The next-generation iPhone is starting to generate a significant wave of hype – and it hasn’t even been announced yet. Such is the game that Apple and its fan-base love to play.
Rumors are swirling around the intertubes that hint at all sorts of high-tech features being crammed into the next hardware iteration of the iPhone. From OLED displays to larger on-board storage, next-gen iPhone rumors are as wide-ranging as they are uncertain. And, to add to that pile of uncertainty, we’re hearing that Apple might be including multi-core graphics processing in the future iPhone.
A multi-core iPhone has been rumored since Apple acquired fabless chip design firm PA Semi. And, Apple’s continuing work on Grand Central technology – which allows for more efficient multi-core processing – only adds fuel to the speculation that a future iPhone will support true parallel processing.
Apple’s acquisition of PA Semi highlights the fruit-company’s intention to keep their chip-architecture strictly in-house, allowing them to distinguish the iPhone from the rest of the smartphone market on both hardware (custom chips) and software (iPhone OS) fronts. By designing their own processors, Apple can design chips that are custom-tailored to take advantage of Apple’s advances in parallel processing like Grand Central.
With PA Semi able to design multi-core system-on-chip processors, Apple needs only contract Samsung to stamp out the silicon before putting it into the next-generation iPhone. It’s still speculation, but a multi-core iPhone sure does sound like a logical roadmap for Apple to follow. In fact, we’re almost expecting Apple to launch a multi-core iPhone in the future.
What about multi-core graphics?
The multi-core processors in our imaginary future iPhone will handle all the number-crunching for most tasks, but what about graphics processing? Imagination Technologies, the same company that licensed their PowerVR SGX graphics architecture to Apple, has announced a new PowerVR SGX design with support for multiple cores. The new PowerVR SGX543MP graphics processor should deliver “high-performance console and computing devices” in highly mobile packages – like the iPhone.
This is where things get interesting.
Imagination is already in cahoots with Apple, so it’s not hard to see the new SGX design making it into a future iPhone. The multi-core graphics processor has the potential to increase graphics-crunching performance while also increasing efficiency, turning the iPhone into a seriously capable graphics processing powerhouse. But, throwing pixels and calculating vectors isn’t all a multi-core GPU is good for.
Multi-core processors are amazingly good at crunching through bite-sized chunks of data. The hard part is splitting big data pieces into the chewable chunks that a multi-core GPU can devour. To that end, Apple is developing an interesting parallel graphics processing technology known as OpenCL. The OpenCL technology chops up data into GPU-sized portions which allows, and this is important, the GPU (the PowerVR SGX processor) to take over traditional processing tasks. Using OpenCL, the iPhone could use a multi-core GPU as a super-efficient processor for much of the iPhone’s processing needs.
Multi-core CPU, multi-core GPU, or both?
So what’s it going to be? Will the future iPhone sport a multi-core CPU mated to a single graphics core? Will it have both multi-core CPU and GPU? Or will the multi-core GPU be Apple’s secret weapon in parallel processing?
We can’t say for sure. But, given Imagination’s new PowerVR SGX architecture, a parallel processing GPU seems like a strong possibility.