There was one interesting thing missing from yesterday’s keynote: Despite all the time Apple spent talking about the chips, there was no iPhone 13 versus iPhone 12 performance comparison.

Usually, Apple tells us how much faster and more powerful the latest iPhone is compared to the previous model, but this time it didn’t do that – leading some to conclude that there’s a good reason for this …

Apple told us how much the iPhone 13 battery life has improved on that of the iPhone 12. It told us how much better the cameras are. It told us about the smaller notch, new storage tiers, new colors, ProMotion display, new cases, and more. But the only performance comparisons were to unspecified Android phones.

Macworld’s Jason Snell notes that this is unlikely to be an accidental omission.

Here’s a funny thing about Tuesday’s announcement of the A15 Bionic: Apple didn’t compare its performance to the A14. In the past, Apple has compared the power of its iPhones to previous models. But this year, Apple has chosen to proclaim that the A15 in the iPhone 13 Pro has 50 percent better graphics and CPU performance “than the competition.”

Given that Apple has generally been ahead of its smartphone competition in terms of processor power, this suggests that the A15 shows less improvement over the A14 than it does over the Qualcomm processors in leading Android phones. And it makes me wonder if Apple is perhaps trying to soft-pedal a new chip that isn’t much faster than the older model […]

Over the past few years, each successive chip generation has offered a roughly 20 percent improvement in single-core performance. This year may be different. While the introduction of a new A-series processor is always a big deal, it’s an open question about how big a step forward the A15 processor will really be.

SemiAnalysis puts it even more bluntly, claiming that Apple has lost its best chip engineers, and as a result is unable to offer the performance improvements it has in the past.

Apple CPU gains grind to a halt and the future looks dim as the impact from the CPU engineer exodus to Nuvia and Rivos starts to bleed in […]

Apple has been long hailed for having the best CPU cores for consumer workloads for years. They have by far the highest performance per clock and efficiency driven by performance in the same class as AMD and Intel’s best current CPUs. This was driven by breakneck gains with architectural changes every year for a decade.

Now with the A15, these gains are really slowed. Apple in general was very clammy about the A15 comparison in the new iPhone reveal. Instead of comparing it to the previous generation like they usually do, they opted to compare to ambiguous “competitors.” That’s great, but we are only a few months away from new Qualcomm, Samsung, and MediaTek chipsets.

The site then presents evidence that the A14 and A15 performance are likely to be all but identical, basing this on Apple’s performance claims for the new iPad mini.

The most important thing to note is that the CPU gains are identical from the A12 to A14 as they are from A12 to A15.

It says the likely explanation is the brain-drain.

SemiAnalysis believes that the next generation core was delayed out of 2021 into 2022 due to CPU engineer resource problems. In 2019, Nuvia was founded and later acquired by Qualcomm for $1.4B. Apple’s Chief CPU Architect, Gerard Williams, as well as over a 100 other Apple engineers left to join this firm. More recently, SemiAnalysis broke the news about Rivos Inc, a new high performance RISC V startup which includes many senior Apple engineers. The brain drain continues and impacts will be more apparent as time moves on. As Apple once drained resources out of Intel and others through the industry, the reverse seems to be happening now.

We believe Apple had to delay the next generation CPU core due to all the personnel turnover Apple has been experiencing. Instead of a new CPU core, they are using a modified version of last year’s core.

The bottom line appears to be: Don’t buy the iPhone 13 expecting much in the way of performance improvements.

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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