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iOS developers dish about new iPhone 5s hardware features

Serenity Caldwell | Sept. 12, 2013
Hardware improvements like the new A7 64-bit processor and M7 co-processor may not mean much to the average user, but iOS developers are very excited about them. Here's why you should be, too.

iPhone 5s

Announced at Tuesday's Apple event, the iPhone 5s contains two big hardware improvements: a faster A7 processor with 64-bit architecture and a motion co-processor that gathers data from your device's sensors.

While these under-the-hood features might not sound very fancy to the average consumer, they have iOS developers buzzing over potential implications. We queried several to see what they had to say about Apple's impending hardware improvements.

iOS 7 goes 64-bit
iPhone 5S Specs

Apple's new A7 ARM chip powers the iPhone 5s; the company boasts that it's not only twice as fast as the iPhone 5's A6 chip, it offers just as good—if not better—battery life as the previous model. And that's not all: The A7 is the first smartphone chip to feature 64-bit architecture. "I don't think anybody was expecting [64-bit] so soon," PCalc developer James Thompson told Macworld.

JavaScript and game developer Conrad Kreyling agrees with Thompson. "I assumed it was at least a year out, but it's a welcome change. Apple isn't ceding territory to Qualcomm or Samsung; it just leapfrogged the both of them." Kreyling was surprised to see, however, that Apple chose to update to 64-bit architecture before increasing the processor core load. "I expected quad-core to be the big drop, not 64-bit, but perhaps we'll see it in the next revision. Apple is still maintaining iOS on the single-core A4 found in the iPhone 4, which I'm sure is a large component in the decision-making process."

Of course, 64-bit architecture may not mean anything to the average user—at least, not at first. Instapaper creator Marco Arment points out that "64-bit will likely play out on phones and tablets similarly to how it played out on PCs when it started becoming widespread there almost a decade ago: It won't change much at first for most applications, but it'll be a huge benefit to some, and it lays a solid architectural groundwork for the future."

Thompson, for one, plans to wait until the 5s has launched before updating PCalc. "I'm definitely not going to ship any 64-bit versions of PCalc until I can actually test it on a real device. It won't take very long to update my app at all, but very subtle bugs could creep into the code, so it makes sense to ship a 32-bit version of any iOS 7 update first, then do a 64-bit version a few weeks from now."

But the 64-bit A7 chips on the iPhone might be just the beginning. The A7s low-power system-on-a-chip could very well be a perfect fit for Apple's laptop line down the road. Alternatively, Thompson wonders "if [the A7's 64-bit architecture] means we're going to see iOS on the desktop sooner rather than later."


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