Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Apple's New Gadgets

Now that it's been some time since Apple's announcement of a slew of new fancy products to liven up your deskspace, you might be wondering if you should upgrade from your current shiny, not-so-fingerprint-resistant phone this winter. I'm going to show some comparisons of the internals of this next series of new mobile devices from Apple Inc. except for the Apple Watch.

I will be comparing only devices compatible with the current iOS version (8.1.1), so I'll just say that it may be the time to replace your original iPhone. Also, I will be using GeekBench Single-Core and Multi-Core benchmarks for all of these devices to give a number to compare the performance of each of these devices. The score is generated by testing the device with simulations of real life events - like compressing a folder full of pictures then immediately changing your mind and decompressing them. The numbers are averaged from every user who has run the simulations. The higher the number, the better. SC was a test of one core in the device, and MC was a test of all the cores in the device.


So, you purchased a new iPhone in 2011 and the latest iOS update is just killing your productivity? I can't tell you if it was intentional or not on Apple's part, but I will show you how an upgrade will treat you and your experience. Then the first device I'll look at is Apple's most trendy gadget: the iPhone. 

ReleaseOctober of 2011September of 2012September of 2013September of 2013
Processor SpecsDual-Core 0.8 GHzDual-Core 1.3 GHzDual-Core 1.3 GHzDual-Core 1.3 GHz
Touch IDNoNoNoYes
GeekBench Score SC2157096931398
GeekBench Score MC405127312402519
ReleaseSeptember of 2014September of 2014
Processor SpecsDual-Core 1.4 GHzDual-Core 1.4 GHz
Touch IDYesYes
GeekBench Score SC16111600
GeekBench Score MC28842863

First off, it should be obvious that the GeekBench scores should improve with newer devices since technology is improving. You'll notice, however, that the iPhone 5C actually scores lower than the iPhone 5, although by very little. This is due to upgraded parts that require more power, but the other internals that power the device have not been upgraded.

All iPhones are advertised to have around 10 hours of battery life, but something I did not put in my spreadsheet is that the iPhone 6+ has significantly longer battery life than the iPhone 6 due to a gigantic battery inside of its shell.

On the sheet, you'll see that starting with the iPhone 5, the display size was increased, while maintaining Retina quality, then the iPhone 6/6+ increased the screen size again, with the 6+ also increasing pixel density. Due to the 6+ more likely being held farther away from your face than any of the other iPhones, as well as having higher pixel density, the experience would be beyond retina.

The iPhone 5 doubled the available RAM from the iPhone 4S, while switching to low power RAM. Starting with the iPhone 5S, iPhones contain faster LPDDR3 RAM. The iPhone 5S also comes with an motion coprocessor to ease the load on the A7 chip, resulting in faster performance, this continues with the 6 and 6+. Finally, starting with the iPhone 5S, all iPhones are equipped with a Touch ID sensor, which adds a layer of security  and convenience to your device, but also removes a layer of security.


I personally have an iPad 2 and it's done a great job these several years, but a few months ago I noticed it's finally showing signs puttering out, likely due to the amount of (ab)use I've given it. From converting entire music libraries to m4a, to heavily jailbreaking on iOS 5 and bootlooping for a week straight, to having it sit under my bed to run ads all night to earn a few bucks - I think it's had a full life. Conveniently, the new iPad also has a 2 in its name, so it's almost as if Apple is calling out to me to replace it. If you're even kind of in my situation, or just curious about the numbers, look just a little further.
(The iPad 2 had a stealthy update later in it's life that swapped out its A5 chip for a smaller, more energy efficient, equally powerful version that is shared with the original iPad Mini, thus the multiple similar scores)
iPad2nd Generation3rd Generation4th GenerationAir
ReleaseMarch of 2011March of 2012November of 2012November of 2013
ChipA5 1st/2nd GenA5XA6XA7/M7
Processor SpecsDual-Core 1.0 GHzDual-Core 1.0 GHzDual-Core 1.4 GHzDual-Core 1.4 GHz
Touch IDNoNoNoYes
GeekBench Score SC261/2612597691469
GeekBench Score MC492/49349014002657
iPadAir 2
October of 2014
Processor SpecsTri-Core 1.5GHz
Touch IDYes
GeekBench Score SC1804
GeekBench Score MC4526

My first observation to be made is that the newest iPad's benchmarks are about 9 times larger than my iPad 2, and also significantly higher than the newest iPhones' benchmarks. In terms of just the number, it appears the newest iPad is a beast of a device. You might notice that the iPad 3 has barely lower scores than the iPad 2, and that is due to improved display, camera, speakers, microphone, doubled RAM, etc. while using only an improved version of the iPad 2 chip. The performance will be about equal, but due to all of the improvements, experience will be greatly improved.

Every iPad iteration seems to come with an improved camera, which is clearly due to Apple's plan to ruin the experience of every concert ever. On the other side, it does allow PhotoBooth to be even more entertaining by having higher resolution pictures to mess with. But keep in mind that you take photos with your iPad responsibly. The screen displays have not seen the same rate of improvement beyond getting thinner; they have, since the iPad 3, had the same resolution.

Every iPad contains the latest and greatest system-on-a-chip Apple has concocted at the time of release because of the intended use of the iPad is a powerful counterpart to your other Apple products. In fact, the difference in power between iPhones and iPads is very noticeable if you use both devices, and then the intention is clear when you realize how much easier it is to do serious work like photo editing or word processing on an iPad than an iPhone. This leads to each iPad model being much better than the last.

Touch ID became a part of the iPad starting with the Air series alongside the switch to LPDDR3 RAM and the inclusion of a motion coprocessor.

The iPad Air 2 is a significant jump from the previous model. It features a Tri-Core processor (Three brains rather than Apple's extensive list of products with two), and 2 GB RAM. These two changes allow the iPad Air 2 to do much more, much better than the previous 5 iPad models. 

If you're looking to buy an iPad, the 4th Generation and earlier are no longer being sold new by Apple, but you can still purchase a refurbished - or "like-new" - older model if you want.

iPad Mini

Apple released the iPad Mini 3 as a quick note after the drawn out demonstration of the iPad Air 2. Is the reason due to lack of innovation or have they left us a surprise beyond the Touch ID sensor seemingly slapped on top? Let's find out.

iPad Mini1st Generation2nd Generation3rd Generation
ReleaseNovember of 2012November of 2013October of 2014
ChipA5 2nd GenA7/M7A7/M7
Processor SpecsDual-Core 1.0 GHzDual-Core 1.3 GHzDual-Core 1.3 GHz
Touch IDNoNoYes
GeekBench Score SC25913801343
GeekBench Score MC48924862410

There's less to compare about the iPad Mini models than the other two products because there are only three models, which are all available to buy on Apple's iPad webpage. The iPad Mini 2 drastically improves upon the first, but the iPad Mini 3 appears to have nearly the exact same internals as the iPad Mini 2. So it seems that the widely spread rumor that the iPad Mini 3 was an iPad Mini 2 with Touch ID has some truth to it.

The iPad Mini models are very closely similar to the larger version of themselves: The original iPad Mini is a tiny iPad 2, and the iPad Minis 2 and 3 are about the same as the iPad Air. A point to remember about an iPad Mini is the difference in cost between it and a full sized iPad. That being said, the Mini 3 is $100 more than the Mini 2, which is $50 more than the original Mini. Keep the specs in mind when making a buying decision.

With the information provided to you, I hope you will now be able to make an informed decision about future purchases, friendly suggestions, or writing angry forum rants.

Written because I can never find anything on the web that compares the products in a way that's useful to me, so I did it myself. Internal information on devices credit goes to the iFixit team.

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