# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it


  1. The shortest line
  2. New designs by Arm Holdings
  3. Conclusion

The shortest line

Application Installation

I noticed that my Samsung Galaxy Note 9 installs applications from the Google Play Store much longer than other smartphones. At the same time, applications from Samsung’s own app store are installed quickly.

I decided to conduct a visual experience by installing the application “Radio Arzamas”. By the way, great podcasts are inexpensive and highly recommend. Very interesting courses, but the introductory music before each lecture causes melancholy and depression. It seems that they have a motto “Even interesting educational courses should cause melancholy!”

Distracted. So, the application on Mi Note 10 Pro downloaded and installed in 11 seconds. And on Galaxy Note 9 it downloaded in 9 seconds and installed for another 23 seconds.

Have you ever encountered something like this?

Smartphone prices # 1

As a customer, we love low prices. But for the manufacturer, such a policy is fraught with unpleasant consequences.

After Huawei received a nasty kick in the knee from Google, which disconnected it from services and updates, the manufacturer, in order to maintain market share, began an active sale campaign when various semi-direct discounts were given on smartphones. I called it “semi-straight”, because instead of lowering prices for a competitive model, they used techniques like “two smartphones for the price of one.” The target model was given another less classy smartphone. There is even a certain logic in this approach. People usually use devices for 1.5 – 2 years. So let them buy Huawei now, and in two years a lot can happen – either the donkey dies, or the padishah (this is a quote from Khoja Nasreddin).

However, after the devices entered the market without Google services, many were unpleasantly surprised that the new models cost exactly the same. Where is the discount for not having Google? It turned out that he does not exist and cannot be.

Huawei has long and persistently taught that this is not just another Chinese factory on its knee, but a large corporation. That is why smartphones cost more than three kopecks. And now the company continues its strategy by saying that you pay for the product as a whole. People were outraged, but generally resigned, and sales are going.

For example, according to the results of the first quarter of 2020, Honor / Huawei smartphones occupied 32,5% of the market in pieces and 21,7% in rubles. Huawei is still in the top three. Accordingly, we can say that the company is going through the crisis with dignity.

On the other side are Xiaomi and realme, which have taught that good smartphones can be cheap. Both manufacturers had new product announcements last month. Realme has a realme 6 series, and Xiaomi has a lot of things, but we are specifically talking about Redmi 9 and Mi 10.

I must say that both realme 6 pro and Redmi 9 Pro have a fair price of 22 thousand rubles. But people accustomed to low prices immediately began to resent why it was so expensive. The answer is simple – well, it costs so much, it’s business, not charity — only unpleasant.

It will also be interesting to observe the behavior of the Mi 10. This is perhaps the most expensive mass flagship Xiaomi. And now I wonder if mi-fans are ready for this or not.

Smartphone prices # 2

In the last issue, I talked about which flagships the new Pocophone from Xiaomi should be the killer of. And then the data from Counterpoint on Samsung sales in Korea arrived. Take a look at what models were popular a year ago and now. In 2019, 4 out of 5 places were occupied by flagships that are relevant or almost relevant.

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

A year later, as we can see, only the Galaxy Note 10 has firmly established itself in the hearts of Koreans. And I understand them! The first place was taken by the A90, which was dubbed “affordable premium”. Why do you need a flagship when smartphones are no worse at all?

About Samsung

When I was preparing the material for “New”, I discovered that the budget model M11 from Samsung does not have Samsung Pay (with NFC and Google Pay) and Samsung Pass. These important and useful services are not available on the older M-series models either.

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

Probably the reason is that Samsung has outsourced part of the production – the M-series and partly the A-series. These devices are manufactured at third-party Chinese factories according to the classic scheme of all similar devices. The factories have blanks, they are sharpened for Samsung, branded and sold. And if they still trust the One UI 2.0 proprietary shell, they prefer not to give Samsung Pay and Pass. After all, one technology is responsible for the money, and the second is an advanced biometric password manager. Both technologies are beautiful and delightful.

New designs by Arm Holdings

In early May, there was a story about MediaTek, within which Arm Holdings was also touched upon. If you forget, Arm Holdings is the main company in the mobile processor market. Qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei, Apple, MediaTek buy designs and processor licenses from it.

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

Briefly about Arm Holdings

If you’ve forgotten, here’s a little help about Arm.

Arm Holdings’ business is that it is engaged in research, developing designs for new chipsets, selling licenses to anyone who wants to use the development.

Arm Holdings has several main types of licenses:

  • Free licenses for research. Any company can get access, the only restriction is that it is impossible to sell developments.
  • License for a specific chipset, core, or graphics accelerator. For example, you need a Mali G76 – you go and buy. Such licenses are usually acquired by industrial companies that have one specific task.
  • License to use the chipset. Such a license gives the design of the chipset, the technology, how to stamp it at the factory. However, the manufacturer himself chooses whether to follow the recommendations or modify. Samsung’s Exynos were originally made using this method. Samsung didn’t do it very well, and that’s when Exynos developed the image of “energy-consuming stoves.”
  • “Chipset Usage + Help Package” is also called POP, or processor optimization pack. This is a more expensive modification of the previous license. If the companies do not manage to cope on their own, they can ask Arm Holdings for help, and then it will hold, relatively speaking, a master class at a specific friendly plant, making sure that the chipsets meet all standards. The procedure is expensive, so, as I understand it, it is only used from time to time by such powerful companies as Apple or Samsung.
  • Architecture. This is the highest level available only to the most advanced companies. Qualcomm, for example, has a similar license. Basically, it’s just a set of instructions and permission to do whatever your heart desires.
  • Companies usually buy several types of licenses. For example, Qualcomm has both an architecture license and a subscription to new developments from Arm Holdings. Thus, the work is more efficient – one head is good, and two is better.

Accordingly, Arm Holdings earns from licenses as well as royalties in the amount of 1-2% of the price of each chipset sold. In a sense, Arm Holdings, while not so well-known, is doing much better than Intel or AMD. Its technology occupies 90% of the mobile device market. Almost all manufacturers who are interested in the development of ARM chipsets are on its side. Openness in this case plays into the hands. Anyone can go to the site and choose what they want. For example, it is recommended to buy Cortex-A77 in addition to the premium core Cortex-A55, and, of course, you must not forget to buy graphics as well.

New designs

And every year around this time Arm Holdings presents its developments. For an ordinary consumer, this event is generally uninteresting, since he will see its fruits only after about 10 months, when leaks about a new chipset from Qualcomm or Samsung begin to penetrate the network in the context of the imminent launch of flagships.

Typically, Arm Holdings showcases new Arm Cortex processors and Mali graphics. With the names, everything is usually also simple: there was Cortex-A77, became A78, and next year there will be A79. Everything seems to be normal and predictable. But this time Arm was pleasantly surprised, as their announcements indicate that in the future the mobile electronics market will shake up and we will see new interesting devices. But let’s start in order.

First, take a look at how Arm sees a modern chipset. This is the processor, graphics and neuroprocessor responsible for machine learning – in other words, artificial intelligence. All three processors have significantly improved performance compared to last year.

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

The new CPUs are the top-end Cortex-A78. In short, they will be 20% more powerful than the current generation A77, used in the same Snapdragon 865. According to Arm, the A78 is generally 20% more energy efficient than the 2019 A77 smartphones. The new processor achieves the same performance as the A77 with 50% less power consumption.

Arm is thinking about energy efficiency for two reasons. First, 5G is a very voracious technology. Secondly, it is expected that there will be more and more devices with folding screens that need energy efficient, and most importantly, high performance solutions.

But speaking of the A78, it is worth noting that the increase in performance and energy efficiency is achieved due to the new technical process – 5 nm. If we make A78 at the current 7 nm, then the performance gain will be around 8%, and energy efficiency – even less, about 5%.

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

The new graphics Mali G78 is doing well too. The formal increase in productivity is 25%.

The presentation shed light on the driver situation. If you remember, in December at my Hawaiian conference, where I did not go, since there is no visa, and it still oppresses me, Qualcomm was told that the option to update graphics drivers would be available for new chipsets. And already some Xiaomi models come with such driver updates.

Arm Holdings itself is interested in the development of the topic. And it is working with Google and other smartphone and chipset manufacturers to organize driver updates through the Google Play Store.

Interestingly, Arm Holdings, like AMD and Nvidia, is thinking about integrating ray tracing. Although it seems to me that this is a little about something else. For example, with Nvidia, ray tracing is only available on graphics cards with dedicated AI processors. Accordingly, ray tracing is a kind of test for artificial intelligence, proving that it can “think out” a picture. And in the case of Nvidia, ray tracing was just the beginning. So, this year they introduced DLSS 2.0, that is, a technology when AI completes a picture on its own to a higher resolution and quality than a video card would render it on its own. Along the way, computing power is freed up, that is, productivity grows.

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

Thus, both AMD and Arm Holdings want ray tracing not because it is beautiful and smartphone users are dying to see glare, but because it opens up new possibilities in terms of performance.

In the case of Arm Holdings, ray tracing is also important in terms of image, to show that mobile devices are in no way inferior to computers.

Cortex-X1 – the core that will beat the iPhone

In 2016, Arm introduced the Built on Arm Cortex program. Before this program, smartphone manufacturers had a problem. They did not have the opportunity to change the microarchitecture of the processors. Thus, if they wanted to add something unintended, then they had to develop their own microarchitecture from scratch. And this kind of thing requires a significant level of skill that many smartphone manufacturers lack. They don’t need it corny.

Since 2016, Arm has been accommodating, and manufacturers have been able to ask for help in implementing the improvements they need. At the same time, trade secrets and competition remained. Each manufacturer’s work remained with him, and Arm did not share it with others. Thanks to this program, smartphone manufacturers have been able to squeeze more performance out of the chipset, for example, by forcing it to execute more instructions per cycle than is required by the standard.

In 2020, the program has been further developed, as a number of manufacturers need performance that does not fit within the framework of typical solutions. Arm introduced the Cortex-X1.

Typically, chipsets are combinations of high performance and energy efficient cores. For example, A77 and A55. Now there may also be a Cortex-X1 super-core. It aims to maximize performance while rejecting all energy efficiency. It will be very “devouring”.

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

Look how big it is!

An interesting point is that when describing the purpose of the Cortex-X1, the phrase sounded that this core should make the current solutions more competitive in comparison with other arm designs. And here you don’t have to go far to understand who we are talking about.

Chipsets from Qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei and MediaTek are outright inferior to Apple’s solutions in terms of performance per core.

Apple, developing chipsets for itself, approached the issue of increasing productivity rationally. The A13 Bionic chipset was made specifically for the iPhone. This is a custom solution. Accordingly, Apple can afford to allocate more space for the high-performance parts of the chipset. And it is quite logical that a processor with a larger area can perform more operations in one cycle.

Apple also allocated more cache to its chipsets. For example, if you look at the Snapdragon 865, the A77 core has a 2 KB L512 cache. While Apple has 4096 KB. Apple’s L1 cache is also larger – 128 KB versus 64 KB. This allows processors to perform operations faster, saving the time competitors wasted “running” to RAM.

# Echo73: why iPhone has the most powerful chipset and how Arm will fix it

Unfortunately, Android manufacturers cannot afford such improvements. For example, the same cache memory is a very energy-consuming thing, which Apple compensates by the fact that it can maximize the optimization of software hardware. For Android, which is done one at all, this is not an option.

Accordingly, Cortex-X1 is Apple’s answer. Adjusted for the constraints that Arm has to provide a design that fits all manufacturers. But in this case, at the presentation, a phrase sounded about a certain selected group with which we are cooperating.

So what is it about X1? Firstly, already on the test slides you can see that the cache size of all levels has increased: Cortex-X1: 1MB priv-L2, 8MB L3 cache, while Cortex-A78 (32kB) / Cortex-A77 has 512KB priv-L2, 4MB L3 cache … Well, in the pictures above, you saw a call to pay attention to dimensions. The core is really big compared to the usual cores.


Catching up with Apple in terms of performance is a good thing. But the main question is what it will result in.

It can be assumed, that:

  1. The flagships of a number of manufacturers will see significant gains. Samsung and Huawei, who design their own chipsets, will find it easier to make super-powerful smartphones by balancing performance and energy efficiency.
  2. Manufacturers buying chipsets will be forced to work even more closely with their supplier. But I suppose in the first stages there will be flaws with increased energy consumption. So Qualcomm has more work to do! And separating drivers into a separate software is a logical idea for prompt problem solving.
  3. AI developments and the promise of ray tracing hint that there will be a much bigger breakthrough in mobile chipset performance in a year or two.
  4. Apple will continue to lead in terms of performance. Because the current solution from Arm Holdings doesn’t look more powerful even on paper. Arm offers one Cortex-X1 core per chipset. To catch up with Apple, you need 2-3 pieces.
  5. The flagships will acquire new features in terms of performance. This will lead to the creation of applications and games that will be uncomfortable to use on conventional devices. Thus, the status quo will be restored, and the purchase of flagship devices will make sense again.

And the last point raises the most questions for me. Today, the chipsets of average performance are enough to run any applications. How, at least theoretically (apart from the idea of ​​folding smartphones), can such a performance gain be used? Smartphones already record 8K video and allow you to edit it, support almost desktop-level graphics, turn into full-fledged computers when connected to a monitor. What are we missing?

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