iPhone 6s a9

An initial analysis of the Apple-designed A9 system-on-a-chip powering the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, conducted by semiconductor experts over at Chipworks, has identified both Samsung and rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company as manufacturers of the package.

What’s really interesting is that the A9 comes in two sizes, depending on who manufactured it, with the Samsung-built units being a bit smaller than those manufactured by TSMC. This is the first time an Apple-designed processor for an iPhone came in two different sizes.

The Samsung-built edition of the A9 carries a model number of APL0898 and measures in at 96 square millimeters. By comparison, the A9 units built on TSMC’s process are labelled as APL1022 and measure in at 104.5 square millimeters.

A9 size comparison Chipworks 001

“It was a surprise to find two different application processors in two otherwise identical phones,” said Chipworks, adding that the smaller die size “shows a leadership in technology scaling for Samsung.”

The chip wizards speculate that the decision to dual-source a custom designed part and launching on day one with both parts may suggest “major sourcing problems”.

However, Apple is known from sourcing parts from multiple suppliers in order to reduce exposure to any single supplier and achieve lower pricing.

Why would Apple use two different technologies to produce the A9?

The answer to that question lies in the fact that Samsung uses a 14-nanometer fabbing technology while TSMC couldn’t ramp up its own 14-nanometer process on time so they used their 16-nanometer process instead.

Chipworks will be decapsulating and cross-sectioning the chips in the coming days and we’ll be posting the results of their analysis to keep you informed.

Source: Chipworks

  • Dan

    What does this mean for performance or even more so battery usage for us with the larger chip compared to samsungs smaller one?

    • DevXav

      I have the same doubt..
      Does it provide any noticeable differences between those devices in performance or even battery life?

      • Dan

        That’s what I’d like to know as well, must be a slight difference, maybe not sufficient enough for us to notice though

  • John

    this actually is a big deal. You pay the same as everyone else but you don’t get the smae thing. Isn’t this violating some consumer law??

    • Shinonuke

      No, you still get the A9 chip

    • John

      The 14nm proccess if more efficent therefore saving a tiny bit of electricity. Still, if i pay what others paid for, why can’t i get that fnacier 14nm tech?

  • 5723alex .

    So, those iPhone 6s with problems use Samsung’s A9 ?

    • DevXav

      I wouldn’t say that..

      It would be the opposite, once 14nm technology is better, so it could be even more efficient.

      • 5723alex .

        Anything from Samsung is inferior to any other OEM. Just look and the latest benchmarks for iPhone 6s vs all Samsung’s smartphones with 8-core CPUs and endless RAM. They all trail by x4.

      • You’re conflating two different things.

        And do you not recall the Samsung vs LG screen issues of retina MacBook pros – Samsung’s was the superior one.

      • Benedict

        You should look closely again since the performance of a S6 edge is faster than the iphone.
        Moreover the 14nm finfet is more superior than a 16nm process.

      • Um, no. According to anandtech, the iPhone 6s trounces the Samsung and only the surface pro 3 is anywhere near the iPhone.

      • Rowan09

        Not it doesn’t only in multi core but in single where it matters it’s not even close. Regardless 14nm is better and more compact, but I don’t know if anyone can notice the performance difference between the two.

      • Typical BS claimer. Single core performance matters no more than multicore. Single core is more for gaming, multi-core is more for battery eficiency and background processes like syncing/widgets/notifications/backup/etc.

        With processes like SurfaceFlinger (http://bit. ly/1NZXNxT), which take advantage of multiple cores in pre-determining where objects are going to be drawn on-screen prior to sending it to the GPU (regardless if app is programmed for single core or multicore), the performance difference in gaming is insignificant.

      • Rowan09

        Here’s why it matters. While both matters it shows that the A9 does more work with less than for comparison a phone with 8 cores with only 2 and doesn’t lag behind. Single core performance shows that the A9 is more powerful when compared to other phones on the market. Android devices use multiple cores because they are smaller while Apple uses larger dual core CPU’s which is why we see such a performance upgrade. They also have a 6 cluster GPU instead of 4. In regards to gaming the iPhone is superior to every phone and only lags behind the Surface Pro 3. Regardless I remember you say Apple makes an inferior phone for superior pricing and this is just a lie we see year over year.

      • Shinonuke

        Both of your argument is correct. MrElectrifyer’s comment is a researched and is a view for the generalizations of things. However, we see that the implimentation of the iPhone is different and given different results. Same goes for AMD vs Intel processors. Each uses different type of pipeline processes on their previous models and yet yield difference users results.

      • “Regardless I remember you say Apple makes an inferior phone for superior pricing and this is just a lie we see year over year.”

        Had other priorities, your comment wasn’t one of them. Either way, for the past few years, until recently with the 6s, only places it’s kept up to par with the competition is in the rear Photo Camera and CPU/GPU, there’s loads more to a SmartPhone than those hardware components and their benchmarks…

        — The display was and still is behind the competition with ancient 720p “Retina” HD and average screen-to-body ratio selling at a premium.

        – Only recently did it gain the capability to shoot 4k video, while the competition has been doing it for almost 3 years

        – Only recently did it gain the capability to shoot 1080p selfies when cheaper priced competition like the Xiomi Mi 3 has been offering crisper 5MP selfies for almost 3 years.

        — The software is inflexible as ever, there’s a reason jailbreakers exist.

        – The battery life made it well known for it’s wall-hugging feature, only recently have they finally put an end to that, glad that’s over.

        – Multitasking capabilities were a frustrating joke selling at a premium with just 1GB RAM when the competition was offering 3GB (and now 4GB) with immersive multi-tab web browsing and true app-multitasking support without constant app crashes/tab refreshing.

        — The NFC support is half-assed, they only implemented the function that fills their endless deep pockets, forgetting about the loads of other NFC uses (bit. ly/1UdyxWL) that Android devices have had access to for years.

        — Still comes with meh 16GB storage in this day and age with no option for memory expansion except to buy yet another device. Even with lightning storage accessories, still can’t install apps on them.

        – Finally, why should bendgate be an issue on such hefty price tag device? That was just them maximizing profits with cheap grade materials, they’ll still be doing it in the 6s had it not made headlines.

        All those flaws combined and the inferior iPhone was still selling at a superior price…at least they’ve fixed the items I – marked above and made it less inferior with the 6s. Still have yet to fix the items I — marked above.

      • Rowan09

        You can say it over and over again as many times as you want but it is not an inferior device. If you really believe a company with retail stores and employees need to sell their phones at a minimum profit margins you must be kidding. When you’re One Plus breaks do you just walk into a store for an exchange of service from them, of course not and that’s one of the things people pay for convenience. I would never want IOS to be at a point where jail breaking is no longer needed because I love home brew support. They tried Cydia for Android and that went no where because Google controls Android. To each his or her own but I’ve exhausted this enough.

      • Who’s asking for them to sell it at a minimum? The Surface Pro is an example of a reasonable priced product with the same “walk-in customer-support” convenience. A company doesn’t have to be extremely greedy like Apple to survive…

        Cydia for Android failed ’cause Saurik wasn’t passionate about it when we have functional and continuously growing competition like Xposed working flawlessly. He has stated multiple times he dislikes competition, Xposed is an example of what he dislikes, too bad for him.

      • Rowan09

        How much does the Surface Pro cost to make I’ve never seen an article online? All I have to compare is other hybrid laptops and the Surface is way over those prices with way less space. You support Microsoft and they are greedy bastards as well so I don’t see your point. It was not until recently Windows

      • Mike

        I ordered the Samsung Note 5 32gb international factory unlocked for $580. Good deal?

      • That’s a much better price than the original if it is brand new without any damages. Though, I personally would have went with a 64GB Note 4 instead for that price. The Note 5 dumped loads of handy SmartPhone features< so, frankly, I wouldn't buy a 64GB Note 5 for more than $500 with competition like the Moto X Pure available.

      • Mike

        Its brand new and everywhere else I check the price was around $700. I was going to get the 64gb but it wasn’t on sale anywhere so I just got the 32gb and I might buy a separate mini usb thing for the phone. I looked at the other phone but I like the S-Pen and touch-wiz kinda because it has a lot of functionality

      • Benedict

        If single core would matter, there wouldn’t be multicore CPUs. Android’s multithreading definitely profits from it. I don’t know with iOS since it likes to pause background tasks in favor of the foreground app and it’s performance. It’s just no real multitasking OS.

      • Rowan09

        Of course multi core matters. IOS does do multitasking it just handles it differently than Android. Multitasking means doing more than one thing at a time and IOS can have something in the background running while doing something else on the front screen. Regardless the iPhone best all those phones, checks the benchmarks it’s not even close. Why is it an excuse made for other manufacturers when iPhone best them, but when they lose its see it inferior? I never said since the iPhone beats the other devices its superior, but it does have superior hardware in terms of CPU and GPU performance right now.

      • Benedict

        I didn’t doubt iOS can multitask. But like I said, it kills task more often than others (s. RAM managment with 0,5 GB or 1 GB).
        You can’t look at a single core to vote the speed. You have to take the speed of the whole CPU because the processing power is divided up by all cores. Of course single core is slower with increasing number of cores.

      • Rowan09

        Check the benchmarks the iPhone kills those phones.

      • Benedict

        I did. It doesn’t. The iphone has around 4300 and the S6 Edge around 5200 points.

      • Rowan09

        No actually look at the complete benchmark not just 1 section.

      • Benedict

        These are the end results of geekbench. Also in Antutu the iphone has around 54000 and the S6 65000 points. The S6 is indeed faster.

      • Rowan09

        End results? No multi core tests are different than single core tests. Nowhere on the web agrees with the S6 being faster.

      • Benedict

        Must be that it would sound strange if the new iphone is slower than old phones. So they take the single core test. But if you have a multicore CPU with 8 cores you can’t just take one to test it’s speed.

      • Rowan09

        No geek bench doesn’t care and the S6 is not an old device it’s Samsung new device for this year just like the Note 5 and Edge+. Look at the results a device with 8 cores will beat a device with 2 cores in a multi-core test and it barely does it too.

      • kickinghorse99

        iOS is more optimize than android. What would happen if Apple use an 8 cores CPU?

      • Mike

        Get you iPhone and try to run two apps side by side. Also with the apple store thing I’ve never been to the apple store to get my phone or laptop fixed. The only time I’ve been there is to get a new iPhone wire because they break within 3 months.

  • Nirvana

    Different die size but performance does not take a hit in real world usage. No big deal

    • Not doubting you per say, but anything to back that up?
      All I know is that I would almost guarantee the Samsung chip will show in their results to have a slight edge over the other company’s 16.

  • Dexter SherloConan

    My iPhone 6s, model MKR32LL/A (64G, T-Mobile, Space Grey), has TLC Rom and TSMC 16nm A9 chip according to the IOKit information.