going to be huge. Previously, even serious handled games maintained a 32-bit processor to create amazingly rendered graphics and fast gameplay, but Apple has even upstaged the PS Vita and other handhelds by creating a 64-bit architecture for a handheld device. This puts the iPhone 5S on par with true set-top gaming consoles as well as their own line of Macintosh computers. The possibility for game developers to create more lifelike worlds and scenes of fast, yet detailed action is endless with the increased power of the A7.
Apple’s iSight camera will not only has a slew of new hidden tech features included (larger sensor, larger aperture, increased single pixel size). It also features image stabilization, slo-motion video, live video zoom and a dual-flash to create better color tones. However, its the inclusion of the A7 processor that will have iPhone photogs and video enthusiasts rejoicing over faster auto-focus and image capture, as well as increased video frame rates (120 frames per second at 720p with the ability to slow down portions of the video at your choosing to quarter speed for dramatic effect). As smartphones continue to pummel the once strong point-and-shoot digital camera market, Apple’s iSight camera improvements due to the A7 processor make it even easier to disregard that segment of mobile technology.
Apple has, of course, rebuilt iOS to go hand-in-hand with the new processor. iOS 7 is fully optimized to take advantage of the 64-bit architecture. The faster performance and increased graphical capability will be fully realized within the OS as well as Apple apps and those of third-party developers. The chipset also includes the new M7 coprocessor that Apple is using as a “motion coprocessor” in order to give a range of fitness based apps more accuracy in recording user motion data. This is a wise move on Apple’s part considering that fitness and other motion-based apps won’t hog processing power from the main CPU (leaving users free to multi-task easier). The additional M7 chip will also decrease overall CPU drain on battery power, which is always something consumers are after when deciding on a smartphone purchase.
Apple’s A7, 64-bit chip is indeed a game-changer for smartphone manufacturers, though it remains to be seen how much RAM Apple will provide to capably run most functions and how fast the chipset will ultimately clock in benchmark tests. It will certainly lead to further focus and concentration on processor speed from Apple’s competitors, but for consumers and the iPhone faithful, it will simply mean better smartphones that allow users to play games with incredible detail and action, take better photographs and videos without having to think much about it beyond pressing a virtual button, and will give the iPhone 5S a big push in a crowded marketplace increasingly dominated by Android OS and Samsung. This is Apple’s big play in smartphones for the holiday season and 2014. Whether it leaves its competitors in the dust (or is largely eschewed for the more inexpensive and colorful A6-based iPhone 5C) remains to be seen, but today it is already making a mark for itself among the tech cognoscenti and early adopters, which is a good sign for Tim Cook and his team in Cupertino.
[box_light]The iPhone 5S will be available to the public on Sept. 20th, and will cost $199 for the 16 GB model, $299 for the 32GB device, and $399 for the 64GB variant (with a 2-year contract from an approved service provider).[/box_light]
Christian Hokenson is a writer based in Burbank, CA. He's interested in technology, movies, and home entertainment. If you're nice to him, he might buy you ice cream.