iPhone 13 — A15 vs M2!

The minute Tim Cook Mission Impossibled an M1 into the iPad Pro, a bunch of you started asking if Apple would Mission Even More Impossibler an M1 into the iPhone 13. But, as I explained, they already did. The M1 is basically just an A14 on Hulk serum. So that made the kind of sense that really, really didn’t. I mean, you can’t just keep the iPhone on the same Apple silicon generation two years in a row. But what about the next generation? What about M2?

Ok, so, I made a video the other day to explain how Apple scales their silicon, from increasingly performant versions of the same generation like A14, M1, maybe M1X soon, to next generations, like A15, maybe M2, M2X eventually.

And I get why that’s so confusing — Apple’s using all these letter and number jumbles, and that means I just have to keep making videos to help logically group and relate them together.

Which is the exact reason why I made that video explaining why it would be all shades of redundant, ridiculous even, to put an M1 in the iPhone 13, since the A14 in the iPhone 12 already has the exact same Icestorm efficiency cores, same Firestorm performance cores, same graphics and neural engine cores, same image signal processors, performance and machine learning controllers, encode and decode accelerators, same, same, same.

M1 just has more of those efficiency, performance, and graphics cores, along with Thunderbolt controllers and some Mac-specific stuff like virtualization and emulation accelerators thrown in as well. Which is why it draws more power, like 25 to 26 watts of power compared to the iPhone’s current 5 to 6 watts. So, you know, it doesn’t melt.

Now, M2 will be the next-generation M1. Similar to how A15 to be the next generation A14. Apple can always play with the names, but until such time as the pattern ends, we will act as though Apple intends it to… pattern on.

Either way, any way, they’ll both be the same next generation Apple silicon IP. And Apple’s been delivering next-generation silicon IP pretty much every year, on the year, since 2010. Typically, like 20% faster, sometimes more for graphics, sometimes more for efficiency, every year, on the year, as well.

And with A15 and M2 specifically, we’ll get the latest, greatest Taiwan Semiconductor 5 nanometer process that Apple money and premium device scale can buy. Which is a lot. Like a lot a lot. Pretty much all of it.

As well as maybe the ARMv9 instruction set, which won’t mean nearly as much to Apple as it will all the other vendors who are essentially getting Apple’s last few years of features reverse-engineered and democratized for them, but maybe some nice improvements for the matrix multipliers.

But ARM is just such a tiny part of Apple silicon these days anyway, especially when you consider the GPU cores, the neural engine cores, and all the features Apple is packing in beyond the big compute modules anyway, every accelerator, controller, and on and on. Which is why I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Apple moved to a custom instruction set architecture, a SwiftISA or whatever, one day as well. But if you want to see that video, let me know.

Now, M2 is going to be delivering all of Apple’s industry leading silicon improvements to the next-generation iPad Pro, the one rumored to be getting the glass back, and to the next-generation MacBook Air, the one rumored to be getting the colorful new design, as well as any and all other ultra-low power Macs.

But, would there be any benefit, like at all, in putting it into the next-generation iPhone 13 as well? Anything like the benefits Apple got from putting M1 into the current iPad Pro?

Well, for me, personally, Thunderbolt would be terrific. The iPhone has been stuck on basically USB 2.1 speeds for what feels like all time, always, at this point, and it was annoying enough when all we were trying to move and sync were relatively small files back and forth to the Mac… But with 4K 60, maybe 8K one day soon, and 10-bit Dolby Vision HDR, maybe 12-bit next, those files… they ain’t so small any more.

And with every single Mac, and even the iPad Pro having Thunderbolt now, never mind USB-C anymore, the iPhone Pro not having it, is just such a serious troll.

I mean, the rule should just be “Pro” on the box means Thunderbolt in the port. Right?

But Apple could be just exactly that kind of next level serious troll and, instead of giving us Thunderbolt on the iPhone, they could end up giving us nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. No ports, just MagSafe and a mesh of Bluetooth, point-to-point WiFi, and ultra low band dreams.

Would the extra cores efficiency, performance, and graphics cores in an M2 be helpful in an iPhone? Not particularly. Not given the type of workflows the vast, vast majority of people are doing on their iPhones. Even if Apple added some kind of Samsung Dex-style desktop mode, even on an A15 it would already thrash any other phone, non-Apple tablet, and most PCs on the market anyway.

Plus that whole 25-26 watt power draw would still be melty as a Jon Faverau grilled cheese inside a tiny iPhone chassis anyway.

About the only way I could see Apple putting an M2 into the iPhone 13 is if they decided to just go all in on the M-brand and cancel the A-series naming entirely. Just flip the silicon tables, and call the iPhone chip M2, the ultra low-power Mac variant M2E for efficiency, the higher-power Mac variant M2P for performance or Pro, and then maybe save M2X for extreme, you know, whatever Arc Reactor version they end up spinning up for the Apple silicon Mac Pro.

But I don’t see Apple doing that… at all. For a bunch of reasons, I see them sticking with the silicon branding that brung ‘em. And that means A15 for the iPhone 13 and maybe the next iPad Air. If, and only if Apple picks up the pace there. Then, M2 for the next iPad Pro and ultra-low power Macs like the MacBook Air, and M2X or M2 Pro or whatever Apple ends up calling the higher performance chipset for the next next generation of Pro Macs.

But that still means the iPhone 13 will be getting M2. It’ll just be M2 Jr. AKA A15, the one that makes way more sense in an iPhone.