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; When the new iPhone 5 is officially released on Friday, it will be powered by Apple’s custom-designed A6 chip, a 1.2GHz, dual-core chip that is ...

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


    When the new iPhone 5 is officially released on Friday, it will be powered by Apple’s custom-designed A6 chip, a 1.2GHz, dual-core chip that is the first Cortex-A15 class CPU to market.

    How did Apple get to this point? Just four years ago, they made their first step into custom chip design: now they are releasing cutting edge chips that are months ahead of the competition.

    Over the weekend, Linley Gwennap, who heads the Linley Group chip consultacy, posted up a brief history of Apple’s chip development. It’s not just illuminating because of how we got here — from Apple buying up P.A. Semi in 2008 to signing secret deals with ARM — but in that it predicts when and what the next-gen A7 chip will look like.

    Stressing that the A6 is Apple’s first “from scratch” CPU design, Gwennap says:

    Now that it has completed its first CPU design, Apple is not likely to stop there. To keep pace with competitors using ARM’s own cores, the company will have to crank out a new CPU design every couple of years. We believe Apple is already working on a next-generation CPU, which will likely implement the 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set. This new CPU probably won’t debut until 2014, so for its 2013 products, Apple will have to rely on the same CPU design, perhaps in a quad-core configuration and with a higher-performance GPU.

    What Gwennap predicts, then, is that next year, we will see an A6X chip which will mostly be the same as the A6, but with a couple more cores and new graphics. Then we’ll be hit with the A7 in 2014 in time for the iPhone 6, which will be true 64-bit. Otherwise, Apple’s chip roadmap will be fairly predictable: even Apple can’t thwart the laws of physics, it looks like.

    9-18-12

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



    As Intel gets into the chip contracting business, the company could obtain as much as 10 percent of Apple's next-generation mobile chip orders, insiders believe.

    "Institutional investors" cited by DigiTimes on Tuesday believe Intel could be making a play to get a slice of Apple's business for its so-called "A7" chip, expected to power the company's next-generation iPhone. Apple has reportedly been looking to move its chip production contracts away from rival Samsung, which currently handles all of the company's current A-series chips.

    The company expected to take the bulk of the work away from Samsung is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. Rumors have claimed for years that TSMC is on the brink of building chips for Apple, but that has yet to happen.

    Tuesday's report claimed that both TSMC and Samsung are competing for contracts to build "A7" chips for Apple. It said that production of A-series chips through TSMC is expected to begin in 2014.

    Now, institutional investors reportedly believe that Samsung will receive about half of Apple's "A7" orders, while TSMC will take 40 percent, and Intel will grab the remaining 10 percent.

    "In the past, Apple's processor orders were unattractive because of low profit margins and Samsung was the only cooperating firm," the report said. "In addition, at the time Samsung's smartphones were no threat to Apple's iPhone. But Samsung has since become the biggest smartphone vendor in the world."

    Just last week, a separate report suggested that Intel and Apple were in talks for Intel to potentially build next-generation chips for devices like the iPhone and iPad. Intel may be making a shift to build ARM-based systems-on-chips for companies like Apple after the PC market has struggled in recent years against smartphones and tablets.

    Intel's current CEO, Paul Otellini, plans to retire in May, and some market watchers believe a new chief executive could push the company in a different direction. In particular, contracts to build custom chips for mobile device makers could help keep the chipmaker's manufacturing facilities working at full capacity.


    3-12-13

    appleinsider.com

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    Apple's next-gen A7 processor reportedly being readied for production by TSMC



    A report from the Far East cites sources who expect Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to "tape out" Apple's A7 SoC this month ahead of risk production in early summer, suggesting that future iOS devices may not rely solely on silicon manufactured by Samsung.

    According to DigiTimes, industry sources say that TSMC is ready to "tape out" the new A7 chip on its 20nm process, with the processors scheduled to be implanted into Apple products in the first quarter of 2014. While the publication has a questionable track record, Thursday's report echoes recent accounts that said TSMC has started production of certain Apple chips as part of a long-rumored partnership.

    As noted by CNET, TSMC is expected to reach the "tape out" stage — which references the photomasking process that is one of the final steps in circuit design — for the A7 in March and move into early production in either May or June. The firm will reportedly expand operations at its "14-fab" located in Tainan Science Park, with investments in production facilities said to reach nearly $17 billion.

    TSMC set a capital expenditure budget of $9 billion for 2013, an increase of $700 million from 2012. The report claims that about 90 percent of this year's capex will be put toward bolstering output of chips based on company's 28nm process. The Taiwanese firm said in January that it forecasts a near 100 percent ownership of the 28nm chip market during 2013, a statement that sparked speculation of massive orders from Apple.


    3-14-13

    appleinsider.com

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    Samsung excluded from development of Apple's next-gen 'A7' chip

    All of Apple's iDevice chips to date have been manufactured by Samsung in Austin, Tex.


    The growing rift between Samsung and Apple has led to Samsung being cut out of the development process of Apple's next-generation custom chips for the iPhone and iPad, according to a new report.

    Apple's so-called "A7" processor will debut in the first half of 2014, and development for the chip is underway, according to a new report Wednesday by The Korea Times. But Samsung is said to not be a part of that development process, as Apple has apparently turned to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. for assistance.

    Apple has been using custom designs for its iPhone and iPad chips for years, but to date the production of those chips has been handled entirely by Samsung. Rumors have persisted that Apple plans to cut Samsung out of its chipmaking business, but Apple's latest iPhone and iPad models still feature chips built by Samsung.

    Samsung is said to be planning to grow its business partnerships with Nvidia in an effort to offset any losses it will experience in the departure of Apple as a customer.

    The chipmaking division at Samsung is also expected to see growth from the sale of Samsung's own Galaxy handsets, which use custom Exynos-branded ARM chips. That includes the flagship Galaxy S4, which is set to debut this month.

    Wednesday's report is just the latest in a series of claims that Apple is planning a shift in the near future to TSMC for its mobile chip production. While such rumors have persisted for years, Samsung continues to benefit from its intact partnerships with Apple.

    An "A7" chip was also pegged as a transition product from Samsung to TSMC in a separate report earlier this month from Taiwan's Economic Daily News. That report also claimed that the "A7" would debut in 2014, and added that the chip will be built on a smaller, more efficient 20-nanometer process.

    The naming conventions cited in the rumors suggest that Apple's anticipated 2013 iPhone model, the so-called "iPhone 5S," will not feature a full-fledged next-generation "A7" processor. Apple's latest generation of mobile processors debuted in the iPhone 5 with the A6, while the beefed-up A6X was introduced with the fourth-generation iPad.


    4-10-13

    appleinsider.com

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

    Apple's A6 chip as seen in an iPhone 5 teardown



    Along with predictions of a much rumored "iPhone 5S," KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo's note to investors on Thursday shed some light on Apple's new A-series system on a chip, expected to be called the "A7."

    With each successive iPhone generation, Apple has introduced a new processor design that trumps the outgoing version in both efficiency and speed. The current A6 used in the iPhone 5 was the first chip completely designed by Apple in-house, and the forthcoming "iPhone 5S" is predicted to build on that architecture with a so-called "A7" SoC.

    Kuo believes Apple's upcoming A-series silicon to be based on the latest ARMv8 architecture. In comparison, the A6 was built on a custom ARMv7 setup that doubled number crunching and graphics speeds, while shrinking die size by 22 percent.

    By stepping up to ARMv8, and tweaking hardware and software packages, Kuo believes Apple will manage to squeeze out a 20 percent increase in efficiency over the A6.

    Boosting those numbers is the inclusion of LPDDR3 RAM, a faster memory specification than the LPDDR2 modules used in the A6. The increased bandwidth will allow Apple to maintain a relatively small amount of dedicated memory. Kuo expects the A7 to carry the same 1GB of on-die RAM seen with with the previous generation chip.

    Kuo notes that there is no clear evidence indicating whether the A7 will support 32-bit or 64-bit processes, but says he "would not be surprised" to see 64-bit support this year. If 64-bit isn't included in the A7, however, Kuo says manufacturing trends will likely push Apple in that direction if and when a next-generation "A8" processor is released.

    It is not yet known what company is fabricating Apple's next-generation SoCs, but one report claimed Cupertino will be moving away from longtime supplier Samsung in favor of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC).

    The details above come from a research note issued earlier on Thursday in which the analyst predicts Apple will release the iPhone 5S alongside new options like a gold color shell and 128GB of on-board storage.




    8-16-13

    appleinsider.com

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    Apple said to have tested 64-bit ‘A7′ chips for iPhone 5S, 31% speed increases report



    As Apple’s iPhone 5S event approaches, some new details about the new device’s internals are emerging. Clayton Morris has claimed on Twitter that the iPhone 5S’s A7 processor is “running at about 31% faster” than the iPhone 5′s A6 chip. The iPhone 5′s A6 chip is dual-core, and it seems like the iPhone 5S will also remain dual-core.

    However, there could be a major differentiator: 64-bit. We’ve independently heard claims that some of the iPhone 5S internal prototypes include 64-bit processors.

    It’s unclear if 64-bit will make the cut, but it’s been in testing. We’re told that the 64-bit processing will make animations, transparencies, and other iOS 7 graphical effects appear much more smoothly than on existing iOS Devices…

    It’s likely that the upcoming fifth-generation iPad will gain the same chip, if not a more advanced one to support the additional pixels.

    Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, in a recent note, said that it seems like a transition to 64-bit processors will likely occur in the near-future. If the move does not happen this year with the A7, expect it to happen with the A8, he said. It’s possible that Apple could even be testing 64-bit chips right now in iPhone 5/5S bodies ahead of the 2014 iOS Device processor upgrade.

    Morris has also tweeted that the iPhone 5S will include a new dedicated chip for motion tracking. He speculates that this will play into a camera upgrade. We previously reported that the iPhone 5S could include major camera software changes, including a new slow-motion mode that captures 120 FPS video.

    Besides a new processor and camera, the iPhone 5S will likely include a fingerprint sensor. We’ve heard that the sensors in testing aren’t exactly activated by a swipe (like on the Motorola Atrix), but the user will hold down on the Home button to be authenticated into the phone. We’re also consistently hearing that payments integration for the fingerprint scanner is a long-term goal, but not something happening this year. As a source said, “think of the passcode-replacing fingerprint scanner as a beta test for future features.”

    We’ve also been told to expect the upcoming plastic iPhone to “essentially be an iPhone 5 with a plastic shell.” That is, the same or very similar internal specs to the iPhone 5, but with the long-rumored (and much-leaked), plastic casings.

    Also in the cards for the iPhone 5S is a gold color option and perhaps 128GB of storage.




    8-25-13

    9to5mac.com

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    Will The iPhone 5S Be 64-Bit? [RUMOR]



    When last we heard about Apple’s 64-bit aspirations, a notable CPU designer was saying that Apple couldn’t outrun Moore’s Law, and that the earliest Cupertino would manage to swing a 64-bit A7 processor was by 2014.

    According to a new report by Fox News reporter Clayton Morris, though, Cupertino might have been juicing. A 64-bit A7 processor could be included in the iPhone 5S.

    As pointed out in a tweet from Morris, sources are apparently telling him that the iPhone 5S’s new A7 chip is running about 31% faster than the A6. “I’m hearing it’s very fast,” he says. This speed is due to the chip’s alleged 64-bit upgrade.

    It’s probably worth exercising some caution before leaping upon this report. I’d be willing to bet the iPhone 5S won’t be 64-bit.

    For one, making the leap to 64-bit is not going to be easy for Apple, and to make full use of those chips will require overhauling iOS with 64-bit support. If Apple is overhauling iOS for 64-bit, we should see hints about it in the code for the iOS 7 beta, but so far, nothing like that has been found.

    Here’s the other problem: no one is putting 64-bit chips in smartphones yet. Although 64-bit ARM chips are a reality, they are only being used to power servers right now.So for the iPhone 5S to have a 64-bit processor, Apple would need to leap frog the competition to market.

    That doesn’t really scan. Apple tends to be more conservative about making bit technological leaps than their competitors, not more so. Consider, for example, that the A6 chip inside the iPhone 5 is only dual-core, while other smartphone makers are shipping quad-core devices.

    Apple may very well be testing a 64-bit iPhone 5S, but I’d be amazed if it debuts at Apple’s September 10th event. Instead, I expect the iPhone 5S chip to be similar to what we’ve previously reported: a glorified A6X SoC, in a quad-core configuration and a higher-performance GPU. But in 2014? 64-bit all the way.




    8-26-13

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



    Besides the main 64-bit A7 processor in the new iPhone 5s, Apple has included a dedicated motion co-processor called the M7. The chip powers many of the sensor technologies in the iPhone, such as the accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope in order to move the weight off of those technologies from the phone’s main chip. This, in turn, will make the new iPhone more efficient for both performance and battery life for the user.

    Apple briefly explained some of the consumer-facing abilities of the M7 motion chip, highlighting that the chip could greatly enhance fitness apps such as those from Nike. But, just like with the new iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner, Apple’s ambitions for the M7 are greater than those discussed earlier this week. According to a source with knowledge of the chip’s development, Apple plans to tightly integrate the chip with its own Maps service in the coming years.

    On its official website, Apple presents a brief teaser of what the M7 can do, highlighting a feature in the iPhone 5s (which was not discussed during the keynote presentation):

    M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot. Since M7 can tell when you’re in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won’t ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn’t moved for a while, like when you’re asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery.

    As Apple explains, the M7 can tell when an iPhone 5s user is in a moving vehicle. With this knowledge, the iPhone 5s will not try to join WiFi networks that come up around your car (which will save battery life). An even more helpful feature is that Maps will be able to automatically transition from driving directions to walking directions as you leave your car. While this functionality is interesting, we’re told that Apple is working on further enhancements for the future.

    Sources say that Apple is testing a tool for its Maps app that, with the M7 chip, could analyze when your car is parked. When you park your car, the iPhone will register the car’s location. Now when you return to the parking lot, your iPhone will be able to help you assist with finding your car since it knows the vehicle’s location.

    Besides the car-finding feature, Apple is also working on other mapping features. Apple is said to be planning notable updates to its Maps app in iOS 8, and the company is currently working on implementing both public transit directions and indoor mapping features (which Google already has on iOS). Over the past few months, Apple has acquired several companies that focus on transit, so it should not be too surprising that the company is working on integrating its new data into its Maps app. It is currently unconfirmed if Apple is on target to ship the new Maps with the next major iOS release, but it is the current plan.






    9-12-13

    9to5mac.com

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



    The M7 Motion Coprocessor (MoCoPro?) in the iPhone 5s is something of a mystery beast. It’s function is clear – it is an always-on low-power chip that processes data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass in your iPhone – but its eventual purpose is still a little unclear. So why don’t we do some speculation?

    Right now, Apple is billing the M7 as two things: a motion tracker which will constantly monitor your movement without draining the battery, and which will hand off its data to any app that asks for it when that app is launched. Thus you could track your movements in, say, a FitBit app without the GPS slurping the battery the whole time.

    The second official use is to tell the iPhone when you’re moving, and how fast: Network services are less frequent when you’re sleeping; open Wi-Fi networks are ignored if you speed by them whilst driving; that kind of thing.

    But I’m more interested in what it could do. The iPhone already records your movements into a private log (Settings>Privacy>Location Services>System Services>Frequent Locations – yes, it’s buried pretty deep), and this is likely where the M7 data will end up. What if you could grant access to this location data the way you can grant access to your contacts or photos?

    A photo app could use this data to geotag photos taken with other cameras. Right now you can kind of geotag imported photos using various apps, but these use GPS to make their logs, which means battery drain.

    Better still, what if your location data was synced to your Mac along with your photographs, and used to auto-tag any non-iPhone photos you import into Aperture or iPhoto? Got a bunch of great snaps from your SLR, but sick that they don’t show up on your photo maps? Fixed! As long as you have your iPhone in your pocket wherever you go (which of course you do) then your photos will be geotagged.

    And what about auto-syncing your iPhone when you get home? For instance, PhotoSync app currently offers to auto-upload my new iPhone photos to my Mac or my Dropbox when I arrive home. I can’t get it to work, and I have a feeling it’s because I live in the old town: The narrow streets mean I spend a lot of time within my “home” circle, likely triggering the geofences when I’m still shopping at the market, and even if it does get triggered in the right spot, PhotoSync has likely timed out before I reach my Wi-Fi network at the top of five flights of stairs.

    What if the M7 could tell an app that I really have arrived home, and that it should now back up my latest pictures, turn on my lights, and pour me a cold beer (that last one might be tricky I admit). This combines nicely with the new multitasking features in iOS7 which let apps update themselves in the background.

    This combination of almost power-free location data and background services makes for some powerful options. There are already apps which trigger alerts based on your location, but these can now be used without battery penalty, and with greater accuracy. We can also look forward to indoor maps (for mall-rats and trade-show attendees alike), and maybe even a setting to auto-mute your iPhone when you’re in a theater. Or a maps app that already knows where you are when you launch it, letting you quick-check your location instead of waiting – with the screen burning power – for it to find you.

    You see? The possibilities are many, and mentioning just fitness apps is likely Apple’s way of making a hardware component seems useful: Usually Apple doesn’t add a hardware feature without a matching app (the phone unlock for the fingerprint sensor is a great example of this), but this time I have a feeling that the M7 is so fundamental to the workings of future iOS (and iWatch) devices that the whole fitness app thing is just a cover for the real truth.






    9-16-13

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    Confirmed: Apple’s A7 Chip Isn’t Quad-Core



    As seen in the iPhone 5s, Apple’s new A7 chip is the world’s first 64-bit ARM-based chip… but it’s not Apple’s first quad-core chip. Instead, the A7 is dual-core in a sea of Android competitors boasting 32-bit quad-core processors.

    The revelation that the A7 chip is still dual-core comes from chip review site Anandtech, who have noted that tools used to count cores are only returning two.

    That will be a surprise to many, since so many Android phones boast quad-core configurations. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. According to Anand, speaking to CNET:

    “The quad-core card was kind of forced,” Anand said. “It’s definitely not the only way to arrive at the ideal performance-power for a phone.”

    Staying dual-core while beefing up the chip in other important ways is a typical Apple move, which marches to the beat of its own drum. Remaining dual-core allows Apple to save power, while a shift to 64-bit allows Apple to improve performance, especially for apps programmed to take advantage of it.

    “The dual-core A7 is now the fastest [system-on-a-chip] we’ve tested under SunSpider, even outpacing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 and ARM’s Cortex A15,” wrote Anand.






    9-19-13

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