In what is likely good news for Qualcomm, Apple has confirmed they are in talks with mobile graphics designers Imagination Technologies. While Apple has denied making or considering an offer at this point in time, they may yet reconsider. Imagination Technologies is known for their PowerVR series of GPUs, integrated into Apple SoCs since the A4 and used in some Intel Atom SoCs as well; Apple currently owns a decent chunk of Imagination stock already.
Apple has a tendency to bring more and more development in-house. Back in 2008, Apple acquired PA Semi which eventually led to in-house CPU designs started with Swift for the A6 SoC. Bringing the GPU development in-house also makes sense for Apple as it will bring them better control over the direction and vision for the future. By doing their CPU designs, Apple was able to increase their IPC lead their competitors significantly as those firms had to rely on ARM and Qualcomm, both who were slow to the IPC and 64bit game.
If Apple does snatch up Imagination, that leaves Qualcomm and ARM as the only 2 major mobile GPU designers left. This may allow Nvidia to make some gains with their Tegra lineup and might even entice AMD to re-enter the market if the conditions are right.
Fans of Apple’s iTouch lineup will have reason to rejoice today. Apple has refreshed their iTouch lineup with both new internal and external features. This new 2015 iTouch will replace the aging 5th generation that launched back in 2012, languishing with relatively old hardware.
While the new iTouch keeps the old 4 inch, 1136×640 screen, the CPU and GPU are upgraded significantly. From the old A5 Soc, the new A8 SoC is a significant improvement, being used in the iPhone 6 as well. Though the A8 Soc is underclocked a bit to 1.1 GHz from the standard 1.4 GHz, the lower resolution should actually make the iTouch faster than the iPhone 6 in games. Other changes are a bump in RAM to 1GB, added new M8 motion coprocessor (step, distance, elevation tracking) and support for Metal, iOS 9 and 64bit.
Other changes include the removal of the camera strap and a more pronounced camera bump. The camera itself also gets a bump to 8MP form 5MP though the flash is not upgraded. Connectivity is upgraded to support 802.11ac Wi-Fi which is quickly becoming standard. Capacities come in at 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB for $199, $249, $299, or $399.
While the iPad and iPhone are the major iOS devices, the iTouch still serves an important role in being the entry point for new users, whether they be a younger pre-phone audience or for those who still use feature phones. This does put an end to rumors suggesting Apple would drop the iTouch. The iPod Nano and Shuffle also got updated with new colors today. The iTouch can be found on sale here and Apple’s press release here.
Apple’s revision of the 3rd generation Apple TV would be using a new and smaller A5 SOC solution. Rumours have been building up about Apple shifting Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Intel, to move away from Samsung’s SOC production facilities. Chipworks made few observations about the chip during their tear-down.
They specified that the A5 memory and the processors are 2 separate onboard chips. A5 is using a package-on-package (PoP) design where they’ve stacked the memory over the SoC. Although this does take more space on the PCB, it could prove to be a cost-saving solution. The processor measures 6.1mm x 6.2mm. Other than that, the SoC still uses a single core with dual-core Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX 543MP2 GPU.
According to Chipworks, the new A5 is based on Samsung’s 32nm process. Other than the name, the design and maybe the performance would not be the same. 3rd generation Apple TVs have one of the CPU cores disabled, therefore the performance maybe the same as older models. However these chips would be much smaller so it will save money in the long run. The con is that designing this chip will take fair amount of time, money and effort.
Apple maybe doing this because the company is aiming to sell these units in high numbers but with lower margins, therefore a reduction of cost seem plausable. There is a possibility that Apple may have another product that they plan to launch which would require a small and inexpensive chip such as this, maybe to be used in the much rumoured iWatch and a cheaper version of the iPhone?