A latest report by provide chain analyst Jeff Pu claims that Apple is probably going to make use of an A18 processor in all of subsequent yr’s iPhone 16 fashions, Professional and common. At first look, this would appear to fly within the face of latest developments that counsel the iPhone 16 Professional fashions could have an A18 Professional and the non-Professional fashions will get this yr’s A17 Professional or a non-Professional model of it, simply as they obtained an A16 this yr.
Don’t get your hopes up. Pu’s prediction is extra nuanced than that, and Apple has already telegraphed a change to the best way it names and probably produces A-series processors.
An A18 by another identify
When Apple launched the iPhone15 Professional, we took particular observe of the identify change to the A17 processor. As an alternative of calling it the “A17 Bionic,” it’s named “A17 Professional.”
Naturally, this means the existence of a non-Professional A17 processor. Maybe we’ll see one in a future iPad or iPhone SE. Moderately, I feel Apple’s simply setting us up for a future wherein each A-series processor is available in two variants: commonplace and Professional. And Pu’s analysis appears to agree.
He estimates that Apple will produce an A18 for the iPhone 16 and 16 Plus, and an A18 Professional for the iPhone 16 Professional and Professional Max. All of those chips are to be constructed on the second-generation “N3E” 3nm manufacturing course of by TSMC. The present course of, N3, is considerably of a “beta” run of the 3nm course of with excessive manufacturing prices, whereas N3E ought to enhance yields and quantity, making 3nm chips obtainable to extra than simply Apple.
The essential factor to notice is that, whatever the precise manufacturing course of used, the “A18” within the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Professional won’t be the identical. Simply because the M2 and M2 Professional provide completely totally different efficiency, so too with the A18 and A18 Professional.
The distinction isn’t prone to be as pronounced. Apple’s not going to make a chip twice as large with twice as many high-performance CPU cores and almost twice the GPU cores if it nonetheless has to suit inside an iPhone. Nonetheless there might be important expertise variations, or it might be all the identical options at totally different ranges of efficiency.
Apple might take two routes to make an A18:
- The A18 is actually the A17 Professional, made on a extra sturdy 3nm manufacturing course of.
- The A18 is an identical to the A18 Professional, with some CPU or GPU cores disabled and maybe much less RAM.
Both one is a sound method, and neither one is novel. The makers of PC graphics playing cards and CPUs have put a new-generation identify on an old-generation product loads of instances over time.
None of that is actually essential to promote iPhones, anyway
It felt a bit of bit insulting when Apple began splitting processors between new-model iPhones, with solely the Professional fashions getting a brand new processor whereas the usual fashions get final yr’s processor. Giving each fashions an “A18” identify is a method for Apple to doubtlessly promote us a last-year’s-tech iPhone with a this-year’s-tech identify.
However actually, the world doesn’t care a lot about this. It’s been a number of years now of iPhone Execs sporting higher efficiency than the usual fashions, and most of the people don’t even learn about it. Us fans pay shut consideration to Geekbench scores and efficiency charts, however the overwhelming majority of people that purchase a brand new iPhone simply need…a brand new iPhone. They count on it to run all of the apps they love, and take higher photos, and work with their AirPods and possibly MacBook…and if there’s a specification they actually care about it’s battery life.
On the finish of the day, splitting the iPhone between commonplace fashions and Professional fashions with higher options and efficiency isn’t new. And whether or not splits its lineup between processors named A17 Professional and A18 Professional, or an A18 and A18 Professional, is tutorial.
This transfer, if it involves move, could be a curiosity however in the end not an actual change in how Apple makes and sells iPhones, and wouldn’t be chargeable for the iPhone 16 being nice or a disappointment.