Teardown of Apple's A6 Chip Reveals Manual Layout of Custom Dual-Core CPU
iFixit and Chipworks have partnered on a teardown of the A6 system-on-a-chip, Apple's custom design that powers the iPhone 5. While several of the high-level details such as 1 GB of RAM and a dual-core CPU paired with triple-core graphics have already been shared, the teardown confirms all of these details with high-resolution images showing the various components of the chip.
Perhaps most notably, the custom ARM-based CPU developed by Apple for the A6 appears to have been manually laid out on the die, an expensive and time-consuming process but one that can offer greater efficiency than automatic layout.
- When compared to the rigid, efficient layout of the GPU cores directly below it, the layout of the ARM cores looks a little homespun—at first.
- Generally, logic blocks are automagically laid out with the use of advanced computer software. However, it looks like the ARM core blocks were laid out manually—as in, by hand.
- A manual layout will usually result in faster processing speeds, but it is much more expensive and time consuming.
- The manual layout of the ARM processors lends much credence to the rumor that Apple designed a custom processor of the same caliber as the all-new Cortex-A15, and it just might be the only manual layout in a chip to hit the market in several years.
The report also takes a look into the die, where it confirms that the A6 is manufactured using Samsung's 32-nanometer HKMG process that was trialled earlier this year with the A5 that made its way into the third-generation Apple TV and the revised iPad 2.
Finally, iFixit and Chipworks took a look at a number of other chips from the iPhone 5, sharing die photos from Qualcomm's MDM9615M modem and RTR8600 RF transceiver, a Cirrus Logic audio amplifier chip, and Murata's Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module incorporating a chip from Broadcom with other components.
iPhone 5 camera tested in Iceland shows low-light photo comparison to 4S
If you’re looking for a real-world comparison of the iPhone 5′s camera versus the 4S, check out this series of photos on TREK . Photog Austin Mann took some 5′s to Iceland to test them out. Low-light photos look great and show considerably less noise than the 4S.
Energy efficiency company Opower today released a study calculating the annual energy cost for charging the iPhone 5 at just $0.41. While any user's actual cost would vary based on use and electricity rates in their areas, Opower's estimate assumes a full charge once per day at a U.S. average of 11.8 cents per kWh.
But while an individual iPhone 5 uses a minuscule amount of energy, the massive popularity of Apple's devices results in significant energy demand in aggregate.
Even if we consider just the 170 million iPhone 5’s that are projected to be sold globally in the next year, their aggregate electricity requirements are nothing to sneeze at. The collective annual electricity consumption of the iPhone 5’s sold within 12 months will be equivalent to the annual electricity usage of 54,000 US households (roughly equivalent to the size of Cedar Rapids – the second largest city in Iowa). That’s just for one smartphone model over one year.
Still, the study notes that smartphones use significantly less energy than other entertainment devices, and a shift from more traditional entertainment sources to smartphones can result in an overall benefit to energy consumption.
The explosion in smartphone usage is of course just one part of a surge in consumer electronics, which now represent approximately 13% of U.S. household energy usage. That growth, which comes even as the efficiency of appliances and other devices has significantly improved, has been driven by a massive increase in the kinds and numbers of devices being used in homes, from televisions to gaming systems to computers.
Non-contract AT&T iPhone 5s can reportedly be unlocked via iTunes
It was revealed on Wednesday that customers who paid full freight for an AT&T version of Apple's iPhone 5 can easily unlock the device with a quick iTunes reset.
First discovered by TechCrunch, the simple unlocking procedure is said to work with iPhone 5s purchased from AT&T at full price, with the process being quite simple compared to the carrier's traditional previous method of submitting an online form, sending a fax and waiting up to a week for a restore.
The publication was able to confirm the easy one-step process with AT&T's technical support and successfully unlocked the device in iTunes.
"After restoring the device in iTunes, the user is prompted with the usual unlocking message: 'Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked,'" the report said.
From that point, according to TechCrunch's Romain Dillet, all that was needed to gain access to T-Mobile's network was the trimming down of a compatible micro-SIM card to fit in the iPhone 5's nano-SIM tray. The device recognized T-Mobile's signal within seconds, allowing both calls and EDGE data to go through without issue.
Dillet explained that when an iPhone is purchased, the handset's IMEI is added to Apple's database, though it appears subsidized phones hold a different status than those purchased at full price without a contract.
While the publication was able to successfully unlock an iPhone 5 purchased through Apple retail, the procedure could not be confirmed on another pre-ordered unit "even though the device was purchased at full price, it was tied to an existing AT&T account during the pre-order process."
It was previously reported that Verizon's iPhone 5 ships unlocked for GSM networks.
iPhone 5 Wi-Fi Problems Fixed By Manual DNS Settings
Some iPhone 5 users are experiencing a variety of issues with wifi on the device, almost always revolving around inconsistently slow wireless connections. If you’re having this problem, you’re not alone, and the good news is you can almost certainly get an immediate improvement by setting manual DNS on the device.
Fixing Slow iPhone 5 Wi-Fi With Manual DNS Settings
For the impatient, you can immediately try Google’s DNS services (188.8.131.52 or 184.108.40.206), but for the best results you’ll want to follow the full process to find the fastest DNS servers:
Download NameBench on your Mac or PC and run it to discover the fastest DNS servers for your location, the test will take a few minutes
Take the best result and grab your iPhone 5
Open Settings, tap on “Wi-Fi”, and tap the blue arrow alongside the connected Wi-Fi network
Tap next to “DNS” to manually adjust the DNS entry (Didn’t run NameBench? Try 220.127.116.11 or 18.104.22.168)
Leave Settings and try running Speed Test again, browse the web, or doing anything online with the iPhone 5 using the same wi-fi connection. Everything should be leaps and bounds faster.
Interestingly enough, we’ve been here before, and using custom DNS entries directly on the iPhone has fixed slow wi-fi issues in the past. With the same solution working again, it suggests it’s a compatibility issue with how the iPhone is interacting with certain routers. This would explain why not everyone experiences the problem, and why the same iPhone has issues on some networks but not others.
For iPhone 5 owners that have not experienced the wi-fi issue, the video below demonstrates what an iPhone 5 experiencing the problems behaves like alongside an iPhone 4 which behaves normally on the same wireless connection. Basically, it’s a lot slower with intermittent connectivity.
And of course, here’s the same iPhone 5 with manual DNS set performing much better:
Fix for iPhone 5 Signal Loss When Stuck On “No Service”
A peculiar bug that’s impacting some iPhone 5 users leaves the iPhone unable to find a signal and rejoin a 3G/4G network after leaving an area with EDGE or no service. Despite being in a location with adequate cell coverage, the iPhone will just report “No Service”. This is most likely a software issue with iOS 6, and for the time being the two possible solutions are fairly lame but do work:
Reboot the iPhone by powering off and on again
Turn Airplane Mode ON and OFF
Unfortunately, the AirPlane Mode trick works only sometimes when going from EDGE, and the only guaranteed way to get reception again after losing it completely seems to be turning the iPhone on and off again. Strangely, toggling the “Cellular Data” switch does absolutely nothing to resolve the problem and is still unable to join a network. Some users have also reported success with the age-old trick of resetting Network Settings.
It’s hard to say how widespread this problem is, but it seems limited to iPhone 5 users who are in areas with weaker cell signals or a large amount of obstructions to signals, like mountains, heavy trees, and hills. For example, I live in an area with notoriously bad cell coverage and encounter the problem on a daily basis anytime I leave a 3G/4G coverage area. Hopefully an update to iOS will resolve the issue.
Fix iPhone cellular data problems by resetting network settings
I love my iPhone but it’s had it’s share of quirks, and one of them is the seemingly random ability to access the cellular data network. I don’t know if this is an AT&T problem or an iPhone problem, but it’s really annoying to not be able to use 3G service when I need to. I went looking for a solution for the problem and came across a pretty simple and straightforward fix on TUAW. They suggest resetting your iPhone Network Settings:
To reset your iPhone’s network settings, tap your way to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings.
The only downside to this solution is that it also resets your remembered WiFi access points and their passwords, so be ready to re-enter a bunch of WEP/WPA keys!