The A15 is plenty fast, but its true power is versatility
Last week, Apple announced the new A15 processor in a peculiar way: by comparing its new chip to the Android competition, rather than the A14 that powered last year’s generation of iPhones. We were all left to try to infer the speed of the A15 based on Apple’s claims, and wondering if the company was obscuring the performance improvements in the A15 because they weren’t particularly impressive.
In the past week, things have gotten a lot clearer. Tuesday brought the first reviews of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro and on Wednesday I got a look at what the iPad mini has to offer. Now we’ve got the cold, hard facts about the A15—and it’s more complicated and interesting than I guessed last week. The net result? Apple is making one chip but using it in three different ways, and while some aspects of the A15 upgrade aren’t particularly exciting, others are quite impressive. Systems-on-chips made at a scale of five nanometers are complicated. Who knew?
The A15 is a product line
It turns out that while the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPad mini are all powered by the A15, each of them is using the A15 in a different way. The A15s in all four iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models are running at 3.23GHz, but the A15 in the iPad mini is underclocked to 2.93GHz. The A15s in the iPhone 13 Pro and iPad mini have five graphics cores, but the A15 in the iPhone 13 has only four.