The iPhone 5S goes 64-bit: Will it matter?

The iPhone 5S goes 64-bit: Will it matter?

Summary: The iPhone 5S' A7 processor is "desktop-class architecture". But what will developers do with it?

TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, iPhone

Apple's launch of the iPhone 5S, the high-end device in the company's one-two smartphone punch, brings the first 64-bit mobile device to the market. What's unclear is whether the 64-bit smartphone will be much of a selling point for anyone who doesn't play Infinity Blade.

Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, talked up the iPhone 5S' graphics capability and raw processing power. The A7 processor that powers the new iPhone is Open GL/ES 3.0 for gaming. In a nutshell, the new iPhone can run graphics intensive applications well.






Shiller added that the A7 is "desktop-class architecture". Most mobile chip players are touting quad-core systems. Schiller added:

"The PC world made the transition from 32 bit to 64 bit and it took years. Today you're going to see that Apple is going to do it on one day."

That's nice, but Apple is going to need more than gaming capability to make folks care about 64-bit. Apple rarely has talked specs as a selling point of their devices. With the iPhone 5S launch, Apple took a 64-bit pitch right from the PC industry's playbook.

But here's the difference. Apple needs 64-bit for fingerprint authentication as well as the camera features the company has added to the latest iPhone. In other words, 64-bit is an enabler to features that may matter to the masses.

There's also an enterprise play here too. With 64-bit and fingerprint authentication, Apple can make a good security case to companies as well as support end-to-end virtual private networks. Third party support will determine if Apple has more enterprise mojo due to 64-bit. 

Apple did make the iPhone 5S backward compatible and developers can reportedly transition apps to 64-bit easily. There's a good reason for that move: 64-bit is a selling point in only limited cases. Like the PC industry saw, the ecosystem has to catch up to 64-bit and that can take years.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPhone

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • How does that translate into battery life?

    64-bit on a phone? How hot will it get, and how long will the battery last?
    • Battery life

      32 vs 64 bit doesn't change power consumption generally - it's all about the chip design - since this is just a rip of ARM's existing 64-bit design, power consumption for the processor should actually improve - no way to tell about whatever else Apple has done with the rest of the components but it's reasonable to assume battery life will at least be as good as predecessor
    • Desktop class architecture

      2 floating point registers
      2 general purposes registers
      Um, LOL
      • Desktop class architecture

        That's 2 _times_ . I assume the A7 has twice the number of registers as the A6 architecture
  • Finger print or pattern unlocking

    They both offer the same practical security. I'm not thrilled about the fingerprint sensor - need to see more uses for it.
    • Somebody can observe then duplicate...

      your pattern to unlock your phone but than can't do that with your finger print. Not saying it's a must have but claiming they are equal is a real stretch.
      • True

        A pattern or password unlock could be observed and duplicated - so a fingerprint scan is at least a better lock - but it's just an additional minor impediment (like adding a dead bolt to your front door) that provides more illusion of security than actual security - if I have physical possession of the device, it's contents are mine - even if they implemented full phone encryption with you needing to enter your private cypher key on phone startup, there are well known methods of circumventing that

        As far as someone suggesting the phone based fingerprint scan could be used as a security token into a VPN or such - that's just naïve - again, physical possession of the phone means such things can be easily bypassed - the attack vector involves injecting an external scan of your fingerprint into the authentication stream (or even using a simple fingerprint overlay depending on the specific scanner) - basic precept of enterprise security based on biometrics is that use of source devices they don't have physical possession of means a lack of integrity of the whole process and they're just asking to be breached

        It's easier, more secure, and more universal to use one of the existing two factor authentication methods than to expect an enterprise to count on iphone fingerprint scanners for their security
        • not to mention that there are fingerprints on the back...

          And the thumbprints on the front.
          • speaking of illusions

            One can lift a print and CSI rig it onto silicon, where they'll have your fingerprint on file. Passwords can at least be changed. So this is really backwards movement.
        • what happens when that home button wears out

          From all that iOS home button action?
          It is a COMMON problem on ALL generations of iPhone/iPod.
          • It's made of saphire

            it doesn't wear out.
          • duh

            The plastic button doesn't wear out either but the contacts below it does.
        • Security is relative

          Compared to the situation today where many people have no password on their phone this is a huge improvement (if they enable the feature!)

          It's like locking your car. Sure a good thief can easily breach it but if there is an easier alternative the thief will go for that one instead of yours and non-professionals are kept out.
    • Once the police scan your prints

      They can unlock your phone and copy everything at will.

      A fingerprint is essentially a password that you cannot change. It may be a long and complex password but it's a non-changing one that follows the patterns of biological nature. Once it's 1's and 0's in a computer the actual finger isn't even necessary, just reproduce the right signal in the hardware and you're in. The FBI could do that easily. Copy your phone, copy your prints, hand it back to you, and while you're walking the streets thinking you got off easy their snooping through the files they just pilfered.
      • Exactly

        That's exactly why I refused would never accept one of the thumbprint payment systems that are being piloted recently - darn Jewel grocery store actually tried to pilot one last year - they were selling it as a fast way to checkout, you could have it automatically hit your credit card or bank account instead of needing to swipe your card or write a check - of course they have the digitized thumbprint and the credit card or bank info on file and YOUR security is now at the mercy of THEIR system security - bad enough credit card clearinghouses get hacked, but does anyone really think the local grocery store has anything serious in the way of security or even data encryption???
      • They don't even need your phone

        They just get all your data from the icloud.
        And if it's not in the icloud, they can use siri proxy backdoor to get it from your phone.
  • Yeah I remember those old 8 transistor radios.

    It had 8 transistors but only one was actually hooked up the rest were just for the count. In this case 64bit don't mean much unless you for soe 64bit apps and even then it may not really be significant. How much ram does this have... Same 1gb as before?
    • My thoughts exactly

      The reason for PC's to go to 64-bit was to break the 4Gb RAM barrier. How much RAM does the 5S have?
      • It's about performance, architecture, internal data paths etc.

        Not about the amount of RAM. Go read
        • Currently a trade off

          There's an interesting trade off going 64 bit - in this case single core performance is purportedly bumped about 30% over the previous v7 based core but it looks like they've currently implemented it as a dual core - probably not an impact on a phone but could be on a tablet if your app seeks to leverage multiple cores or you're running multiple processes and it could previously leverage four cores but now has only two - recognizing that the universe of such apps (especially in the i* world) is likely small - would have expected more RAM in the box though due to the larger memory footprint 64-bit native code generally has