Apple September 2013 event (iPhone 5s, 64-bit slide 001)

With its new flagship iPhone 5s, Apple is ushering in an era of 64-bit computing on smartphones, an unexpected move which has left rivals such as Samsung scrambling to release mobile devices running 64-bit processors at some point in 2014 – with absolutely no clear idea of how the hardware and software will work together to improve their apps.

In the meantime, Apple is now asking its registered iOS developers to optimize and submit their warez for the device’s 64-bit A7 chip…

According to a note Apple posted on its iOS Dev Center today – and subsequently removed for reasons unknown – apps designed to support both iOS 6 and iOS 7 devices will be 32-bit only until the company finishes work next month on a new specification supporting both 32-bit and 64-bit code in a single app binary.

Here’s what the announcement read before it got pulled:

You can submit 64-bit apps for iOS 7 today that take advantage of the power of iPhone 5s. Xcode can build your app with both 32-bit and 64-bit binaries included so it works across all devices running iOS 7.

If you wish to continue to support iOS 6 then you will need to build for 32-bit only. Next month we will be making changes that will allow you create a single app binary that supports 32-bit on iOS 6, as well as 32-bit and 64-bit on iOS 7.

Building apps in 64-bit is easy, thanks to Xcode which automatically builds apps into binaries that will run on both 32-bit and 64-bit devices. Indeed, developer ChAIR during the September 10 keynote said they converted their Infinity Blade game from 32-bit to 64-bit architecture in just two hours.

The way I read Apple’s announcement, 64-bit apps optimized for the iPhone 5s’s A7 processor might be provided as separate downloads from those that are 32-bit and iOS 6 compatible until the firm finishes specification of the combined 32/64-bit binaries.

That move is bound to take cues from Apple’s existing universal apps which pack in code for multiple form-factor devices in a single app binary.

white iPhone 5s front

An unintended consequence of the transition: it’s entirely conceivable that those double binary packages – once they are ready next month – will add up to app sizes because 64-bit code takes more space than 32-bit one.

Indeed, Apple notes that the transition to 64-bit code brings with it increased memory usage that, unless managed carefully, can result in the increased memory consumption that can be “detrimental” to an app’s performance.

Another reason for developers to transition to the 64-bit architecture: the overall operating system efficiency.

Here’s how Apple envisions tackling this issue:

When iOS is executing on a 64-bit device, iOS includes separate 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the system frameworks. When all apps running on the device are compiled for the 64-bit runtime, iOS never loads the 32-bit versions of those libraries, which means that the system uses less memory and launches apps more quickly.

Because all of the built-in apps already support the 64-bit runtime, it is to everyone’s benefit that all apps running on 64-bit devices be compiled for the 64-bit runtime, especially apps that support background processing. Even apps that are not performance sensitive gain from this memory efficiency.

Eventually all iOS devices will have 64-bit processors so at some point support for 32-bit architecture will be dropped altogether – just as Apple stopped supporting legacy PowerPC apps years after it had transitioned Macs to Intel chips.

iPhone 5s promo (A7 chip closeup 002)

As for the A7 chip which has over a billion transistors, Apple during the keynote touted two times general and floating-point registers over its predecessor, the A6 package.

Doubling the registers not only gives the chip the ability to address the memory space beyond four gigabytes of RAM, it lets it perform calculations with greater accuracy, carry out operations on larger data sets in a single cycle and move larger chunks of data between the slower RAM and the fast registers more efficiently.

What you end up with is a two times speed gain in compute and graphics performance – the A7 chip is 40 times faster than the processor of the original iPhone.

Apple September 2013 event (iPhone 5s, 64-bit slide 002)

We also know iOS 7 is optimized for 64-bit computing.

Specifically, both the operating system kernel/drivers and all of stock apps have been uniquely designed to take advantage of the A7 chip.

According to Apple’s iPhone 5S web page:

The Camera app is a great example. It takes advantage of a new image signal processor built into A7 to give you up to 2x faster autofocus, faster photo capture, and higher video frame rates.

You’d think with all this going on, battery life would suffer. But it doesn’t, because A7 is designed to be incredibly energy efficient.

And here’s what Apple’s Dev Center says about 64-bit computing in iOS 7:

iPhone 5s is powered by Apple’s next generation A7 chip, making it the world’s first smartphone with 64-bit desktop-class architecture for blazing fast performance in the palm of your hand. The iOS kernel, libraries, and drivers now take advantage of 64-bit, delivering up to 2x faster CPU and graphics performance for your apps and games.

And it’s easy to build and run your apps in 64-bit because Xcode automatically builds your apps into binaries that will run on both 32-bit and 64-bit devices.

Apple’s transition guide details porting apps to the new 64-bit architecture.

iDB and other publications spotted traces of devices running iOS 7.0.1, iOS 7.0.2 and iOS 7.1, providing basis for speculation that perhaps support for 32- and 64-bit code on iOS 7 with a single binary is in the cards for an upcoming iOS 7 software updates.

  • chumawumba

    I doubt the average user will notice the difference.

    • Allen Greathouse

      Well i rather them cater to the users who care about there phone than the average user. I couldn’t care less if the average user does not notice because i will

      • Hwang Lee

        Will you really haha? Placebo possibly

      • Allen Greathouse

        Yes i know i will because i do stat tests while running my games when i jailbreak to see the progression and an app i want to use really needs the extra power, so i’m pretty sure ill see an improvement. And if the speed is 2x as fast like they claim i would go as far to say that even an average user would notice the boost.

    • Jacob S

      It seems AAPL shareholders cares about after all. AAPL fell around $50 since they announced iPhone 5c-rap lol. And it is growing downwards every day since the announcement. It is clear that other than some Apple fanboys, everyone else is sending a clear message to Apple. Probably they won’t make the same mistake with iPhone 6 (c) in 2015 LMAO.

    • Apple says that “generally, 64-bit apps run more quickly and efficiently than their 32-bit equivalents”. The most visible gains will be in games, media encoders/decoders, cryptographic apps and other software that makes extensive use of large data sets and custom NEON operations like the iPhone 5s Camera app. So yeah, the 64-bit architecture will require some work on the developers’ part, but the benefits should be obvious to an untrained eye.

      • dpacemaker

        Has anybody thought that possibly this move with a 64bit chip was done to help with the possibility of gaining more government contracts? It would seem that a phone with that much computing power could be a significant issue for an agency looking to put more flexibility into the hands of its employees. To me this makes the perfect move to move ahead of competition in that area. “We have a phone that has more computing power than any competitor. When your people need info fast, nobody can make it happen faster.” Just a thought.

      • not a spark

        I think 4 cores 32 bit cores @ 2.3 GHz are still faster than 2 64 bit ones probably clocked below 2ghz

      • mehrab

        The gs4 loads all games and 40 percent apps slower then the i5 and web pages load slower too. Check youthbe.

      • not a spark

        A) I’m not talking about the gs4
        B) in gaming performance the gs4 bests the i5
        C) I don’t know what a youthbe is

      • mehrab

        A) you clearly dont know about phones if you think the gpu is stronger on the gs4 sure the ram/cpu are which dont matter cos ios does not require them
        B) apple optimizes everything which plays the most impotant part on performance for ios devices
        C) watch comparisons/test yourself. See as many videos as you can there are MANY!

      • not a spark

        The international galaxy s4 has the same GPU as the iPhone 5 but clocked twice as fast and with more cores. And the us versions still has a great GPU which beats iPhone in gfx benchmarks

      • mehrab

        Lets say the cpu is 20x faster so is the gpu
        Unlike you, i own both these devices.

      • Umut Bilgiç

        Lol, there is no such thing as “I think” it is not that simple as you think (multiplying core numbers and their operations-per-second ) first of all, the bitwidth has little or nothing to do with core speed, it is generally about accessing addressed memory in CPU, and ofcourse the RAM much faster. And allowing more of them to be addressed. Be ouse you can define larger numbers. Now, 4 cores running at 2.6 ghz, is ofcourse faster than 2 cores running below 2 gHz. And let me tell you this, it is not always the corr number that determines speed. Core number corresponds to parallelism, or in more commonly used language, running multiple operations on the go. This doesnt always mean much better multitasking performance, (since that needs ram), but ofc it affects it. The core number, is actually generally corresponds to the efficiency that the CPU is performing a single program. By having more cores, it can fetch more instructions frim the program, and run then simultaneously, seperate the parallelale code (out of order execution)

      • KNS

        Hi Christian, I was wondering if the iPhone 5s could run 32-bit apps. Please reply as I’m in a dilemma whether to buy the 5s. Thank you very much. 🙂

      • not a spark

        Yes 32 bit can run on 64bit hardware but not vice versa

      • KNS

        Ok thank you very much.

    • seyss

      I’m sure you use a 16-bit processor like the 80286

  • All for a slight boost in performance for games that aren’t even as interactive as PS1 games…still better than nothing.

  • breagz

    Can someone explain the benefit of putting a 64bit processor in this model of the iPhone?

    I understand the benefit in heavy duty desktop and server computing but I don’t understand the value in putting a 64bit processor in a device which (we can safely assume) has less than 4gb of memory.

    64bit adoption has been pretty slow in the enterprise market given the obvious benefits. In the consumer market it has been even slower, most likely due to the fact that the average consumer has no idea of the benefits of a 64bit processor.

    Is this just a case of Apple future-proofing their devices, despite the fact there will be no obvious benefits to users in the short term?

    • Umut Bilgiç

      What I personally think about the benefits are: First, as you said, Apple being Apple, and future-proofing. Second, compared to the 32 bit buswidth, 64 bit CPU’s can handle double the amount of GPR(General Purpose Register)’s and Floating-Point registers. And the benefit to those are, simply having much efficient Memory-Map routines, so that you can access addresses memory much quickly. And last, you probably know, that with 64 bits you can definr much larger decimal/floating-point/complex numbers. That allows for much more scientific calculations to be made, and with greater efficiency if you add up the fact that you are getting double the registers.

    • Umut Bilgiç

      Oh, and with those amount of registers and and bitwidth, GPU operations get even more powerful, and efficient(power saving and speed)

  • mav3rick

    All this buzz on 64-bit computing in a phone is just a smoke curtain. At the end this is JUST A PHONE. Does one need the desktop power in a pocket? How many need encoding or other heavy data crunching apps on their PHONE?
    Or all this is needed to transform the phone in some other device?

    • Joonyaboy

      Well let’s just stop advancing then

      Sent from my RZR

      • Umut Bilgiç

        Couldn’t agree more. When people see new technology come in to play, they just get scared, which I really do not lnow why. 10 years from now, you could have your mobile server in your pocket.. What would you say then? Lets just stop innovating then? Someone has to take a step forward, that happened to br Apple this time. We will be using that technology in 2-3 years, and we are the ones bitching about it. Odd.

  • Taaqif

    The term ‘warez’ referes to software that has been illegally copied and distributed.
    I doubt apple would allow such, save for the sneaky emulators we see now and again.

    Basically the word warez is definitely not the right word to use in this context iDB

  • Joseph A. Ahmad

    I agree, the average user won’t notice this. But most of us commenting on here aren’t average users as we care about the technological advancements. A 64 bit processor is definitely forward-thinking. In the short run, not entirely necessary, but in the long run, it will set a standard for software applications on a mobile market. While the 5s’ A7 64 bit chip benefits the Apple iOS ecosystem, it will actually give other phone makes the incentive to implement 64 bit processors giving developers the option to make 64 bit capable apps on Android as well. Just as Apple ushered in the smartphone era with the iPhone, so to will they usher in the 64 bit era for processors in mobile phones.

  • Jaime Alan Mendez Castro

    Maybe next gen iPhones/iPads in a future update of iOS will offer the posibility to use them as desktop computers and this is just the begining…

    • not a spark

      You do understand there are desktop computers that are 32 bit?

      • Jaime Alan Mendez Castro

        yep but them can run with 4 gb at max

  • Dan

    an unexpected move which has left rivals such as Samsung scrambling to release mobile devices running 64-bit processors at some point in 2014

    You do know that the Huawei’s Ascend D Quad in 2012 had a 64 bit processor right? Guess what, it ran android.

    • Stan_the_man7

      Oh Dan you must feel proud

      • Dan

        me personally? not really.

        This is just in reference to people claiming Apple is always the first to come out with x or y.

      • Jaime Alan Mendez Castro

        there is also tablets with x64 but apple is the fisrt with full 64bit support 😉

  • sjah07

    I don’t think you understand what ‘warez’ is. From illegally copied computer software which has had its protection codes de-activated.