Leaked iPhone 4G Reveals iPad's A4 Chip

What would this processor mean to iPhone 4G users? Perhaps faster Web apps and better graphics, but shorter battery life.

Another week, another Apple leak of an alleged iPhone 4G prototype—but this time we catch a glimpse of an A4 processor.

The first leak of an iPhone 4G prototype had all the drama of a Sam Spade novel. This new leak, however, appeared in a Vietnamese Internet forum. The two seem to corroborate certain design changes, such as sharp angles on the edges and a front-facing camera, but the Vietnam prototype shows a little more.

A4processor.jpg
Apple's A4 microprocessor is the brain of the iPad

Specifically, the Vietnam prototype contains legible part numbers revealing the Apple A4 chip for mobile devices, the same chip powering the new iPad, says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a website that provides free repair manuals and advice forums mostly aimed at Apple products. The A4's clock speed should come in at 1 GHz.

So what does the A4 mean for mere mortal iPhone and iPad consumers?

If the iPhone 4G really does have a 1 GHz A4 processor, it will run faster than today's iPhone 3G3. This chip will also improve graphics a little bit. For comparison, the Nexus One already has a 1GHz processor. "The new iPhone should be a little bit snappier," Wiens says.

You'll really see the performance boost with Web apps like Gmail. That is, an A4 chip should make Gmail faster on the iPhone than it is for today's iPhone users. It's good news for future iPhone 4G owners, since Web app performance has been a problem on previous iPhones, Wiens says.

Wiens, also a software developer, has tried to write JavaScript effects on the iPhone with little success. "It's just not quite fast enough," he says. "Once the iPhone is fast enough that you can write a Web app that acts like a native app, that will be huge. It'll be closer with the A4."

One downside of the A4 may be a slip in iPhone battery life, which doesn't bode well for Apple given all the criticisms that the iPhone battery has received. Although the A4 is very power efficient, says Wiens, when you increase clock speed, power consumption comes into play. "It may or may not decrease battery life," he says, "but we won't know until it comes out."

Ironically, preservation of battery life likely led Apple to pick a mobile processor for its iPad rather than, say, an Intel Atom that powers netbooks.

Compared to the Intel Atom, "the A4 really sips power," Wiens says. The iPad battery has received rave reviews, lasting longer than Apple's stated 10 hours. He figures an iPad powered by an Intel Atom would only have about four hours of battery life.

"It was revolutionary thing to put the A4 in the iPad, and an evolutionary thing to put it in the iPhone," Wiens says.

Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for CIO.com in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at tkaneshige@cio.com. Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.

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