The iPhone's secret silicon: A need to know?

Should Apple be more open about the silicon inside the iPhone?

The precise specifications for many iPhone chips are murky. Should Apple be more open about its secret ingredients?

We know the precise dimensions of the outside of the iPhone--but what's inside?
We know the precise dimensions of the outside of the iPhone--but what's inside? Apple

Granted, many people don't care about the silicon inside their iPhone. They just want it to work. That said, I think more than a few people would like to see the specifications for the iPhone's core silicon posted on Apple's Web site.

By comparison, take your typical laptop. Prospective buyers are able to see the exact specifications and make an informed buying decision. Though the iPhone isn't offered in different processor SKUs (models) like a laptop, the iPhone comes close to a PC in its capabilities and demands more disclosure.

Nikkei's TechOn Web site takes a stab at what the iPhone's main chip might be--generically referred to as an application(s) processor: "An LSI (large-scale integrated circuit) printed with Apple Inc.'s logo ("339S0036 ARM K4X1G163PC-DGC3") was embedded on the center right of the board. It was assumed to be an application processor with an ARM core. Because it included a letter string beginning with 'K,' it seemed to be manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. of Korea."

Semiconductor Insights is a little more specific, saying it's a "Samsung ARM11-based design."

Here's my point: Am I getting a smartphone with a Samsung, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Freescale, Nvidia or Intel processor? As high-end smartphones proliferate (such as those based on Intel's upcoming "Moorestown" processor), it would be useful to know up front who makes the applications processor and other core silicon and what the rated performance-per-watt of that chip is. And right now, the iPhone is the most prominent high-end smartphone.

Don't think smartphone makers should go down the same path as laptops, which are plastered with Intel, AMD, ATI, Nvidia, and Microsoft stickers? Maybe not. But more about what makes the device tick could only be helpful.

Would anybody else like to know?

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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