iPhone Life magazine

How Does A7 Processor on the iPhone 5S Compare to Other Phones?

By now you probably know that the A7 processor in the new iPhone 5S has a 64-bit architecture that makes it twice as fast as the iPhone 5. And I've previously posted on what the implications are beyond the greater speed. In a word, 64-bit is simply much more robust and positions iOS devices to have the horsepower necessary to run the same sort of sophisticated programs as those on a desktop computer. Why is 64-bit better? 

An interesting analogy making the round of blogs is that of a library. Having 64 bits is like having 64 librarians on hand available to fetch books, while having a 32-bit processor such as on other phones is like having 32 librarians. If a patron comes in and asks for 65 books, the library with 64 librarians gets the job done more quickly. But you really start to notice the difference if a patron were to ask for 256 books. (You can read a more detailed version here.) 

Most of the tech websites say that Apple's claims appear to be accurate—that the processor will indeed speed things up. According to an interesting article on The Verge, the extra registers in the A7 chip means that it can crunch numbers more efficiently, and thereby improve performance significantly, especially for processor-intensive tasks such as encoding and decoding video. Also, due to the higher core count and clock speed and improved general processor unit, the iPhone 5S will handle apps much faster than ever before on an iPhone.

So how does the iPhone 5S compare in real-world speed tests to other top phones? We don't know yet. Other than telling us about the 64-bit architecture, Apple has said very little about the processor's technical specs, such as the specific clock speed. We do know that it's a dual core processor, meaning that it has two processors on one chip, whereas the very popular Samsung Galaxy S4 has a quad-core 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor. Both are system-on-a-chip processors (SoCs). As soon as the iPhone 5S is out, the tech guys will be doing speed tests and then we'll know.

During the presentation, Apple suggested that the other phone manufacturers aren't likely even yet thinking about 64-bit. They were wrong. According to the article on The Verge, "Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, Intel, and the rest are all hard at work developing 64-bit mobile processors. To hammer that point home, less than 48 hours after Apple's presentation, Samsung announced that its upcoming high-end smartphones would include 64-bit SoCs, and Intel said its new processors will support a 64-bit Android kernel." According to the website Design&Trend, the Samsung Galaxy S5, which will be out in the first part of 2014, will have a 64-bit architecture.

So Apple has a head start, but the other manufacturers won't be far behind. Apple has an advantage, though, given its tight control over the iPhone environment. Apps just seem to run more smoothly. Apple makes great tools available to developers and sets high standards, ensuring that their apps perform as they should on the iPhone. And unlike other platforms, Apple checks every single app before it gets added to the App Store.

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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.