Analyst: iPhone 4, Samsung 'Wave' use same chip

An analyst report says the core of the Apple A4 chip is identical to the one used in Samsung smartphones.

An analyst research note Tuesday shed more light on what makes Apple's iPhone 4 tick, noting that the recently released Samsung Wave S8500 smartphone uses the same central processing unit, or CPU, as the iPhone 4.

Samsung processing core used in Samsung Wave S8500 smartphone is the same as Apple's A4 core. UBM TechInsights

The Apple A4 chip used in both the iPad and iPhone 4 is manufactured by Samsung, which has a longstanding "foundry" (chip manufacturing) relationship with Apple.

On Tuesday, UBM TechInsights added some color to the dynamics of the Apple-Samsung collaboration by claiming that the Samsung Wave S8500 smartphone uses the same 1GHz core as the iPad and, by extension, the iPhone 4--which also uses the A4 processor. In general, this type of processor is referred to as an application processor and is one part of the overall design called a system-on-a-chip or SOC.

"By investigating the Samsung S5PC110A01 application processor and comparing it to the A4 application processor found in the Apple iPad using our specialized lab techniques, we were able to confirm that not only is Samsung the manufacturer of both application processors, but both application processors feature the same 1 GHz ARM Cortex A8 core manufactured using a 45-nanometer low-power fabrication process," Young Choi, senior manager of the Technical Intelligence Group, said in a statement.

Teardown Web sites have reached similar conclusions, but UBM TechInsights shows that Samsung is leveraging its chip design across a range of products.

"(Based on) the belief that the soon-to-be released Android OS-enabled Samsung Galaxy S smartphone will also use the S5PC110A01 (Samsung application processor), sales of Samsung manufactured processors is expected to reach very high-levels. With these key (products) in place Samsung will easily maintain its position as the market leader in application processors that it originally attained in 2009," Choi wrote.

The UBM TechInsights data may also clear up what graphics chip engine the iPad and iPhone 4 use, since the Samsung S5PC110A01 uses a PowerVR SGX 3D graphics core from Imagination Technologies. More specifically, previous speculation by iFixit claimed that it is a PowerVR SGX 535 graphics processing unit (GPU). "It's quite challenging to identify block-level logic inside a processor, so to identify the GPU we're falling back to software: early benchmarks are showing similar 3D performance to the iPhone, so we're guessing that the iPad uses the same PowerVR SGX 535 GPU," according to an earlier report from iFixit.

Updated on June 9 at 6:20 a.m. PDT: edited discussion about leveraging of Samsung chip design and uniqueness of Apple A4 and added explanation of application processor (core) as being part of a larger system-on-a-chip.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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