IPhone 13 Performance - Apple Brain Drain?


Macworld’ s Jason Snell notes that this is unlikely to be an accidental omission.

Here’s a funny thing about Tuesday’s announcement of the A15 Bionic: Apple didn’t compare its performance to the A14. In the past, Apple has compared the power of its iPhones to previous models. But this year, Apple has chosen to proclaim that the A15 in the iPhone 13 Pro has 50 percent better graphics and CPU performance “than the competition.”

Given that Apple has generally been ahead of its smartphone competition in terms of processor power, this suggests that the A15 shows less improvement over the A14 than it does over the Qualcomm processors in leading Android phones. And it makes me wonder if Apple is perhaps trying to soft-pedal a new chip that isn’t much faster than the older model […]

Over the past few years, each successive chip generation has offered a roughly 20 percent improvement in single-core performance. This year may be different. While the introduction of a new A-series processor is always a big deal, it’s an open question about how big a step forward the A15 processor will really be.

SemiAnalysis believes that the next generation core was delayed out of 2021 into 2022 due to CPU engineer resource problems. In 2019, Nuvia was founded and later acquired by Qualcomm for $1.4B. Apple’s Chief CPU Architect, Gerard Williams, as well as over a 100 other Apple engineers left to join this firm. More recently, SemiAnalysis broke the news about Rivos Inc, a new high performance RISC V startup which includes many senior Apple engineers. The brain drain continues and impacts will be more apparent as time moves on. As Apple once drained resources out of Intel and others through the industry, the reverse seems to be happening now.

We believe Apple had to delay the next generation CPU core due to all the personnel turnover Apple has been experiencing. Instead of a new CPU core, they are using a modified version of last year’s core.


The other big variable is that Apple has been devoting engineering talent to Apple Silicon for Macs. In years past they produced a new iPhone chip every year, maybe a watch chip, and an iPad chip every other year, plus miscellaneous minor stuff. If rumors are to be believed, recently they’ve been working on the M1, the M1X in two variants, plus much more massive GPU’s than they’ve produced in the past. I wouldn’t be surprised if the workload has as much or more to do with this than any departures.


Sounds reasonable. If this is more a lack of talent rather than workload we may see a continuation of the same chips being used in multiple products.

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It’d be interesting to see how close the A15 Bionic actually is to the M1 chip. We will see the benchmarks soon. More interesting for me is general usability of the device and if it is sluggish at all. Previous iPhone generations somehow became slower after a year or so. Hope those days are now gone.

My 2018 iPad Pro still performs as snappy as when it came out of the box, which I am very happy with.

After reading this article, do most still plan to upgrade to iPhone 13? Please share your thoughts & thank you

Absolutely. My phone is four years old so it is time for an upgrade. I’m sure the performance will be more than enough and a big boost from my X.

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At what point do we reach an area where faster no longer matters or is no longer (relevant) for certain device platforms?

Eventually, devices will be fast enough for almost instantaneous processing of virtually any demand we throw at them. What will be the draw to update regularly then?

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For many folks, improvements to the camera array is a motivation to upgrade.

It depends on how good apple marketing is :wink:

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Worth noting that the improvement in the iPhone camera is often, in large part, because the SoC is faster and they can throw more things into the computational photography pipeline.


That’s a good point. This year was no exception either with the addition of Cinematic Mode for video.

This is an excellent point. The iPhone has seen tremendous year over year improvement in the photography realm. I’m not a big photography guy, but this years update on the Pro models has me leaning in their direction. They just look compelling to have and use.

Your thoughts if you owned an iPhone 12 Pro Max?

IMO many (most?) people haven’t needed a faster iPhone, iPad, Mac, etc. for quite some time.

The majority of my 120+ Mac users in 2018 were running iMacs that were 5 - 9 years old. Those with the 27in iMacs were a half dozen graphic artists who needed the power or executives who wanted big screens for their Excel spreadsheets. I managed everything (servers, networks, phone systems, etc.) with a base model 2013 MacBook Pro

In general, as more work moves to the cloud the need for local power decreases. My iPhones have always been used for communication, calendars, contacts, notes, photos, etc. The only reason I upgraded my 6S to an iPhone 11 was for a better camera. I was already editing 4K video on a 6th gen $329 iPad when I purchased my 2020 11 inch iPad Pro. I needed cellular, USB-C, and additional storage, not more power.

I suspect the majority of hardware purchases these days are due to want, not need.


I’m about to purchase a iPhone 13 Pro Max. I agree with @ChrisUpchurch that “the improvement in the iPhone camera is often, in large part, because the SoC is faster and they can throw more things into the computational photography pipeline.”

I’m an amateur photographer with a very nice DSLR camera and high end glass. But, I’m also thinking of moving more of my photography to the iPhone rather than upgrading my camera–which is getting a bit long in the tooth. So for me, increases in performance that affect the quality of iPhone photography is important.


Initial GeekBench results are, according to this piece, showing about a 10% gain in single core performance and a 21% gain for multicore.

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I am still rocking an iPhone 8+ and I don’t feel compelled to update it. Obviously a better camera would be great, but not for the cost of the upgrade. I do not play games, do not stream videos, I am basically doing with it what I already did with the 5S, so I am out of the rat race for this year.

Phones, and iPhones too, are a commodity now, not even Apple has the capability to enforce a 2-year upgrade cycle any more. My money is better spent on more iCloud storage than on a new device.

XX% faster than last years model, 15 billion more pixels or A Billion Trillion neural computing units are all meaningless to me.


But it looks like that the power of the A15 was not enough, because Cinematic Mode is limited to 1080p at 30 fps. :slightly_smiling_face:

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My spouse and I will be, but not for performance or FOMO or Apple Marketing. Our kids need phones (one has a 4 year old iPhone 8, the other doesn’t have one but has reached that age) so we’re getting 13s and passing our 11s to the kids.

Of course the camera improvements are always welcome.

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Gives the iPhone 14 something to improve on! :slightly_smiling_face: