When Apple’s forthcoming iPad 3 finally ships and is inevitably torn down, its innards will reveal a new system-on-a-chip — but perhaps not the one many have been expecting.
The “A” series naming convention that Apple has chosen for the processors that power its iOS devices suggests that the one inside the iPad 3 should be the A6. And that makes perfect sense, given its lineage: the A4 processor, which powered the original iPad and iPhone 4, was succeeded by the A5, which now runs inside the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S. So what comes after the A5?
Not the A6, but the A5X.
BlueFin Research Partners analyst Steve Mullane says information coming out of the semiconductor supply chain suggests that Samsung, Apple’s chip fab partner, isn’t equipped to manufacture 28-nanometer quad-core chips, as the A6 is presumed to be.
“[Samsung's] Austin logic fab … supports the mass production of the 45-nanometer AAPL A5 processor, and is ramping on a 32-nanometer process,” Mullane says. “Since the A6 processor is based on a 28-nanometer process, we believe the 32-nanometer ramp validates the recent rumors that the iPad 3 will likely use a higher speed, die-shrink version of the A5 dual-core processor, named the A5X processor, as opposed to the next-generation A6 quad-core processor.”
Mullane’s information lends further credence to earlier rumors that Apple intends the iPad 3 to run on the A5X. We’ll find out in early March just how accurate such speculation is.