Advancing the iPhone

by Ben Bajarin   |   September 10th, 2013

Apple may have done more today to pave the way for the iPhone’s future than any past event. What was announced today was more than a set of new products but a new foundation for the future. First off, this is the first time Apple has shifted from its tried and true model of one new iPhone a year. Second, this is the first time in a while that they killed off last years iPhone and replaced it with a new one.

There were more interesting things to write and analyze than fits in one article so I’d like to focus on a few foundational aspects of today’s events.

Next Generation

You can’t look at the iPhone 5s and not objectively agree that it is an amazingly designed phone. Aesthetically it stands out from the competition marvelously. But the technology inside the iPhone is truly next generation.

The biggest surprise for me was the announcement that the new A7 processor in the iPhone 5s is the world’s first 64 bit processor in a smart phone. We heard this rumor early on but I dismissed it thinking it would be too soon to move to 64 bit. Apple, however, believes it is the right time.

1 billion transistors. That is truly remarkable. I’m not going to go into the depths of 64 bit architectures but I’ll make a few points on why this is a big deal.

First, 64 bit will dramatically increase the performance of more intensive and demanding applications. Things like audio and video encoding/decoding and any graphically intense applications including games and other visually complex applications. I talked to several prominent developers in the crowd who were extremely excited about the possibilities with 64 bit computing in mobile devices.

What makes this move to 64 bit all the more interesting is the software. iOS 7 is the world’s first 64 bit mobile operating system. The key to 64 bit processors is to have software which is written to take advantage of it. Here again is where we see Apple’s vertical advantage kick in. They control the hardware, design the SoC, and control the software. All these things have led them to create the world’s most advanced processor and operating system. But it is not just about Apple.

Apple likes to do things that give developers a distinct advantage for their apps on iOS. 64 bit will do just that and I am excited to see how developers can take advantage of the A7 and create the most amazing smartphone applications ever created.

The A7 being 64 bit, and potentially the results it yields in terms of third party software, gives Apple a distinct time advantage over competitors. No competitors are even close to bringing 64 bit to market and even for some platforms like Android which is focused on the low end non-spec smartphones it may not even make sense.

The iPhone is a Wearable Computer?

Apple also showed its prowess in developing co-processors or dedicated companion cores designed for low-power efficiency for dedicated tasks. Their latest one, the M7, is designed as a motion co-processor that tracks movement and is optimized for contextual awareness. They have an API called core motion that has the potential to create a new class of health and fitness apps.

Several things are interesting about this. First of all this could enable a new class of health and fitness hardware as well. Yes new apps can be built to register and track motion of the phone itself. However, by using the API, perhaps we will see new wearable hardware combined with this more robust software to create new health and fitness solutions. One could assume that the more wearable devices we have tracking relevant data the more accurate it can be.

Second, Apple is giving developers the tools to begin to take advantage of assets in their ecosystem to start developing new health and fitness apps. We speculate that Apple may someday create a dedicated wearable and this API and the M7 could be laying the foundation for conditioning developers for that future.

Security

The fingerprint sensor is a true innovation. I have sensed the secure devices trend for some time. With regards to Apple, this is significant since business continues to be a growth area for the iPhone and iPad. The innovations they are doing around security will only help their case in the enterprise and even into more places like government.

Here again Apple’s vertical advantage shines through. By owning the hardware, the SoC, and the software they are able to securely protect the person’s fingerprint data into a secure enclave, which is a dedicated secure area of the CPU that is blocked off from the OS and designed to keep fingerprint data locked directly to the hardware securely and safely.

Instead of one-click purchases, we are now on the cusp of one-touch purchases.

The key will be to watch how this advances. This will be a new way of thinking about their devices and security and I imagine Apple will take baby steps in advancing this technology. Right now you can use the fingerprint scanner to log-in to the iPhone as well as use it to make a purchase through iTunes. Over time perhaps the capability will extend to purchases with third party apps as well.

Instead of one click-purchases, we are now on the cusp of one-touch purchases.

Free Productivity

Lastly, making iWork free with all new iOS 7 devices does several interesting things. For one, it may keep Microsoft at bay. Even though Office is offered on iOS it requires a subscription to Office 365. This is not an issue for those who have an enterprise license but it is for consumers. By giving iWork away for free consumers now have a solid Office alternative with their mobile devices.

The most interesting thing this does is it drives more iCloud loyalty. If consumers start using iWork and documents in the cloud, instead of something like Office, Apple has the potential to create more ecosystem loyalty as consumers build up size-able amount of “productivity” data stored on Apple’s cloud.

Strategically this one is interesting.

Conclusion

From my observations I noted a few firsts. I’ll end with these.

Firsts
- First dual-tone LED flash
- First 64 bit mobile CPU
- First 64 bit mobile operating system
- First $99 with contract new iPhone model
- First mobile phone with a fingerprint scanner (that actually works)
- First time Apple releases two new iPhones

Tags: ,

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • Walter White

    Wow. Hire a editor. Too many grammatical mistakes for me to take you seriously.

    • benbajarin

      Wish we could.

      • hannahjs

        Funny, on some sites the commenters clean up the language for you; the blogger need only perform their suggested edits…

        • benbajarin

          I’d always do when they are pointed out. I went back through and cleaned up what I could. I openly admit I am not grammar or editing expert.

          • hannahjs

            What you wrote today interested me so much that I scarcely noticed any such errors, anyway :)

          • benbajarin

            Appreciate that, thanks.

          • TheEternalEmperor

            I liked the article.

      • FalKirk

        Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar. ~ E. B. White

        • Rene Stein

          Is there some app that you use for these quotes? Some contextual screen reader you secretly developed that reads what is being written, understands it, then pulls out an appropriate quote from the database?

    • Andrew

      Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    • Randy

      You mean: Hire “an” editor?

    • TheEternalEmperor

      Yeah! Hire **A** editor…for Walter White. ;-)

  • Kenny

    Apple seems to has just divided the world into two classes, the gold iPhone people and the plastic iPhone people, Let’s hope this all play out as planned.

    • FalKirk

      The event didn’t strike me that way at all. The iPhone 5C is a slightly better iPhone 5 sold at $99 subsidized. The iPhone 5S has the A7 processor, the better camera and the fingerprint scanner. Both phones appear to have value to their respective markets.

      • Kenny

        hum, the only reason Apple introduce a cheap version of iPhone 5S is to protect its profit margin, not to gain more market share, cause otherwise the majority of consumers would buy the iPhone 5 instead of 5S as they did in the last quarter with the IPhone 4s.

        • tz

          My guess is that the c is more profitable than the s.

  • benbajarin

    We obviously don’t know the intimate details of the 64 bit design. However, being that the CPU and the graphics moved to 64 bit, you will undoubtedly see smart developers take advantage of these features. The device has the memory necessary to reap the benefits from a software standpoint.

    I did talk with ARM guys about this a little bit ago and of course they didn’t disclose anything but they did indicate that there was a lot of unique sauce, and by that I’m thinking in terms of registers, that Apple did they they were impressed with.

    This is a move for the future, a foundational building block. I think WAY to many people are underestimating the possibilities. I had a similar conversation on this with Paul Jacobs last week as well. And of course I have been talking with Intel’s execs on this subject for many years now.

    Let’s see, is what I have to say.

    • Defendor

      I do think this is a Nice Upgrade that keeps Apple in the top tier of phones.

      Though I think you overplay the 64 bit aspect. This is likely just an ARM V8 variation and it is the next generation in the pipeline. So the next logical step.

      But it definitely shows Apples growing CPU design prowess that they hit the next generation CPU first. I suspect they also might be first to a new generation PowerVR GPU. Putting both a next gen CPU and next gen GPU, a jump ahead of the rest of the industry, in the same SoC is pretty damn impressive.
      I still like Apple HW, I just wish I didn’t find the aesthetics of iOS 7 so detestable.

      • benbajarin

        While I am at IDF this week I plan on spending more time on this so I may convince myself i’m overplaying it. But I plan to talk to all the “experts.” So we will see.

  • benbajarin

    And of course I’m not saying specs are what consumers clamor for. But they do clamor for experiences. When those 1 billion transistors translate into differentiated experiences.. That is what matters.

  • Erwin Pridzuhn

    Ben Bajarin wrote: -First mobile Phone with a fingerprint scanner… watch this: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115140798188446634685/posts/QXVxqJqz12P

    • benbajarin

      Ha! I used that one, but it sucked bad… I should clarify, first one that actually works :)

  • FalKirk

    “No competitors are even close to bringing 64 bit to market and even for some platforms like Android which is focused on the low end non-spec smartphones it may not even make sense.”

    Hmm, interesting. Could create a schism. We’ll have to see whether Android emulates Apple’s leap to 64 bit or not.

  • LonePilgrim

    Imho I think that with iWork apps free with new idevices Apple is going for Microsoft’s jugular as well as making a play for enterprise or business users at least.

    • def4

      I doubt that the cost of three $9.99 apps was really the reason keeping enterprises tightly locked into MS Office.

      • LonePilgrim

        Well I agree that its not really the cost of the 3 apps. I feel that its more like right now a whole new generation of business users such as financial services, property executives, small business owners among many others use iPads and iPhones for their businesses who increasingly are finding out that they do not really need MS Office to work with Office files. Which could be one of the reasons why MS Surface tablets hasn’t been selling very well. So Apple by giving away iWorks apps with idevices may just continue to accelerate that trend.

  • aardman

    I was wondering as soon as M7 was shown weather a stand-alone variant might go into the iWatch.

    If you activate TouchID and the print sensor breaks or accidentally gets smashed, is your phone basically locked until you get the hardware fixed? Surely, there must bean override?

    I’m no chip guru or even apprentice guru. In light of 64-bit ARM, is an ARM Macbook a technically feasible?

    Free iWork might make MS reconsider its decision to hold off on iOS Office.

    • benbajarin

      Pass code unlock is the backup if for some reason the sensor breaks or doesn’t work. So that will always be the back up way to log in.

      The speculation of the ARM Macbook’s will begin. Yes, in my opinion it may signal a shift in this direction.

    • peter

      If the A7 is about twice as fast as the A6 then it would be roughly comparable to a 2010 MacBook Air (or a 2005 high end Power Mac G5). I think it is a little early, but we are getting very close to position where an ARM MacBook might be a credible possibility.

      It is perhaps time for Intel to get into a CPU production joint venture with Apple, before they start losing their leverage. With one more doubling of speed (i.e. about 18 months) the A7 would be in the same class as a 2011 Mac Mini or 2012 MacBook Air.

  • Rene Stein

    The M7 chip is the most interesting feature to me. Basically, it can be used like a low powered inertial navigation system. This, along with iBeacons, will pave the way to much better indoor navigation. Example, park in a parking garage at the mall (great Seinfeld episode by the way), turn on a location tracking app that logs your movements via the M7 chip. When you return to the parking garage on the way home, it can use the data logs collected by the M7 chip to point you back to where your car is.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      I’m beginning to think similarly to this. Amongst all the iWatch rumors, I under-estimated how fully committed Apple was to making its iPhone the platform (or ‘home base’) for wearables.

  • steve_wildstrom

    A 64-bit processor becomes important when you want to address more than 4 GB of RAM. That’s not likely to be an issue for phones anytime soon, but it could make a real difference for tablets and other form factors.

    • Defendor

      4GB of system RAM, is something I am pretty sure we won’t see in an iPad(or other iOS device) for at least 3 years. 64bit is just about the most irrelevant aspect of the CPU upgrade. It just happens that it was the next step in the ARM architecture, so Apple moved to it.

      In the next 6 months, you should see other SoC players releasing their ARM V8 (64bit) designs, not as response to Apple (because they couldn’t respond that quickly) but because this is the next step in everyone’s ARM SoC pipeline.

      I give full credit for Apple hitting the next ARM architecture first, but 64 bit is all but irrelevant for some time to come.

      • TheEternalEmperor

        Yet Samsung is jumping in! Want to see irrelevant? Try a 64bit chip running a 32bit OS and apps.

  • Anders CT

    I liked what I saw, but I was still a bit underwhelmed. Here is my impressions.

    1) The new anodization colors does not look tacky. To me it looks classy. And I’m not in general a fan the design of the iPhone.
    2) 64 bit is both impressive and pointless at the same time. We all knew it was coming, and it is kind of cool to make the first 64-bit arm chip before ARM holdings has finalized their 64-bit cores. Just like AMD one-upped Intel with their 64-bit implementation years ago. But 64-bit computing makes little sense in current phones. It would be extremely nice for developers if Apple (or Android) moved to a unified adress and file-space, but I haven’t really digged into iOS7 to form an opinion.
    3) The M7 processor is nice, and it is essentially the same solution as the Moto-X is using for speech-processing. When two innovative companies arrive at similar solutions to somewhat similar problems, one thinks that they are on to something.
    4) Fingerprint-authentication is nothing new. But fingerprint-autthentication that doesn’t suck would be something completely new. With this Apple could be trendsetters in yet another area of mobile technology. Especially combined with NFC or similar technology.
    5) There seems to be conflicting reports on the inclusion of NFC. Not having NFC in the iPhone would be a huge own-goal in markets were NFC is becoming the accepted standard for mobile payments.
    6) The iPhone 5C’s pricing makes sense for Apples customers. It is Essentially a slightly cheaper iPhone 5 replacement. But the iPhone 5C’s price also makes it perfectly clear, that Apple has no intention of challenging Android for market penetration around the globe, and that Apple is perfectly content owning the most lucrative 15% of the mobile space. With this pricing, Android world domination seems kind of inevitable.
    7) I think it is fair to say that the iPhone is still a top product, with a lot of well-earned consumer loyalty. But where as the iPhone used to be in a class of its own, it is now just one phone in a group of very good devices, such as the HTC One, Galazy S4, Lumia 1020, Moto-X, Xperia Z1, LG G2, Note 3 and many others. There really is a spectacular amount of quality choice out there.
    8) Good content will always trump a few grammatical errors.

    • TheEternalEmperor

      3) I was actually thinking the opposite. I’ve thought for a long time that since we have multiple core CPUs on the desktop, we don’t we allocate 2 or 4 or them to something like DragonDictation and shot for dictating without specifying say punctuation: “Hello period. How are you question mark”

      For the moment, what Google did makes more sense to me. What’s interesting is that they are targeting VASTLY different use cases for dedicated coprocessors. That being said, maybe this is the first shot in a an Apple wearable made of multiple dedicated low power chips.

      6) Maybe. Apple moved down the line with iPod, slowly but surely. It seems that when Apple goes head to head with Android in pricing, Apple seems to win. However, I don’t think Android is a given since a company like Samsung with, inevitably go its own way. There uniformed GUI and new SDK conf seems to show that they are trying(of course, I’ll wager that conf will fail big time)

    • def4

      64 bit is clearly not pointless as it contributed to the doubling of performance.
      It is actually multicore that is pointless. Qualcomm is on record for calling octocore plain stupid.
      NFC is like FM radio. Some people will complain about but it’s just not going to matter.

      • Anders CT

        Yeah, but all quallcomms own top-of the line chips is quadcore. The PS4 and XboX One are both Octo-core. Multicore makes sense i many cases, but puts a burden on developers. It’s a trade-off.

  • Anders CT

    The more I think about it, 64 bit would actually make a lot more sense on Android devices. When 64 bit makes it to Android the majority of the application stack will benefit from the larger adress space and wider registers because of the virtual machine and JIT compiler. On iOS you either target 32 bit or reject alle devices below the iPhone 5s.

    Fragmentation is a bitch :-)

    • TheEternalEmperor

      Or you compile it so that both are supported. I don’t have XCode, but you can do that on Visual Studio.

      • steve_wildstrom

        Apple said the newest version of Xcode will compile 64/32 binaries. Remember, Apple did this for a while with fat binaries that supported both Intel and Power processors on the Mac, and that was a lot trickier.

        • TheEternalEmperor

          Right. The 64/32 is probably easier by comparison and the binary may not be as large relative to say the retina move.

      • Defendor

        Fat binaries don’t make a lot of sense on mobile platform with constrained storage.

        • TheEternalEmperor

          There’s fat and there’s fat. There was an initial wave of complaints about the size of binaries when everything when iPad went retina and universal binaries probably added to this.

          Is anyone complaining in 2013? Nope.

          I’m on tricky water here not having XCode in front of me, but I’ll wager that a 64/32bit binary won’t be as large as an dual Intel/Power process binary, so I think you are reading too much into the word “fat.”

          As Steve said, that Intel/Power move was a lot trickier than what a 64/32bit binary entails.

        • steve_wildstrom

          You don’t need fat binaries anymore. You could just have 32- and 64-bit binaries in the App Store and download only the appropriate one. Fat binaries were needed to simplify distribution when code came on physical media and customers didn’t know which version to buy.

          • TheEternalEmperor

            Ultimately, Ander’s CT “fragmentation” issue with devs choosing between 5s and others is a non-issue as are most attempts to try apply the term “fragmentation” equally to iOS and Android.

            Apple actively works against this and Google does not. The results of both strategies are pretty evident.

          • Anders CT

            For me personally as a developer fragmentation is a bigger burden when developing for iOS than when developing for Android. But I admittedly mostly does the latter. Because I think Android is a lot better :-)

    • TheEternalEmperor

      From apple’s Dev site

      “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.”

      • Anders CT

        Sure. But you still have to do it. It’s alot of software that needs to be retargeted. I never understood why Apple would not just base their packet format on the LLVM. They have that technology, it is excellent. Use it.