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Report: iPhone 4G packs potent chip

A prototype Apple iPhone 4G squeezes in an iPad-class processor, according to an iFixit report based on a device teardown featured on a Vietnamese Web site.

A prototype iPhone 4G is powered by an Apple processor similar to the one found in the iPad, according to published reports Wednesday.

If reports are accurate, the iPhone 4G would use a version of the A4 processor--a chip that Apple initially adopted for the iPad. Apple

iFixit said Wednesday that the iPhone 4G prototype torn down on a Vietnamese Web site uses a chip that has markings similar to the iPad's A4 processor.

"[Wednesday's] photos from Vietnam of a leaked iPhone 4G prototype contain legible part numbers revealing [the] new iPhone's processor: the Apple A4," iFixit said.

If an Apple A4-class chip actually makes it into the final version of the iPhone 4G, consumers would likely see another appreciable jump in performance. The A4 chip was custom-designed by Apple "to be extremely powerful yet extremely power-efficient," according to an Apple description of the chip on its iPad page.

Needless to say, the iPad has a much larger screen (1024x768 pixels) than the iPhone (480x320 pixels) and uses the added horsepower of the A4 to, among other things, push around the extra pixels on its larger screen. Whether the iPhone 4G would use the same processor or a slightly tamer version, because of its size constraints, remains to be seen.

And as a quick refresher, by definition, the A4 is a system-on-a-chip, or SOC, that integrates the main processor, graphics silicon, and other functions like the memory controller on one piece of silicon--in this respect, not unlike other ARM SOCs from companies like Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and Marvell.

The A4's central processing unit (CPU) is thought to be based on a design by Intrinsity--a company Apple recently acquired--and manufactured by Samsung. Analysts have speculated that Apple may have also enhanced the A4's capabilities by modifying functions such as the 3D graphics engine. Along these lines, last year, Apple hired Bob Drebin, former chief technology officer of the Graphics Products Group at Advanced Micro Devices, who is now listed as a senior director at Apple.