Yes, the Next iPhone Will Be Faster — But Will It Have a 64-Bit Processor?

Although the details on Apple's next iPhone are still a mystery, one thing you can count on is a faster device.

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Although the details on Apple’s next iPhone are still a mystery, one thing you can count on is a faster device. Newer, beefed-up processors have been a part of every new iPhone launch, and the supposed “iPhone 5S” probably won’t be any different.

How much faster? According to Fox News reporter Clayton Morris, Apple’s A7 processor provides a 31 percent speed boost over the current A6 chip. It will reportedly remain a dual-core processor, even as quad-core chips become commonplace in high-end Android handsets.

If Morris’ report is accurate, I wouldn’t fret much about the lack of cores. The iPhone has never been lacking in the performance department, because Apple makes it easy for developers to take full advantage of its hardware. As Steve Cheney points out, the number of cores isn’t as important as how the software deals with them. (I like Cheney’s analogy that processing cores are like pans on a stovetop; more pans allow for better ingredient management, but only if the chef is smart enough to juggle each one efficiently.)

Another related rumor comes from 9to5Mac, which claims that Apple has tested a 64-bit version of its A7 chip.

The main advantage of 64-bit operating systems is their ability to handle more than 4 GB of RAM, but the current iPhone and iPad aren’t anywhere close to that amount of memory. Both devices currently come with 1 GB of RAM, so a switch to 64-bit doesn’t seem necessary for at least a couple hardware cycles.

However, I thought this comment from a 9to5Mac reader was instructive:

Having a 64-bit processor makes sense for a single reason – so Apple can simply make iOS 10 (or whichever version will drop support for iPhone 5) 64-bit and there will be a 64-bit capable CPU in all supported phones (e.g. starting with iPhone 5S), without having a transition period during which they have to support both 32 and 64 bit OSes. We still have to wait a bit until the phones have to address more than 4GB of RAM, and it makes sense to go 64-bit.

If Apple’s A7 chip supported 64-bit processing, it would be laying the groundwork for a time when iPhones and iPads need a lot more memory than they do now. As phones and tablets play a bigger role in our computing lives, more memory could allow for more powerful apps, making these devices more useful for productivity.

Either way, don’t expect Apple to talk much about nitty gritty hardware details as it announces the next iPhone, supposedly on September 10. Do expect the company to speak in broad strokes about how it’s the fastest iPhone ever.