The M7 coprocessor in the iPhone 5s: what it is and why it may be a game changer

With the iPhone 5s, Apple introduced four significant hardware upgrades that set the 5s apart from its competition. These include an improved camera sensor, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, the 64-bit A7 chip and the M7 motion coprocessor. In this post, I'll look at the M7 motion coprocessor, and why it might be a game changer in the wearable market.

What is the M7?

Apple describes the M7 as a sidekick to the A7 chip. It's there to lighten the workload of the A7 by measuring the motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. It continuously measures motion data and grabs this information without relying on the A7 chip.

CoreMotion API

A motion sensor is only useful if there are apps that can access that data. With the M7, Apple has opened up a new CoreMotion API to developers. This API tracks the user's movement and makes "optimizations based on contextual awareness." It'll pave the way for a whole new breed of health and fitness apps, both from big names in the game like RunKeeper and little ones as well.

A small battery life boost

A pleasant side effect of a coprocessor may be a slight improvement in battery life. Rather than relying on the beefy 64-bit A7 to measure the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass, the iPhone 5s will utilize the M7. The low-power side processor will handle all the lifting, while its big brother sleeps.

The significance of continuous motion

I think the significance of the M7 lies beyond the iPhone 5s. Yes, it's a cool thing to have your phone become your fitness tracker, but not everyone straps on a 4-inch device when they go out for a run or drops their phone in their pocket when they walk during their lunch break.

I see the M7 as a proving ground for bigger (well actually, smaller) and better things. A future version could land in an iPod nano and breathe new life into a dying device. It also could end up in a wearable product in the coming years. Think of the possibilities of a wearable that sits on your wrist with minimal interaction from you. It’s not a second screen for your phone, but your phone’s eyes and ears, telling the handset everywhere you've gone and everything you’ve done more accurately than a phone in your bag could do. The phone receives this data (I went to the bank) and then can respond appropriately (cross that off my to-do list). It also could interact with things around you, so you would only have to flash your wrist to buy some food and have that money debited from the financial app on your phone.

  • Mark Coppock

    So, I take it you find the A7 to be a “beefy” processor…

  • brad

    This is something the moto x has in it along with taking care of more core functions

  • Tueksta

    I think they’re gonna include Ambient Noise and Brightness levels to this Chips monitoring tasks. The brain has input, processing, and output channels, so a smart device also needs a “live” input channel. The old input channels via user interfaces were just precursors. The internal sensors like gyroscope and GPS were the first revolution by Apple. I think that a true live sensor Chip is another revolution, but a silent one. As of now, few people understand the impact this chip will have in the near future, and the impact that the concept of live sensors and live input processors will have on all computing devices.

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