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Predicting A18 Performance in iPhone 16: Insights from M4 and M-Series Chips

TLDR: Apple’s M4 chip provides insights into the upcoming A18 chip for the iPhone 16 Pro. The article explores the progression of M-series and A-series chips, predicting the A18’s performance based on trends in core counts, GPU, Neural Engine, and AI capabilities, and how it may influence the future M5 chip.

Apple is months away from launching the A18 chip in the iPhone 16 Pro, and the company’s M4 chip can provide valuable insights into what to expect from the upcoming A-series chip and possibly even the M3 Ultra.

Apple’s Chip Progress

Apple’s shift to using its own chips has paid off for the tech company, with the iPhone leading the way in processing capabilities after running on the A-series for quite a few years. On the Mac side, Apple Silicon is now in its fourth generation and has also made a significant impact on the PC industry.

M-Series Apple Silicon

The M-series is more complex to understand due to the multiple chip variants released per generation. Apple has released a total of 12 M-series chips across four generations, excluding smaller variations in core counts for each chip.

The base chip in the M-series generation tends to be an eight-core chip, split between 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores. However, the M4 breaks this trend, using either nine or ten core chips with six efficiency cores and either three or four performance cores.

Pro and Max chips have a few more cores available, with the M3 going up to a maximum of 16 cores (12 performance cores and four efficiency cores). The Ultra chips are essentially two Max chips attached to each other.

GPU core counts have slowly grown over time, from 7 or 8 in the M1 to 10 in the M4. The Neural Engine has maintained 16 cores throughout Apple Silicon’s life (32 for the Ultra chips), but its capabilities have improved with each generation.

Memory bandwidth has also seen improvements, with the M1 starting at 68.25GB/s and the M4 reaching 120GB/s for the core chip.

M-Series Performance Gains

To simplify the analysis, we can look at the Geekbench single-core and multi-core results for the base chip of each generation: M1, M2, M3, and M4.

The inter-generational improvements start at 12% for single-core and 16% for multi-core from the M1 to M2, growing to 22% and 27% respectively by the M3 to M4.

M3 Ultra Predictions

If Apple stays true to form, the M3 Ultra will likely double the specifications of the M3 Max in every way. This could mean a choice of a 28 or 32-core CPU with either 20 or 24 performance cores and eight efficiency cores, a 32-core Neural Engine with 36 trillion operations per second, and 800GB/s of memory bandwidth.

M4 Pro, Max, and Ultra Predictions

For the M4 Pro, Max, and Ultra, we can look at the M3 variants and increase many of the specifications by a small amount for a ballpark figure. The M4 Pro could have 13 or 14 cores, the M4 Max could equal the 14 or 16 core counts of the M3 Max, and the M4 Ultra could double whatever the M4 Max uses.

GPU core counts could go up modestly more, such as 16 to 20 for the Pro and 40 to 50 for the Max. The Neural Engine will likely remain at 16 cores with 38TOPS for the M4 Pro and Max, with the Ultra hitting 76TOPS.

If the M4 Pro and Max maintain the same performance boost over their M3 counterparts as the M4, single-core performance for the M3 Max could be around 3,800 in Geekbench, and multi-core could tip the scales at over 26,000.

Extrapolating M4 to iPhone 16 A18

The A-series has seen gradual growth over the years, with considerable similarities to the M-series due to Apple’s design teams working on both chip lines. However, there are also differences due to the A-series being made for the iPhone and iPad rather than a Mac.

Since active cooling isn’t available on Apple’s mobile devices, the company has to design its A-series to run cooler. The A-series typically uses a six-core layout of two performance cores and four efficiency cores, which is two performance cores fewer than most of the core M-series counterparts.

The GPU also gets hit for the same reasons, with fewer cores in use. The A13 and A14 have four, the A15 and A16 have five cores, and the A17 Pro has six. This is half the core counts of the core M-series chips, except for the A17 and M4, which have six cores and ten cores, respectively.

The Neural Engine has 16 cores in the A-series, much like the M-series, but its performance seemingly mirrors M-chips. The A14’s Neural Engine can do 11 trillion operations per second, like the M1, with the A15’s 15.8 trillion doing the same as the M2. The A16 differs slightly with 17 trillion against 18 trillion for the M3.

Like the M4, the A17 Pro saw a big performance jump to 38 trillion operations per second.

A-series Performance Gains

Performance-wise, the A-series has seen more gradual computing improvements. Under Geekbench for the Pro Max models of iPhone using each chip, the range starts from the A13 Bionic’s 1,722 single-core and 3,848 multi-core scores, with the A17 Pro reaching 2,899 single-core and 7,202 for multi-core.

While single-core performance has grown 68% over four years, multi-core has almost doubled in the same timeframe at 87%.

Generationally speaking, the improvements have been more restrained, being between 10% and 16% each year. For the A17 Pro, the upgrades were 13% and 10% for single-core and multi-core testing, respectively.

iPhone 16 A18 Performance Predictions

Looking at the specifications and figures alone, we could have a good guess as to what the A18 could be like. Apple seems to prefer to maintain its six-core arrangement over time, so the two-performance, four-efficiency split could still be maintained.

Thermal limitations mean Apple is unlikely to buck the trend on GPU core counts, so sticking at six like the A17 Pro could be a good estimation.

We could also be reasonably safe in betting the performance gains in something like Geekbench could be at least 10%. That would mean scores in the region of 3,200 for single-core testing and 7,900 for multi-core.

The real problem area for extrapolation is the significant change in direction for the company to embrace AI. Apple has already made some changes in the A17, doubling the operations per second from the A16 to 38 trillion.

If Apple is going to make AI-forward changes, the focus will be on the Neural Engine. That should mean using more effective cores, increasing the core count from the standard 16, or a combination of the two.

Whatever Apple comes up with, Mac users will be keen to watch. However Apple produces the A18 chip, the M5 will surely follow in the same direction.


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