The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

Apple always finds the perfect connection between software and hardware. It is one of the advantages it has over other manufacturers because it is capable of creating both the operating system and the specific hardware that your devices need. This combination makes Apple’s products virtually impossible to match in performance.

If there is something essential in every device, it is its processor. Thanks to this brain our iPhone on iPad is able to perform all the tasks we demand. We are used to the processors of the A series that Apple has been using for years in their iOS devices, processors specifically developed by Apple. But this was not always the case, the first iPhone mounted APL processors, also partially designed by Apple but without as much dedication as they do now.

Specifications of the processors that Apple has designed


The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

The first processor designed by Apple was destined to be the brain of the device that would change everything: the iPhone. Although Apple also included it in the iPod Touch. The APL0098 appeared in 2007 and was manufactured by Samsung at 90 nanometers, was only 16 bits and had a single core at a frequency of 412 MHz. The GPU was managed by Imagination Technologies PowerVR, which would do so for several years.


The second Apple processor was used in the second generation iPod Touch launched in 2008, Apple used the APL0098 in the iPhone 3G. Samsung and Apple managed to lower the nm to 65 and the processor had a frequency of 533 MHz and a single core.


Introduced in 2009 along with the iPhone 3GS, Cortex-A8 cores used in its single core that had a frequency of 600 MHz. The manufacturing process was still 65 nanometers and the 32 bits were coming to the iPhone for the first time.


This processor is a revised version of the previous one that Apple included in a new batch of iPhone 3GS and a new iPod Touch. The main difference with respect to the APL0298 is that they were able to lower the nanometers from 65 to 45.

A4 processor

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

We arrived at the birth of the saga of processors of Apple that took place in the year 2010. The company had already realized the importance of the processors and the A4 chip was a sample of it. This processor debuted with the original iPad and was also introduced in the iPhone 4, the fourth generation iPod Touch and the Apple TV 2.

Apple managed to get this processor for the first time at a frequency of 1 GHz, yes in the version for the iPad. The A4 of the iPhone 4 and the iPod Touch remained at 800 MHz. Again it was a core processor ARM Cortex-A8 manufactured in 45 nm.

A5 and A5X processors

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

With the following evolution of its processors, Apple decided to distinguish, at least in terms of name, the processor of the iPhone and the iPad. The model for the Apple tablet now had the letter “X” to identify it, and it was again more powerful.

The A5 processor, which appeared in 2011, was the first Apple to have two cores working at the same time and using the ARM Cortex-A9 technology. In the case of the iPhone 4s, the processor had a frequency of 800 MHz and was built with 45 nm architecture. Apple used an improved 32nm version for the iPad 2, the iPod Touch 5, the iPad mini and the third generation Apple TV.

A year later, in March 2012, Apple introduced a third-generation iPad that released the “X” generations of the Apple processor. This improved version increased the frequency of the processor and gave more power to Apple’s tablet, doubling the graphics power of the A5.

A6 and A6X processors

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

We arrived at the year 2012, a year in which the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5c and the fourth generation of the iPad arrived on the market. This dual-core processor reduced its size to 32 nm, which allowed a saving in consumption of 22%. The two ARM Cortex-A15 cores called by Apple Swift reached a speed of 1.3 GHz.

The fourth-generation iPad A6X, despite remaining Dual Core to achieve double the graphics power of the previous A5X. The speed improved slightly on the normal A6 reaching 1.4 GHz.

A7 processor

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

In September 2013 Apple surprised everyone by launching the iPhone 5s with Touch ID and the first 64-bit mobile processor in history. In addition to the iPhone 5s, Apple also introduced it in the iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 and iPad Mini 3.

As for the processor, the A7 had two 64-bit Cyclone cores designed by Apple that reached a frequency of 1.4 GHz. The manufacturing process of the A7 was 28 nm and included a co-processor called M7 for some tasks since then that co-processor has always been present.

A8 and A8X processors

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

The A8 processor came along with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus promising improvement of 25% at the CPU level and 50% in terms of graphics. It is still a very present processor since it is available in the iPad mini 4 and in the HomePod.

With the SoC A6 Apple again managed to reduce the size reaching 20 nm. The company continued to bet on two 64-bit cores running at 1.4 GHz and for the first time, TSMC replaced Samsung as the manufacturer of Apple processors.

The A8X arrived inside the iPad Air 2 presented in October of that same year promising improvements of 40% with respect to its predecessor, the A7. In addition, the frequency rose slightly to 1.5 GHz.

A9 and A9X processors

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

Some processors with some controversy since Apple used both Samsung and TSMC as manufacturers. Samsung was able to reduce it to 14 nm, but TSMC stayed at 16 nm. Therefore, the one manufactured by Samsung was more powerful than the one manufactured by TSMC.

Apple promised an improvement of 70% in terms of processes and 90% in terms of graphics. The A9 was the processor of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and was later included in the iPhone SE and iPad 2017. It had a dual-core ARMv8-A CPU called Twister that operated at 1.85 GHz speed.

The A9X was the processor that incorporated the first iPad Pro launched in 2015. In this case, it was manufactured exclusively by TSMC, it had the same two cores as the A9 but with a speed of 2.26 GHz.

A10 Fusion and A10X Fusion processors

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

For the first time, Apple released a quad-core processor that would accompany the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Two of them for demanding tasks and another two for when we needed power. Apple said it was 40% faster than the A9 and with 50% improved graphics.

Manufactured by TSMC in 16 nm, the four cores never worked at the same time, two of them were Hurricane and the other two Zephyr and ran at 2.34 GHz.

The A10X Fusion processor came along with the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro and the second-generation iPad Pro of 12.9. It was the first processor manufactured in 10 nm and gave the new iPad 40% more power compared to the previous A9X.

Bionic A11 processor

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

The A11 Bionic was the first processor designed by Apple for artificial intelligence and was included in the iPhone X, 8, 8 Plus. Apple made the leap to the 6 cores, two of them a high performance that reaches 2.39 GHz, called Monsoon, and four for more everyday tasks, called Mistral.

Manufactured by TSMC in 10 nm, the A11 Bionic processor is 25% faster than the A10 and up to 70% more efficient. It has a neural engine and also Apple breaks with PowerVR and begins to design graphics chips.

A12 Bionic and A12X Bionic processors

The Brain Of The iPhone: A History Of All Apple Processors

The latest processors that Apple has made and that are inside the new iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. The A12X is the brain of the new iPad Pro of 2018. The design is similar to the A11, two cores for demanding tasks and four for everyday tasks.

However, the A12 Bionic stands out for being the first processor on the market designed in 7 nm which gives it up to 15% more power compared to the A11 Bionic and a better efficiency that reaches 50%. The new cores are called Vortex and Tempest and are capable of reaching a frequency of 2.49 GHz.

The A 12X has the same design but is much more powerful, to such an extent that the results improve many Intel laptops.

These are all the processors that have included iOS devices so far, but they are not the only ones that Apple has designed. In addition to these, we have to take into account the processors of the S series that Apple uses in the Apple Watch, the W series that is used in accessories and also in the Apple Watch and the T series that is inside some MacBooks.

Posted by Susan Daigle

Susan Daigle is a passionate writer and she usually writes the technology content in a pattern ways through which users can easily be attracted and she has written many technological reviews of the products. Twitter @susandaigle23

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