Apple’s A15 chip GPU has the biggest performance jump since A9 chip

Although Apple’s new A15 chip used in iPhone 13 series and iPad mini does not feature a major jump in single-core and multi-core CPU performance, like previous generations, it features the biggest GPU performance increase since the A9 chip which was released in 2015 with the iPhone 6s.

With iPhone 13, Apple designed the A15 Bionic chip’s GPU improvements to serve its new features such as Cinematic Mode, macro photography, while also making the additional performance available to developers so they can create richer game worlds,

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A15 chip has 52% performance improvement over A14 chip

As per a piece by Ben Bajarin at Creative Strategies, Apple has averaged 133% CPU performance increases every four years, which is also the duration that the vast majority of customers keep their phones for, nowadays. However, Bajarin notes that Apple treats its Silicon as part of their product, and not their product, like other companies such as Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm. This gives the company a unique position in which they can design their silicon for specific purposes and features in a way that other companies cannot. This is exactly what Apple did with A15 Bionic chip.

The A15 Bionic chip is up to 18% faster than the A14 chip, which is less than the improvement A14 had over the A13 chip. However, for users who are upgrading to iPhone 13 from older phones like iPhone X or iPhone Xs, the performance increase is almost 91%, when Geekbench scores are compared.

Going back to iPhone 5s, Apple has averaged 133% performance increases every four years. Most interesting, for this iPhone 13 cycle, are those Apple customers coming from an iPhone X or Xs are going to see a 91% performance increase. Our continued research in the smartphone category consistently reveals that most customers upgrade when they feel their current device is old and slow. Those customers upgrading every 3-4 years, which is the norm, would see between 80-91% performance increases during their refresh cycles. Apple still has a large current installed base of iPhone 8, X, and Xs smartphones which I believe will lead the iPhone 13 cycle. Those customers are up for a huge upgrade in their total iPhone experience.

Bajarin’s most interesting observation is for the GPU performance numbers. The A15 Bionic chip in iPhone 13 Pro shows a 52% performance increase, which is the biggest improvement since A9 was released in 2015.

As I benchmarked the A15 Bionic in different ways and pondered how Apple spends its transistor budget with each A-series chip cycle, an interesting shift emerged for iPhone 13. Going back to how Apple spends their transistor budget on features, not necessarily performance, for the A15, Apple looks to have had the most GPU gains YoY since the A9. For the past five years, Apple has had an average of 19% GPU gains YoY but for the A15 Bionic, Apple has increased GPU performance by 52%. 

Of course, this GPU increase has not been without purpose. New camera features in iPhone 13 such as ProRes, Cinematic Mode, macro photography, and more show that the effort towards GPU performance improvement was planned wisely.

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