Apple lists quad-core chip in iOS 5.1 beta, report says

Apple is upping the number of processor cores in its A series of chips, according to a 9to5Mac report. That means faster iPhones and iPads in the future.

Future iPads would be the first to get a quad-core A6 processor.
Future iPads would be the first to get a quad-core A6 processor. Apple

The iPad and iPhone are going quad-core, according to a report citing references in the latest iOS beta.

9to5Mac said it has evidence that Apple will bump up future iPhones (iPhone 5?) and iPads (iPad 3?) to quad-core processing. The A5 chip used in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S is dual-core.

"While not quite confirming that a quad-core processor will power Apple's third-generation iPad, we have obtained evidence that suggests Apple is currently working on quad-core iOS devices," 9to5Mac said Friday.

That reference comes in the latest iOS 5.1 beta "processing-core management software," the Apple-centric site said.

Industry sources familiar with Apple's chip strategy, who talked with CNET today, agree that Apple is going quad-core with its next A6 chip. They say Samsung will make (or is making) that processor either in South Korea or at its Austin, Texas facility.

The source added that Samsung is boosting wafer starts (the number of semiconductor wafers fabricated) in part to support the supply of the A6 to Apple.

If all of this is true, Apple won't be the first to go quad-core with an ARM-based design in a tablet. Nvidia beat them to it with the Tegra 3 chip, already found in products like the speedy--and well-received--Asus Transformer Prime.

But you can bet that Apple will inject some secret sauce into its quad-core A6 that makes the iPad and iPhone even faster while maintaining respectable power efficiency. And Apple will need the extra oomph to power its upcoming high-resolution iPad 3 that is expected to boast a QXGA, 2048x1536 "retina" display.

Another intriguing possibility--further down the road--is that Apple uses this extra horsepower in a hybrid product that incorporates elements of both the iPad and MacBook Air.