Rumor: Apple Testing Quad Core CPU For iPhone 5

A new rumor suggests that Apple is testing a new quad core processor for the iPhone 5, ostensibly alongside earlier reports of a stacked 3D design.

When we talk about the proposed chip for the iPhone 5, we typically refer to it as the A6 processor, since Apple will most likely stick to that nomenclature going forward. But just because we are guessing that the next CPU will be called the “A6″ doesn’t necessarily tell us how it will differ from the A5. And new rumors today suggest that Apple currently has a few different iPhone 5 species in the works, testing new processor technologies.

According to InRumor, “The Cupertino-based company is reportedly working on multiple configurations of its next smartphone. German Mac site Macerkopf cites two sources that claim Apple is testing quad-core CPU’s in order to see the viability of a quad-core iPhone. The site also writes that two iPhone models are being tested at present, one equipped with a dual-core, the other with a quad-core processor.” At first, it’s hard to reconcile this new rumor with the long-running belief that the iPhone 5 was close to being released, but was shelved at the last minute due to issues with components. But considering that the 2011 iPhone 5 prototype most likely featured the A5 processor — which may have been the problem in and of itself with the early iPhone 5 prototype — then it becomes more easy to believe that Cupertino feels it needs a much more powerful chip to make the iPhone 5 do what they want it to do.

Like run on LTE and power a larger, more sophisticated screen.

The idea of a quad core A6 processor for the 2012 iPhone 5 is impressive, especially when you consider the processing power of MacBooks. But this isn’t the first time that we’ve heard of impressive, new processor technology coming down the pike for the iPhone 5. On August 29th, Charles Moore reported about a “3D” chip technology for the iPhone 5, stating that “TSMC is applying its latest 28-nanometer process and 3D stacking technologies to produce the A6, which will also benefit from TSMC’s cutting-edge silicon interposer and bump on trace (BOT) methodologies.” It remains to be seen how this technology squares with the quad core rumors, but given the fact that TSMC’s relationship with Apple may have been short-lived, it is possible that Samsung is helping to shape a new design for the A6.

Another thing to consider is how all of these processor rumors for the iPhone 5 will relate to the iPad 3, since it will most definitely make its debut in March, months before the iPhone 5. Charles’ article had stated in August that “It is widely anticipated that the A6 chip will make its public debut in an iPad, although it won’t necessarily be the iPad 3, which is expected to roll out in February or March of next year. However, if rumors that an upgraded iPad 2 with a Retina Display will be released before the iPad 3 — possibly before the end of this year — bear out, that could provide Apple with some breathing space to delay release of the iPad 3 until the A6 is ready toward mid-year.”

Charles was reporting on the “iPad 2 Plus” rumors that abounded in the Summer and, although a Fall 2011 iPad 2 Plus never came to pass, Charles’ comment about the retina display is still valid: if Apple is planning an overhaul of the iPad 3, you can rest assured that its processor will need to support any new advancements. And because we’ll get to see the new processor in the iPad 3 before the iPhone 5, it will give us some insight into what we can expect from the iPhone 5.


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