Every year, Apple announces a new generation iPhone. Sometimes it comes with a brand new design, sometimes not. But the only thing we know for sure is that the new iPhone will feature a new chip – at least that was the case until now. Recent rumors suggest that some iPhone 14 models will keep the A15 Bionic chip from this year’s models. But why would Apple do that?

What the rumors are saying

The well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported this month that only the high-end iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max models will have the new “A16” chip, while the mid-range iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max models (the mini model is expected to be replaced by a new 6.7-inch phone) will be equipped with the A15 Bionic chip.

9to5Mac corroborated Kuo’s report with independent sources, which also suggest that two of this year’s four new iPhone models will be powered by the A15 Bionic chip, while the other two will have the next generation Apple Silicon chip. Both Kuo and 9to5Mac’s sources also suggest that all new iPhones will have 6GB of RAM, while currently the cheapest models come with 4GB of RAM.

So this is what the iPhone 14 lineup will look like:

  • 6.1-inch iPhone 14 with A15 chip
  • 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Max with A15 chip
  • 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro with A16 chip
  • 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro with A16 chip

But would Apple release a new flagship device with an old chip? It turns out that the company has done this before, and it’s all about marketing.

The strategy behind Apple’s chip names

Since the iPhone 4 was introduced in 2010 with the first Apple-custom chip called “A4,” the new chips that came after have always followed the same nomenclature. We have had A5, A6, A7, and the list goes on.

However, in 2012, Apple had to create an even more powerful chip for the new third-generation iPad, which was the first to have a high-resolution Retina display. This chip was based entirely on the A5 chip from the iPhone 4s and iPad 2, but the new version had a quad-core GPU while the original had a dual-core GPU.

To differentiate the new chip and make it sound like something more powerful, Apple named it A5X. Since then, all new chips created specifically for the iPad have had the “X” in their name as a way to indicate that they are faster due to the more powerful GPU and more RAM. This strategy was used until 2018, when Apple released the third generation iPad Pro with the A12X chip.

In 2020, instead of creating a more powerful version of the A13 chip for the new iPad Pro, Apple simply reused the same A12X chip from the 2018 iPad Pro, but this time with an extra GPU core enabled. That change was enough for Apple to rebrand the chip as “A12Z Bionic.”

The M1 and a new era for Apple Silicon

When Apple finally decided to migrate Macs from Intel processors to their own silicon, they once again needed a strong name to emphasize that these chips are even more powerful and different from anything the company has done before – so they came up with the M1 chip.

However, on the inside, M1 is basically what Apple would name A14X in the past, as the chip found inside the latest iMac and MacBook Air is essentially the iPhone 12’s A14 chip with more CPU and GPU cores. Apple then created more powerful M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra variants, all based on the same A14 chip.

The “M1” name has become extremely appealing, or don’t you think that having an iPad Air with the M1 chip sounds more amazing than something with an A14X chip? My point is, Apple uses marketing in its favor to make even the smallest changes into something bigger, and it can easily do that with iPhone chips.

Which chip will be in the iPhone 14?

As I recently noted in another article, Apple currently has two different versions of the A15 Bionic chip, although they don’t advertise them using different names. The regular A15 Bionic chip used in the iPhone 13 and iPad mini 6 models has a six-core CPU and a five-core GPU with 4GB of RAM. However, iPhone 13 Pro models have an enhanced A15 Bionic chip with a six-core GPU and 6GB of RAM.

This extra GPU core gives the iPhone 13 Pro about 34% more graphics power when compared to the iPhone 13, while the 6GB of RAM ensures that more apps can remain in the background for longer.

We don’t know why Apple would use the A15 chip in the next generation iPhone. This could be related to component shortages or the company simply realized that most average consumers would not even notice the difference between a brand new A16 chip and the current A15.

However, when we say that some models of the iPhone 14 will have the A15 chip, it doesn’t mean that it will have the same A15 chip as the iPhone 13. Apple might use the high-end version of its chip with a better GPU and 6GB of RAM and call it A15X, just like it did with the A12Z chip in the 2020 iPad Pro.

Apple could even call it the A16 chip and create a new chip with a different architecture named A16 Pro, as it has been doing with Mac chips. The Apple Watch Series 7 has the same CPU as the Apple Watch Series 6, but the chips are named “Apple S6” and “Apple S7” due to minor internal changes that have been made to the SoC.

Whatever the chip inside the iPhone 14 is, Apple’s marketing team certainly has something in mind to make it sound like a brand new thing.

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About the Author

Filipe Espósito

Filipe Espósito is a Brazilian tech Journalist who started covering Apple news on iHelp BR with some exclusive scoops — including the reveal of the new Apple Watch Series 5 models in titanium and ceramic. He joined 9to5Mac to share even more tech news around the world.