Apple's iPhone 3G S: Presenting Its Secret Specs
Brian Dipert - June 16, 2009
While I was traipsing around Taiwan last week, Apple rolled out (among other things) the long-rumored latest iteration in its iPhone family back here in the States. By virtue of its evolutionary-versus-revolutionary nature, the iPhone 3G S hardware specs aren’t as eye-popping as, say, those of the Palm Pre. But considering that ‘S’ supposedly stands for speed, the company clearly made some enhancements beyond the device’s first- and second-generation forbearers.
Apple was forthright with some of the ’speed’ details, specifically the iPhone 3G S’s support for the 7.2 Mbps flavor of UMTS/HSPA, even if the company’s sole US carrier partner, AT&T, is a laggard in this regard. Apple’s website explicitly mentions only HSDPA support, but since the prior-generation iPhone 3G reportedly handled higher upstream bandwidth HSUPA, I’d be surprised if this design doesn’t also comprehend it. However, as with the 2nd-generation iPod touch (which bumped the CPU clock to 532 MHz, from 412 MHz on its first-generation predecessor along with the first two iPhone generations), Apple was mum on several other notable silicon improvements this time around.
Courtesy of an inadvertent slip by the Netherlands division of T-Mobile, we know that the iPhone 3G S contains a 600 MHz CPU and twice the DRAM of its precursor (now 256 Mbytes). And the claims of Anand’s anonymous contacts (curses, well-connected Anand! Just kidding…) further open the kimono, indicating that Apple’s made yet another ARM CPU evolution (to a Samsung-implemented Cortex-A8 core…the Cortex-A8 in the Palm Pre comes from Texas Instruments) as well as migrating to a next-generation Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX graphics core with hardware support for v2 of the OpenGL ES API.
- Why is Apple being so hush-hush about its design enhancements? I don’t have a good answer for this one, and I welcome your theories. I mean, c’mon…Anand had his hands on one within hours of its public unveiling, and you gotta know that folks like iFixit and phoneWreck aren’t far behind. Apple might try to hide suppliers and part numbers behind Apple logo and cryptic part number stamps, but a bit of developer code will reveal any remaining secrets that an electron microscope doesn’t uncover.
- Will developers code exclusively for OpenGL ES v2, thereby fragmenting the App Store? This one I’m much more certain about….no friggin’ way, at least for now. Developers code for the largest possible potential audience, for obvious business upside reasons. Just as coders didn’t flock to Windows Vista-only DirectX v10, no developer in his or her right mind would craft software that’ll only run on an iPhone 3G S…until its and its iPhone and iPod touch descendents achieve critical market mass, that is. Although it might be possible to write programs that, in the absence of OpenGL v2 hardware acceleration, support API calls via software emulation, the resultant performance impact on OpenGL v1.1-only hardware would likely be prohibitive. What might happen, though, is that just as with games and other graphics-intensive PC applications, the code would ascertain what hardware it’s running on and appropriately scale its capabilities (graphics richness, frame rate, etc) in response. Again, I’d appreciate reader feedback here.
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