The M7 Motion Coprocessor Is Way, Way More Useful Than You Think [Opinion]

This is a discussion on The M7 Motion Coprocessor Is Way, Way More Useful Than You Think [Opinion] within the iPhone forums, part of the iPod, iPhone, iPad Forum category; At the end of last night’s iPhone 5s teardown , the iFixit team still wasn’t sure who made the chips inside the latest iOS device, ...

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  1. #11
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    Teardown Reveals Details of iPhone A7 and M7 Chips







    At the end of last night’s iPhone 5s teardown, the iFixit team still wasn’t sure who made the chips inside the latest iOS device, or where the brand-new M7 was, even. There was a lot of speculation as to who made the A7, Apple’s new, faster powerhouse of a main processing unit, as well.

    That’s ancient history, now, as reverse-engineering and security firm, Chipworks, de-capped the various chips on the iPhone 5s logic board to find out precisely what’s what.


    It turns out that Apple rival Samsung makes the A7 chip. Chipworks writes, “We have confirmed through early analysis that the device is fabricated at Samsung’s Foundry and we will confirm process type and node later today as analysis continues.” The team there expects to see Samsung’s HKMG used, which is a similar process to the one used in the Galaxy S IV, interestingly.

    The M7 chip, then, was hidden underneath a cover on the main logic board, according to iFixit, which is why they didn’t see it on their initial teardown. Chipworks writes, “Luckily, we’ve been able to locate the M7 in the form the NXP LPC18A1. The LPC1800 series are high-performing Cortx-M3 based microcontrollers. This represents a big win for NXP.”

    This chip is the one set up to process inputs from the gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass that are mounted on the main circuit board. Apple calls the M7 chip a co-processor, which will help the iPhone 5s deal with real-world positioning data without activating the main A7 unit, thereby saving a bit of power in the process.






    9-20-13

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  3. #12
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    Update: iFixit Finishes Its Gold iPhone 5s Teardown



    Update:


    After ripping it apart and posting in real time, iFixit finished the teardown of the gold iPhone 5s last night. The team there pulled it to pieces (carefully, gently) to find out just what makes it tick. They were able to see inside the A7 chip, can’t find the M7 chip, and were able to identify the maker of the iSight camera (Sony). All in all, some great stuff from the folks down under.

    What they found isn’t too surprising, but it’s a ton of fun to read through the details, below.

    Original Post:


    The team over at venerable rip-into-gadgets site, iFixit, have gotten their hot little hands on a brand new iPhone 5s, and they’re tearing it down to let us all know what’s inside. If you’re into seeing the guts of Apple’s latest iPhone 5s, check out all the gory goodness below.




    You can see the Touch ID sensor in one of the first images on the site, along with a warning that pulling too hard when separating the two sides of an iPhone 5s could rip the cable apart. Don’t do that.

    The battery, they’ve found, is a 3.8V-5.92Wh-1560mAh unit, made by Desay Battery Co., Ltd in Huizhou, China. It’s a bit bigger than the one in the iPhone 5, which was 3.8V – 5.45Wh – 1440mAh. Not too bad, and confirms Apple’s marketing of the new iPhone 5s.





    The next step is the iSight camera: it came out fairly easily. The iFixit team says it’s consistent with the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S camera manufacturing markings, which means this is probably a Sony part.

    Next up is the logic board, on one side of which–after pushing and pulling and carefulness–the team was able to identify the various integrated circuit chips (ICs), including chips from SK Hynix, Qualcomm, Triquint, Apple, Broadcom, and Texas Instruments. The other side has the big hitters, like the A7 chip, below.





    At the end of the process, here’s what the team at iFixit found:

    What we do know:

    • The A7 has 1 GB RAM, two cores, and is based on the ARM v8 64-bit instruction set
    • Qualcomm MDM9615M LTE Modem & WTR1605L transceiver
    • The 1.5 µ pixel pitch iSight camera is a new, until-now-unseen 12MP sensor from Sony
    • A Murata Wi-Fi module most likely houses a Broadcom BCM4334; Apple opted not to upgrade the iPhone to 802.11ac
    • Hynix H2JTDG8UD3MBR NAND Flash
    • Broadcom BCM5976 touchscreen controller
    • Additional components from Skyworks, Triquint, Texas Instruments, and Avago

    What we don’t yet know:

    • Who manufactured the A7. We need to decap the chip for that, which will take a bit more time.
    • Who made the MEMS sensors that feed into the M7.
    • What, or where, the fabled M7 is.






    9-20-13

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  4. #13
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    M7 Motion Co-Processor Does Exist, And It’s Not Made By Samsung



    
Presumably thanks to hangovers caused by excessive in-flight drinking on the flight formthe U.S to the antipodes, the iFixit folks managed to not find the M7 chip inside the new iPhone 5S during their teardown before the weekend, leading to speculation that the chip didn’t even exist. Conspiracy!


And as with any drunken adventure, lost things start to reappear when the dawn finally rises. The M7 chip is there alright; it just doesn’t have a big "M7" label on the front. According to the Chipworks’ blog, the M7 still carries its factory label: NXP LPC18A1.


<!–more–>

    
> Luckily, we’ve been able to locate the M7 in the form of the NXP LPC18A1. The LPC1800 series are high-performing Cortex-M3 based microcontrollers.



    The M7 is a separate chip then, but (as Apple already made clear on the iPhone 5S product page) it processes the data from the MEMS sensors on the main A7 chip, letting the iPhone 5S’s big brain stay asleep while the low-power M7 works tirelessly in the background. These sensors – compass, accelerometer, gyroscope – are mostly the same as in previous iPhones, with the exception of the new Bosch Sensortech BMA220 3-axis accelerometer. According to Chipworks, this is the first time a Bosch component has been found in an iDevice.

    The A7 is made by Samsung, just like previous iPhone brains, despite Samsung’s continued and shameless ripping off of Apple’s designs in all other areas. I guess there’s no decent alternative yet.






    9-23-13

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    Apple's new A7 CPU dissected to reveal 28nm manufacturing process

    Cross-section of the new A7 CPU



    The new silicon found in Apple's iPhone 5s has been viewed under a microscope, revealing some of the secrets of the custom-built A7 processor and M7 motion co-processor.

    Chipworks and iFixit published the results of their extensive teardown on Tuesday of the A7 CPU, M7 chip, and iSight camera found inside the iPhone 5s. Chipworks was able to take layers off of the semiconductors by blasting them with an "Ion Beam Etcher," then viewing them with a transmission electron microscope.

    The analysis revealed that the Samsung-manufactured chip is using the company's 28-nanometer Hi K metal Gate process. That's the same process as used by the eight-core Samsung Exynos 5410, which is the flagship CPU found in the South Korean company's latest Galaxy-branded devices.

    The "gate pitch," or distance between each transistor, inside the A7 is 114 nanometers, smaller than the 123-nanometer distance found in the A6. That allows Apple to pack as much power as the A6 into an area 77 percent as large.

    But the A7 chip uses an even larger amount of total space than the A6, which means the extra space offered by the 28-nanometer process has allowed Apple to significantly improve the performance of its latest mobile processor.



    The new M7 motion co-processor




    As for the M7 motion co-processor found in the iPhone 5s, Chipworks found that the part is an ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller. It collects info from a Bosch Sensortech BMA220 3-axis accelerometer, STMicroelectronics 3-axis gyroscope, and AKM AK8963 3-axis magnetometer.

    The silicon experts noted that collecting motion data with the A7 processor would be "mega-overkill." As a result, the new M7 allows low-power observation of the motion sensing capabilities of the iPhone 5s.

    Also analyzed was the new iSight camera, revealing the larger active pixel area offered by the improved sensors. The analysis also found that the iPhone 5s features the same Wi-Fi module as last year's iPhone 5, while the new Qualcomm 4G LTE modem runs on a two-chip system with parts from Samsung.





    9-24-13

    appleinsider.com

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    Preliminary look at Apple's new A7 processor reveals new architecture, quad-core GPU



    The team at Chipworks on Friday posted a tentative look at the iPhone 5s' A7 system-on-a-chip, finding a few changes from the previous A6 processor, including the addition of a mysterious SRAM cell never seen in A-series silicon.

    Continuing its comprehensive investigation of the new A7 SoC, which on Tuesday confirmed a 28nm manufacturing process, silicon experts at Chipworks are digging deeper into the processor's major structures and overall design.

    The firm notes in the report that the latest findings are currently just "best guesses," as circuit extraction testing has not yet been performed to yield conclusive data.

    Taking the caveat into consideration, one of the more interesting findings would be the "secure enclave" used for Touch ID fingerprint data storage that Apple discussed during the iPhone 5s reveal earlier this month.

    Chipworks was unable to identify the area in today's image, however, but guesses that a new SRAM cell located above the GPUs is a prime suspect as the rather large storage space is a new addition to the A-series lineup. Extrapolating the size of the memory block and comparing it with metrics of known technology, the firm estimates the SRAM module to have a density of about 3MB.

    Moving to the CPU, the A7's dual-core unit and accompanying memory, estimated at 1MB for L2 cache and 256KB for L1, takes up about 17 percent of the die area. Located across from the CPU setup is a quad-core GPU with shared logic, which accounts for 22 percent of on-die space.

    A side-by-side comparison of the A7 and last year's A6 show the chips' CPUs do not share the same layout. The new A7 appears to be closer to a conventional automated design, which would be a departure from Apple's most recent custom-architected A-series SoCs.

    Aside from the above discoveries, the rest of the A7's design appears to be carried over from the A6. Of note, the USB, LCD and camera interfaces are identical to those found in Apple's A5, A6 and A6X chips.





    9-30-13

    appleinsider.com

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    Apple's 64-bit A7 already powering advanced new audio, video features in apps and gam



    The debut of Apple's new 64-bit A7 Application Processor has been assailed by more than one industry figure insisting that the new chip isn't anything special, but a series of iOS developers are reporting huge performance gains and already using the new chip to accomplish "desktop class" tasks that were not previously possible on a mobile device.

    Less than three weeks ago, Apple's head of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller launched the surprise introduction of the new A7, including an unusual level of technical detail during the iPhone 5s event.

    Referring to the chip has having a "64-bit desktop class architecture" with a "modern instruction set," Schiller noted that new chip doubled the general purpose and floating point registers over the previous A6, and contained over 1 billion transistors in a 102mm die size. Such figures are uncommon in Apple's media presentations; mainstream users are unlikely to know what much of it even means.

    That's left the opportunity open for critics and competitors to assert that the new chip is nothing more than a marketing charade. Qualcomm's chief marketing officer Anand Chandrasekher, for example, recently told the media, "there's a lot of noise because Apple did [64-bit] on their A7. I think they are doing a marketing gimmick. There's zero benefit a consumer gets from that."


    64-bit A7 faster with a longer life

    Chandrasekher's opinion is particularly suspect because the A7 is already known to enable key features of iPhone 5s, including its advanced camera features (powered by the A7's Image Signal Processor, using an architecture similar to dedicated point-and-shoot cameras) and Touch ID (which relies on what Apple calls the A7's Secure Enclave Processor). Both are integrated into the A7.

    On the iPhone 5s, the new 64-bit architecture of the A7 provides immediate benefits to developers thanks to its "modern instruction set," known as ARMv8, which among other features accelerates AES encryption. And because Apple manages both the development of the A7 chip and the compilers and development tools within Xcode, developers can take full advantage of new hardware and instruction set efficiencies "for free" when they recompile their apps to run on the A7.

    This process has already improved Apple's own software that's bundled on the iPhone 5s, which has all been recompiled for 64-bit, from the kernel to libraries and drivers to apps such as Safari, Mail, Photos and Maps. There is a marked increase in performance observed in moving from 32-bit to 64-bit benchmarks on the same hardware, in addition to the baseline improvement of the A7 over the A6 seen in 32-bit benchmarks.




    The A7 isn't just faster than the previous A6; it's faster without requiring the additional cores and ramped up clock speeds of competing chips like Samsung's Exynos 5 Octa. That contributes to faster performance in a lighter, smaller device because it doesn't have to pack a larger battery to power a hot, high-revving brain that rapidly drains the battery.

    As a result, Apple's iPhone 5s delivers performance equal or better performance to Samsung's latest large phablet, despite the Note 3 being equipped with twice the system RAM, a system clock running twice as fast and a battery over twice as large (3,200 mAh vs 1570 mAh in the iPhone 5s). It's not only faster (above), but vastly more efficient, allowing iPhone 5s to beat the Note 3 in battery life when browsing the web over LTE (below).




    A variety of App Store developers have already begun taking advantage of the new A7, and what they report about their experiences in working with the new 64-bit chip dispels the notion that the iPhone 5s is simply wrapped in "marketing gimmicks."


    Algoriddim leverages A7 in djay 2, vjay to introduce previously impossible features

    Karim Morsy of Germany's Algoriddim noted that "optimizing djay 2 for the 64-bit A7 chip has allowed us to bring desktop-class power to our iPhone app."

    Morsy added that "djay's audio processing and analysis is up to 2x faster, which not only makes the whole UI and animations run smoother but also allowed us to introduce new features and effects that weren't possible before.

    "Harmonic Match, for example, automatically detects the key of a song and allows it to be transposed it into a different key by altering its pitch in real-time."


    Algoriddim djay 2 & vjay



    "Moreover," Morsy added, "we have measured game-changing performance boosts with our video mixing app vjay which also leverages the A7’s 64-bit architecture on iPhone 5s. HD video playback, mixing, effects, and recording on iPhone 5s brings more than double the video render resolution, processing more than 4 times more video data in real-time."


    Smule uses A7 to break boundaries with its music apps

    "The A7 has taken things to a new level," said Jeff Smith, the chief executive of pioneering music app developer Smule in an email to AppleInsider.

    "If you recall," Smith stated, "we were the company to bring auto-tune to the iPhone with I Am T-Pain four years back. It took a lot of engineering to make this work in real-time. And to be honest, we still have too much audio-latency on the Android devices to enable I Am T-Pain to work on those devices. Since the launch of I Am T-Pain, we've added 110M new users to our network of apps."

    He added, "we've been trying to do real-time audio convolution on mobile devices. Audio convolution is one of the most CPU intensive tasks requiring massive amounts of matrix-math. Imagine trying to model how a sound wave will bounce off of several surfaces at different positions in a room. Simulating such acoustic environments has typically been reserved to workstations and cloud computing.

    "So, when we were able to first benchmark the A7 a few weeks ago, we were quite pleased to see the processing power from the clock speeds and enhanced pipeline. As a result, we were able to do real-time audio convolution in the palm of your hand."

    Smith added, "with our Sing! 3.0 optimized for 5s, you can finally sing in the shower without getting wet. Or you can sing in a church, a dormitory hallway, a forest, the Taj Mahal, complete with our custom pitch correction, reverb, etc. Technologies that were formerly reserved for professionals are now available to consumers because of the 5s. It's pretty incredible."

    Smule engineers noted that they were not able to get real-time audio convolution working on the iPhone 5 (or 5c), despite the phone being no slouch; both models are roughly comparable with Samsung's Galaxy S4 in Geekbench 3.0 scores. Thus the company says that the 'informal "benchmark' of just running the Sing app with convolution reverbs ranged from simply not working at all on iPhone 5, while "on the 5S everything sounded smooth and silky."

    Smule also sells Sing for Android on Google Play, but there the title notes, "the audio technology behind Sing! works best on newer devices, in particular Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and other high-powered devices." The Android app also lacks support for real-time audio convolution.


    Smule Sing 3.0 with Vocal Effects



    In optimizing other titles for the A7, Smith noted, "we discovered an issue on the A7 with our Cinebeat product which does real-time audio and video process (also CPU intensive). It deadlocked as a set of processes that were never supposed to finish first suddenly did. We were shocked."

    Further, the company noted that rendering in AutoRap "saw something close to a 7x speed-up" when running on the new A7 (which again has only been out for three weeks).


    ChAIR Entertainment changes the game with A7 in Infinity Blade III

    "Infinity Blade III leverages the unprecedented power of Apple's new A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and OpenGL ES 3.0 to once again completely redefine the boundaries of mobile gaming," noted Laura Mustard of ChAIR Entertainment.

    "With the unmatched power of the iPhone 5s and its A7 chip, we can now combine fullscreen rendering effects, tons of polygons, and advanced gameplay processing in one smooth package.

    “And we are able to do all that with almost instantaneous load times, keeping gamers immersed in the experience instead of staring at a loading screen. This power has allowed us to craft the ultimate Infinity Blade experience."




    Mustard added, "the iPhone 5S allows us to have a huge, extremely detailed Dragon spewing billowing flames that engulf the entire screen, while the hero, clad in armor that reflects the environment, swipes to defeat the beast. We're rendering a full depth of field blur and bloom pass, a color adjust pass, a vignette pass, and a distortion pass - and then antialiasing the whole thing while maintaining a blazing frame rate. On a device that fits in your pocket. It sounds like voodoo magic - but it's not. It's true 'next gen' gaming.”


    Additional benefits of the 64-bit A7

    Apple has outlined other benefits of the A7's 64-bit architecture for app developers, noting that apps that use 64-bit integer math or custom NEON (Advanced SIMD) operations will see large performance gains. There are other advantages related to imaging, audio and video processing, photo filters and the physics calculations used in gaming.

    Apple has also emphasized that iOS 7 on the A7 shares the same ABI (application binary interface) as OS X. Apple's implementation of ARMv8 diverges slightly from ARM's generic C++ ABI for the ARM 64-bit architecture, which is derived from the C++ ABI initially created for SVr4 Unix on Intel's Itanium.

    The ABI changes Apple made in developing the A7 maximize compatibility with existing 64-bit code targeting desktop PC and Mac architectures. That was done because Apple's iOS isn't simply content with tacking "64-bit" on as a check-list feature. iOS is designed to bring desktop-class software into the mobile world, and the 64-bit A7 is the next step along that progression.





    10-4-13

    appleinsider.com

  8. #17
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    Qualcomm Exec Soft Fired After Calling 64-Bit A7 Chip A “Gimmick”



    Last month, Qualcomm representative Anand Chandrasekher called Apple’s new 64-bit A7 chip a “gimmick.” It was a hugely stupid thing to say, leading to Qualcomm actually correcting Chandrasekher’s remarks. But it also might have killed Chandrasekher’s career, at least in part, as the former chief marketing officer seems to have been sent into exile within the company.

    In a statement to CNET, a Qualcomm representative said: “Anand Chandrasekher, is moving to a new role leading our exploration of certain enterprise related initiatives…Anand will continue to report to Steve Mollenkopf, COO and President of Qualcomm. This will be effective immediately.”

    This is corporate speak. Essentially, what Qualomm is saying is that Chandrasekher would have been fired for his remarks, but they can’t, so they’ve demoted him to some shitty position within the company until he resigns.

    Why is Qualcomm getting so bent out of shape about Chandrasekher’s comments? Essentially, because he threw his own company under the bus. 64-bit is the future of mobile ARM-based chips, and Qualcomm is going to start making the very type of chip that Chandrasekher just called a gimmick, probably within the next year. The former chief marketing officer had described the very technology Qualcomm’s future business would depend upon as not worth taking seriously.

    Chandrasekher’s job was to promote Qualcomm. Saying Qualcomm’s future chips are a “gimmick” is just completely inept. Qualcomm’s right: the guy should be fired.





    10-25-13

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  9. #18
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    Analysis affirms Apple'sA7 processor closer to a desktop CPU than regular mobile chip

    Apple's latest A7 SoC



    An independent analysis of the microarchitecture behind Apple's latest A7 processor has shown that the company was not overstating when it called the design "desktop class," with the new silicon matching up well against Intel's recent desktop components.

    The A7 sports the same number of execution ports as Intel's Ivy Bridge chips and a reorder buffer equal to that found in the Haswell architecture, according to Anand Shimpi of AnandTech. Shimpi arrived at his conclusions by studying the A7 itself as well as Apple code commitments to the LLVM compiler project.

    "Apple didn't build a Krait/Silvermont competitor, it built something much closer to Intel's big cores," Shimpi wrote, referring to Intel and Qualcomm's ultra-mobile CPU designs. "At the launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple referred to the A7 as being "desktop class" - it turns out that wasn't an exaggeration."

    The number of execution ports is important because it defines how many instructions the processor can handle concurrently. Apple's A7 can process six instructions per clock cycle, the same as Intel's Ivy Bridge chips found in previous-generation Apple laptops and twice the capacity of the A6.

    Similarly, a larger reorder buffer gives the processor a bigger pool of instructions to choose from when deciding how to most efficiently complete its tasks. The A7's 192-instruction buffer matches Intel's Haswell designs and is more than four times the A6's 45-instruction buffer.



    Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller introduces the A7 system-on-chip.



    Shimpi believes that the A7 was designed to be forward-looking, with room to increase performance as Apple moves to smaller fabrication processes. He also raised the possibility that Apple may choose to release yet another new architecture design with the A8, rather than simply refining the A7's "Cyclone" core.

    As it stands, Shimpi added, most of the A7's processing power remains untapped due to battery life concerns. Current-generation iOS devices will run out of RAM, he predicts, long before reaching the A7's performance ceiling.

    When it debuted in the iPhone 5s last fall, Apple's custom A7 processor was said to have caught the chipmaking industry off guard, sending competitors into an alleged "panic." One unnamed person at Qualcomm reportedly said that the A7 left the company "slack-jawed, and stunned, and unprepared."






    3-31-14

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    Custom iPhone baseband chips seen as too 'herculean' a task for Apple to tackle

    iPhone 5s logic board with Qualcomm baseband chipset



    With recent rumors and hires suggesting Apple may be planning to build its own custom baseband chips for future iPhones, moving away from off-the-shelf silicon from companies like Qualcomm, one analyst thinks it's a highly unlikely route for Apple to take given the time it would have to invest.

    Analyst Brian Modoff with Deutsche Bank issued a note to investors on Monday in which he said the issue in developing a multimode baseband from scratch is not dollars, but rather the the time necessary. He estimates it would take at least five years for top-tier talent and about 1,000 total engineers to develop a custom baseband, and he doesn't see Apple taking on that "herculean task."

    "Instead of an organic baseband development, we believe Apple is rather trying to realize better integration with existing baseband chipsets and their apps processor, or possibly developing their own internal Wi-Fi chipset," Modoff said.

    The comments are similar to ones made last week by Rod Hall of JP Morgan, who cited the "notoriously difficult" nature of developing baseband processors. Hall said he didn't believe Apple would be able to utilize custom iPhone baseband chips until 2015 at the earliest — a timeframe much sooner than Modoff believes is possible.

    AppleInsider discovered earlier this month that Apple has hired away senior radio frequency engineers from Broadcom and Qualcomm. The news came after a rumor claimed Apple was planning to move its baseband processor design in-house.

    In addition to hiring at least 30 mid- and senior-level baseband software and hardware engineers from existing players like Broadcom and Qualcomm over the last three years, Apple is also advertising more than 50 additional openings related to RF chip design. Still, those numbers are well short of the 1,000-plus engineers that Modoff believes would be necessary to accelerate baseband chip development.

    The baseband chip acts as the "brain" of a handset's wireless modem. Working in concert with a transceiver, which controls the sending and receiving of wireless signals through the antenna, the baseband processor is what allows a device to communicate over cellular networks.

    Over the last few years, Apple has been selectively bringing certain aspects of product development in-house, making the company less reliant on off-the-shelf parts that competitors can also utilize. Developing its own chips, such as the A-series processors found in the iPhone and iPad, also allows Apple the ability to better keep secrets within the company, without having to share information with third parties.





    4-14-14

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