back to article Apple's zippy silicon leaves Android rivals choking on dust

Steve Jobs once said that "innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have" – it's all about how you spend it. Despite spending a far lower proportion of its income on R&D* than Google, Apple's approach is paying off in one area in particular. The huge investment in proprietary, homegrown silicon is giving it …

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Is the advantage just down to the silicon?

Or is the fact that Android started off as a POS and got worse over the years also contributing?

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My exact thought

Java VM with specific optimizations towards footprint/multi-instance instead of performance vs Objective C compiled using a next-get compiler.

Should there be a contest in the first place?

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Re: My exact thought

Modern android pre-compiles the app to a closer-to-native format. The Dalvik / Java thing is basically gone, and it's all JIT and ahead-of-time compilation, with on-the-fly profiling and optimisation.

I would put this down to being more about "we only have one phone with fixed hardware, so you can massively optimise all your apps towards that" versus "anything can run Android, your app has to check for everything, so your optimisations will never be perfect on all devices". There's also an Internet speed factor here, too, Super Mario Run and those other apps do a lot of network activity on startup (try it without data and wifi turned off - it just bugs out) that can slow such tests down. And I'm sure I can find a hundred tests that the iPhone "fails" on just the same.

I guess that by the time the S8 gets to the point that I would bother to touch it, I won't even notice anyway. The iPhone will basically just never come down in price.

To be honest, raw performance isn't what I buy smartphones for, though.

I hate pissing contests over raw numbers when, actually, things like "I'd like to plug headphones in", "can I change the battery", "can I change the SIM", "can I buy an approved charger for a non-ridiculous price", "can I expand the onboard storage", "do I *need* an account to make it work", etc. are much bigger questions for a smartphone to my mind.

Sadly, Samsung et al are following the stupid Apple answers for some of those questions even now. I stuck on the S5 Mini - fast enough (and hence, can't really see why I'd need it significantly faster and I do all kinds on my smartphone), stable enough, cheap enough, sensible enough, accessorisable enough (though USB host would have been nice), small enough and big enough, and lasts long enough.

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Anonymous Coward

It's nothing to do with silicon. iOS is a ancient platform that under the covers has very basic capabilities, no background services, very limited multitasking essentially a toy OS. Android has all the needs of a full grown up OS.

If you want performance, write C and compile to NDK, if you want quick development, use SDK and Java syntax which compiles to device targeted, near native execute speed davlik.

This comparison is mostly clickbait nonsense.

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Anonymous Coward

Obvious troll is obvious

> no background services, very limited multitasking

Either you're trolling, or incredibly stupid, or most likely both.

iOS has had both from day one, just not implemented in the same (memory & battery hungry) way as Android. As a most basic example, how would you be able to take a phone call whilst using any other app, if there were no background services or just limited multitasking?

Apple has implemented much better multitasking management than Android, which is why on iOS there's no need to constantly keep shutting down background apps (although many clueless people still think the iOS app switcher is a task manager and do just that thinking it helps).

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Yet Android still can't manage low latency audio, and you'd expect a full grown up OS to be able to do that.

The iPhone's functionality may be restricted or cut back, but the fundamentals underneath are sound. Multitasking was limited for apps for a reason, that reason being battery life.

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> This comparison is mostly clickbait nonsense.

Well done, Donald Trump would be proud.

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So why is the battery usage significantly worse in these tests?

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Anonymous Coward

"So why is the battery usage significantly worse in these tests?"

Pushing the bits around faster mean you use more energy to do that, and hopefully not cast it off as heat energy. A mobile device should be able to throttle the CPU, and other services, based on usage/need. Similarly, in a "drag race" you spend a ton of fuel for a very short trip. It's spending all available resources to get maximum power. The wheels from your Mustang shooting out across the highway like a slug from a .45, true performance, this is Black Sunshine!

Sorry, was channeling Rob Zombie there, you get the idea though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Obvious troll is obvious

Ok, I will help you out, no background services for 3rd party apps, and no proper multitasking either.

It's why I can send pictures from my Sony DSLR direct to my android phone, but on iOS I need to launch the app, only the OS can run services, not installed apps.

Plenty of other similar restrictions too, no real filesystem, no way of sending files direct via Bluetooth, NFC is locked to Apple pay etc etc etc. The list of efst you can't do on iOS is huge... That's why it's a toy os.

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>>It's nothing to do with silicon. iOS is a ancient platform...<<

Really? iOS is based on one of the best and most secure Unixes. Linux trades security for performance. Darwin and Mach are more secure - yet as the benchmark shows wins in performance as well.

Writing in C? Another tradeoff of security, correctness, and development speed for performance. And yet C will most likely lose in performance as well.

For security reasons both C and Linux should be avoided. That would be a sophisticated system.

Linux is good for servers where they are tightly controlled for security - but for end-user devices, no. In end-user environments the built-in security of the OS must be instead added on top of Linux. That is a poor approach to security.

Security is now the biggest issue in town - sophisticated systems like iOS - address security from the base up, not as an afterthought.

The more I read your comments that >>very limited multitasking essentially a toy OS<< the more I think you are wrong and your post is nonsense.

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iOS has a far better Multi-tasking architecture than Android

>" iOS is a ancient platform that under the covers has very basic capabilities, no background services, very limited multitasking essentially a toy OS"

Completely inaccurate of course. Apple implements a far more intelligent multi-tasking architecture than Android.

On Android any app could for example continuously poll a data source every few seconds or minutes in case a value changes thus using up battery, CPU clock cycles and network bandwidth.

What Apple did instead was to implement a comprehensive Push/notifications architecture that developers can use that only pushes the updated data to the app when that value changes, thus eliminating all of the wasteful behaviour that is otherwise required. This is just one example of how much more intelligent Apple’s multi-tasking architecture is than the simple multi-tasking implementation of Android.

iOS intelligently allows a huge range of app processes to multi-task in the background including tracking GPS locations, downloading files, playing music, checking for new content, refreshing data, receiving push notifications, continuously tracking accelerometer, barometer and digital compass motion data with the Motion chip, voice calls and VOIP, SMS and messaging, communication with external and Bluetooth accessories etc all in the background while other apps are in the foreground.

Much better than the wildwest of rogue programs and widgets draining batteries and sapping CPU cycles on Android.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Obvious troll is obvious

Oh god, no background services for 3rd party apps on iOS?

Oh no, we've got it wrong, our navigation and traffic disruption app doesn't work in the background. It can't be processing all that location information and providing traffic updates and sending them to the user.

It must be the magic IOS fairies that are doing that and not all the fucking code we wrote to do background processing that isn't happening.

If you're going to slag off IOS, there's plenty enough to slag off, just choose something you fucking know something about, zits, wanking or checking the Littlewoods underwear section in their catalogue.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: iOS has a far better Multi-tasking architecture than Android

Fuck me.

A sensible and informed comment about IOS on The Register. Whats the world coming to?

I might disagree with "Apple implements a far more intelligent multi-tasking architecture than Android." as well as whether it is a comprehensive push architecture. IOS 10 has got better, but we could argue that over a pint.

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It's just a shame

That iOS is such a piece of out of date crap.

That stupid icon grid system is horrible, you can't assign default apps, you can't freely move files around (for example plug in a flash drive) because of the walled garden apprach.

In the real world most people don't need the speed. CPW were telling me the S8 is "so powerful" but for what exactly?

Tha hardware may be great from a technical standpoint, but it's a bit like putting a Ferrari engine in a Mini Metro.

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Re: It's just a shame

iOS started off as a cut-down version of MacOS which itself is based on OpenBSD. Your problems with it are you don't like the launcher and there's no external memory card support, so you don't like what they're selling, not that it's out of date.

I wouldn't buy one either.

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Re: It's just a shame

It's true that iOS is looking outdated and has much about it that is irritating and annoying.

But the alternative fails in even more ways. The world could really use a decent phone OS, unfortunately google haven't been able to step up and provide one.

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Re: It's just a shame

Hehe, I remember asking a 'first adopter' the same question when he upgraded from his Galaxy II to a III some years ago - what does a phone need all that power for?

What has happened in the mean time is that people use their phones for more intensive tasks. For example, the early days of smartphones, the cameras were no match for a dedicated cameras - now they are good enough for many situations, so the PC is taken out of the workflow. It's all on the phone.

Whilst I'm on record here for being happy enough to slum it with a £45 Huawai (I loved the way it bounced on tarmac!), using a Nexus 5 is a breath of fresh air in comparison (yeah, I know it's a years-old model).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's just a shame

> iOS started off as a cut-down version of MacOS which itself is based on OpenBSD.

FreeBSD, not OpenBSD.

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Re: It's just a shame

...but it's a bit like putting a Ferrari engine in a Mini Metro.

What's so wrong with a Ferrari engine in a metro? Pisses off the boy racers when you leave them at the lights, and so rarely make it out of town that the handling makes little difference.

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Re: It's just a shame

Oops, I knew what I wanted to say but it went wrong somewhere before typing.

Well it should be OpenBSD, the best of all the BSDs. That'll bring the debate to a close on this thread.

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Re: What's so wrong with a Ferrari engine in a metro?

Let's see, maybe it's the fact that the tires are not up to the task, the brakes are certainly not either, and I'd rather not see the result of a Ferrari-engined Metro having skidded into a wall after failing to brake in time.

A car is not just a chassis where you drop an engine in. Cars are designed in every aspect to conform to the performance they are supposed to give. That is why you don't have any small cars with 8 or 6-cylinder engines either. They're not made for that kind of power and it would be dangerous to try.

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Re: It's just a shame

I won't buy a phone that doesn't have removable memory and battery so that rules out Apple products. I also have got very attached to having weather/countdown/world time/calendar widgets on my home screen. I've made a couple of ZooperPro widgets that I have customised to suit me and you can't do that on IOS. Someone at a party a couple of Christmases ago asked if I'd make them the same widget for their phone and I had to let them down gently when I explained that such things don't work on an iPhone.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ...but it's a bit like putting a Ferrari engine in a Mini Metro.

Years ago I pulled up at the Handy Cross roundabout and a rusty shit brown Mk1 Fiesta drew up alongside me. It had prismatic Turbo stickers in the rear window. I remember thinking Oh yeah, then the lights changed and this thing shot off into the distance with all 4 wheels spinning and leaving me in the dust.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's just a shame

Not seen these then?

https://www.sandisk.co.uk/home/mobile-device-storage/ixpand

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Re: It's just a shame

"Tha hardware may be great from a technical standpoint, but it's a bit like putting a Ferrari engine in a Mini Metro"

Have an upvote for getting "Mini Metro" into a Reg forum post!

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Re: What's so wrong with a Ferrari engine in a metro?

I seem to recall a Vauxhall Nova (beloved of many a Max Power reader) having a rather larger engine dropped in it without any major tweaks to structural integrity or the brakes. Apparently its chassis was a bit wonky after some use of the new setup.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's so wrong with a Ferrari engine in a metro?

Car power is measured in PS, or BHP, not x cylinder. The number of cylinders does not correlate to the power. You can get 4 cylinder engines that produce way more power than a v8.

Small cars can have as much power as you want, the issues is normally the fact that many small cars are FWD and you get excessive wheelspin as the weight is thrown backwards and excessive torque-steer as the driving wheels are also the steering wheels. Put 4wd on them and they're sound.

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Re: It's just a shame

https://www.sandisk.co.uk/home/mobile-device-storage/ixpand

Yeah I've seen them and have used an OTG version of external storage on an android phone but you can't claim it's the same as having a micro SDcard in the phone.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's just a shame

Yeah and the ones I used to use drained the phone more than normal.

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Re: It's just a shame

Tha hardware may be great from a technical standpoint, but it's a bit like putting a Ferrari engine in a Mini Metro.

BS. I've seen the results of putting a Porsche engine into a old VW bug. One of the guys who did it selected a rather large Porsche engine, and that meant that he had to delete the engine hatch cover. He also had to replace the exhaust system, and the transmission; he got them from the same scrapped Porsche he'd got the engine from. When he was done he painted the VW to match Herbie the Love Bug and had the fastest VW in captivity. When last I saw him, at least five years after he first hacked the VW, he was still driving it (and still attracting traffic tickets from traffic cops with no sense of humour). He also had a Ford Taurus with a monster V-8 engine, and a Lada 1100 with a 2-litre Cortina engine and transmission. Let's just say that he liked to go fast.

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Re: What's so wrong with a Ferrari engine in a metro?

"... you get excessive wheelspin as the weight is thrown backwards and excessive torque-steer as the driving wheels are also the steering wheels."

Torque steer is a function of the axle shaft and suspension geometry. If the axle shafts are equal length and equal stiffness and the suspension matches left to right then there is no torque steer. The problem is that it is difficult to do since the engine side shaft tends to necessarily be longer than the transmission side shaft since there isn't typically room to center the differential and mirror all the suspension geometry.

To be completely pedantic the weight isn't "thrown backward" as it's a combination of inertia and reaction torque that loads up the rear wheels. Again, technically solvable to a large degree but given the confines of space and cost means they use traction control (read brakes) to limit wheelspin.

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Re: It's just a shame

"Well it should be OpenBSD, the best of all the BSDs."

Ahem.

(I still up-voted you, but FreeBSD for the win.)

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Re: It's just a shame

I won't buy a phone that doesn't have removable memory and battery so that rules out Apple products.

And almost ever other phone manufacturer.

If by "removable" you mean "replaceable," iPhone and iPad batteries can be replaced. Soldering is required, of course, but that's no different from Pixel, Galaxy S7 & 8, and many, many other current devices.

With Android phones, the device will become obsolete and dangerous due to lack of OS and security updates long before the battery gives out.

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Re: It's just a shame

And don't forget the Mach part too!

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Boffin

Re: What's so wrong with a Ferrari engine in a metro?

"The problem is that it is difficult to do since the engine side shaft tends to necessarily be longer than the transmission side shaft since there isn't typically room to center the differential and mirror all the suspension geometry"

Peugeot, in the GTI and diesel 205s, used to fit an outrigger bearing on the side opposite the diff, precisely for this reason. Pedantically, I don't think it's the length of the drive shafts that matters per se, it's that the CV joints exhibit a self-straightening effect under load which is proportional to the angle that they're at, so you need to mirror left and right to get the angles the same. Bumps or corner roll, of course, throw that alignment out as one wheel deflects, so the steering loads or kicks.

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Re: What's so wrong with a Ferrari engine in a metro?

"That is why you don't have any small cars with 8 or 6-cylinder engines either. "

Completely OT but a former colleague had a small Mazda with a tiny 1.8l V6. It and many of the traditional US V8s produced no more power than you can get these days in a four-cylinder supermini.

The number of cylinders tells you nothing about the power output and these days, the capacity doesn't tell you much either when some engines are churning out 170BHP/litre and the top of the range new Smart produces about 4 times the BHP of the original Mini from about the same engine capacity.

Same with phone technology; number of cores is pretty meaningless when they can vary so greatly in performance.

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@fidodogbreath - replacing iPhone batteries

There is no soldering required. Maybe there was on the first generation or two, but that has not been true for a LONG time. It looks pretty simple (never needed to replace the battery in any of mine) so I think anyone who knows which end of a screwdriver to use could manage it.

You will need a special screwdriver and device to pry open the case, but the batteries I've seen sold on the net include both.

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Re: It's just a shame

I don't have a Pixel, Galaxy S7 or 8 or other sealed battery phone but I do have a Samsung XCover 3. That does have a swappable battery (no soldering required) and takes a memory card and is IP67 rated.

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Re: It's just a shame

>>That iOS is such a piece of out of date crap.<<

Oh dear. With solid reasoning like that, where do you go?

Instead of being technical and using facts, let's just use emotional language to sway the masses. Sadly, your method works - it's how we got Brexit and Trump.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple fanboy channel posts benchmark showing apple to win?

Colour me shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

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Neutral sites that have a reputation for benchmarks have usually placed iPhones highly. If you still suspect bias, you can read through their testing methodology.

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Coat

Independent tests?

I'm sceptical till I see genuine independent third party testing, including power consumption for similar size and resolution screen.

Who does Apple use as a foundry? They bought in an ARM licence chip design company, but I think don't have fab.

If this really is so much better, yet again it shows that large companies mostly "innovate" by buying in an already successful company with the R&D team.

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Re: Independent tests?

TSMC and Samsung have historically made their SOC's. More recently, it has been almost 100% TSMC.

As for the comments about IOS being out of date etc. That is your opinion. I would counter that by saying that most Hipster Fanboi's don't care. As long as it is easy to use they are fine.

Sure Android can be made more configurable. But be honest here, how many ordinary Android users care? How many do what you want?

I see it like the Linux desktop. Infinitely configurable but how many users do much if anything.

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Re: Independent tests?

"I would counter that by saying that most Hipster Fanboi's don't care. As long as it is easy to use they are fine."

No. As long as the Apple logo is always visible on their i-thingy they are fine. They would be happily buy a block of wood from Apple so long as that block had the Apple logo on it.

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There are two different kinds of ARM licence

The majority of companies that use an ARM processor take an off-the-shelf ARM design, combine it with components from ARM or 3rd parties to form their SoC and hand the results to a fab company (TSMC, Samsung etc) to build. A small number of companies (Apple, Qualcomm and nVidia for example) have Architecture licences, which allows them to come up with their own CPU designs that execute ARM code. The resulting designs can be faster and/or more power efficient than the stock ARM cores.

The silicon design company (PA RISC IIRC) was bought many years ago, well before the first of their internal ARM designs. The designers may be pre Apple, but their work has all been done on Apple's time.

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Re: There are two different kinds of ARM licence

As Steve Todd says, Apple have an architecture licence, so they can design their own silicon that runs ARM stuff. And they do it very well indeed, their memory controllers are strikingly good (or was a couple of years ago), and they can make a huge difference. IIRC they are best in class with very good latency figures.

I am an Android user who won't touch Apple product with a barge pole, but does appreciate good silicon design.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Independent tests?

I just want my phone to work, iPhone doesn't, or needs clunky workarounds, android works as I want it to.

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Probably not all processor

Are they sure this down to Apple processor and not because it moved over to NVMe for it's storage? I know having an NVMe drive in my PC made everything much faster. http://bgr.com/2016/08/18/iphone-vs-galaxy-note-storage-speed/

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Re: Probably not all processor

It's not a single thing, but the test does a bunch of things a typical user might - and those things typically don't require multiple cores to perform. And in any single-core comparison, Apple's chips are just ridiculously faster than any Android CPUs - we're talking like twice as fast, if I remember the benchmarks correctly. I think even an iPhone 6s beat today's latest Android cpus. The speed of the storage is probably also a factor, but I haven't read much about the difference between Apple & Android in that regard. I suspect (and so did the tester on another one of these "real world" tests where Apple won easily) that the memory management in iPhone is just much better or, perhaps, apps in Android land are just much more bloated in size, making it more time consuming to move them in/out of memory.

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