At this point, we’re pretty sure we know what this year’s iPhone models are going to look like. We expect to see a 6.5-inch OLED model, a 5.8-inch followup to the iPhone X, and a 6.1-inch LCD model with the same edge-to-edge design as the iPhone X. What we still don’t know is what Apple will do to upgrade the internals of its iPhone line in 2018, but on Monday, Macworld put together a compelling set of predictions for the new models.
Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that these are predictions based on trends from previous years and what we know about technological advancements, not a report based on leaks or anything of the sort. There are only so many advancements that Apple can make while still keeping costs down, so if this really is an “S year,” these predictions are probably prudent.
In all likelihood, Apple will launch the A12 processor alongside its new phones this fall. Apple itself won’t say anything about the new chips until next month, but TSMC — the foundry responsible for making the chips — has already given us an idea of what to expect by describing how its 7nm manufacturing process will affect the results:
The company paints a very rosy picture. Compared to the 10nm process that the A11 Bionic was made with, the company says 7nm offers “1.6X logic density, ~20% speed improvement, and ~40% power reduction.”
In other words, if Apple were to produce the exact same A11 Bionic chip with the 7nm process, it could be roughly 40 percent smaller, and use either 40 percent less power running at the same speed, or run at a 20 percent higher clock speed at the same power. You can be assured those are best-case figures.
As Macworld’s Jason Cross then notes, Apple isn’t going to release the same chip with a new process. It’s going to build a more advanced chip that will surpass 2017’s chip. The question now is how far Apple will be able to push performance with its new chip. Thankfully, it’s not hard to detect a pattern in recent years.
Providing Apple sticks with the same six-core design (two high-powered, four energy-efficient), the Geekbench 4 single-core score should once again increase in a linear fashion, likely rising from the A11’s 4217 to around 5000 or so. This should account for up to a 20% increase in performance. As for the multi-core score, it’s worth noting that the A11 made a massive leap last year (nearly three times the jump from 2015 to 2016), so it’s unlikely we’ll see the same improvement again. Cross helpfully explains why this won’t be the case:
[…] the A11 made a major architectural change to the way multi-threaded performance works. It introduced a new second-generation performance controller that, for the first time, allowed the two big cores and the four little cores to all work at the same time. That had a huge impact on multi-core performance. The A12 may have faster cores, and may even be more efficient about using them all at once, but it won’t have the advantage of suddenly being able to use more of them at the same time than ever before.
Therefore, we expect about a 25 to 30 percent improvement in multi-core performance, giving us a Geekbench 4 score in the neighborhood of 13,000.
The article draws a wide variety of interesting conclusions based on trendlines and data from previous years, but perhaps the most relevant for casual observers is related to battery life. While the transition to a 7nm process could potentially result in better battery life, the increased power draw of a more complex A12 chip will likely negate it. That said, the next iPhone models may have improved battery life while asleep than older models. So you won’t be able to surf the web for any longer, but it might take more time for your phone to die while sitting idle.