Apple has unveiled details of its latest in-house Arm-based system-on-chip (SoC), the A12 Bionic, powering its next-generation smartphones - and in doing so may beat rival Huawei to market with a commercial 7nm part.

Chinese communications specialist Huawei, which was recently caught cheating on benchmarks, announced the Kirin 980 system-on-chip (SoC) earlier this month, proclaiming it to be the first commercial SoC built on a 7nm process courtesy of Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC). The part has not yet shipped, however, with its appearance in the Mate family of smartphones scheduled for some time in October - and it looks like Apple may yet beat the company to the punch.

Announced at a press event late last night, Apple's A12 Bionic is the company's latest in-house SoC design - and, like the Kirin 980, is built on TSMC's 7nm process node. Based on six unspecified Arm processing cores, two high-performance and four low-power central processing cores arranged in Apple's 'Fusion' variant of Arm's big.LITTLE layout and with a four-core graphics processor, the A12 Bionic also includes an enhanced Neural Engine - Apple's name for its deep-learning acceleration cores - which sees the core count quadrupled from two to eight with a compute throughput of five trillion floating point operations per second.

Other features of the chip announced during the event include a vision processor with low-light enhancement, built-in gyropscope and accelerometer, augmented reality systems including high-accuracy motion and world tracking, a claim of 15 percent performance improvement and 40 percent reduction in power draw over the A11 while using the two high-performance cores alongside a 50 percent reduction in power draw when using the four 'efficiency' cores.

For now, it's a race between Apple and Huawei to see which of the two companies can be the first to launch a commercial 7nm SoC: Huawei's Kirin 980 will appear in its first device at some as-yet unspecified time in October, while the new iPhone models featuring Apple's A12 Bionic are scheduled for launch on October 26th with pre-orders opening on October 19th.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04