We’ve all had numerous debates with friends and family over which is faster smartphone. Regardless of what hardcore Android users might say, the iPhones are faster than Android smartphones. Read on as we discuss the main reasons why iPhones are faster.
Having used both platforms daily for years, I have encountered way fewer hiccups and slow-downs using iPhones. Performance is one of the things iPhones usually does better than Android smartphones. So, why are iPhones faster than Android smartphones?
Top reasons why iPhones are faster than Android phones
Apple Manufactures iPhone Processors
Generally, whenever Apple announces a new iPhone, it also announces a new System-on-a-Chip. Inevitably, comparisons are made between Apple’s latest SoC and the latest offerings from Qualcomm, Samsung, Google, and MediaTek. It doesn’t usually take long for benchmarking numbers to appear and for Apple to be declared the winner.
So, why is it that Apple’s SoCs always seem to beat the competition? Why are the processors used by Android seemingly so far behind? Are Apple’s chips really that good? Well, let me explain.
The iPhones are much faster compared to Android smartphones due to their superior processors. Apple does not rely on processor chip manufacturers for its hardware. Instead, it designs processors that conform to its vision of the latest iPhone. By building its own processors, Apple is able to have complete control over the design and performance of products.
Apple also designs processors that use Arm’s 64-bit instruction architecture. That means that Apple’s chips use the same underlying RISC architecture as Qualcomm, Samsung, and Google. The difference is that Apple holds an architectural license with Arm, which allows it to design its own chips from scratch. Apple’s first in-house 64-bit Arm processor was the Apple A7 which was used in the iPhone 5S. It had a dual-core CPU, clocked at 1.4 GHz, and a quad-core PowerVR G6430 GPU. It was manufactured using a 28nm process.
Fast forward several years and Apple’s latest offerings for mobile, use a hexa-core CPU, using Heterogeneous Multi-Processing (HMP), and an in-house GPU (after Apple decided to stop using Imagination’s GPU, while still licensing the underlying tech from Imagination). The six CPU cores are made up of two high-performance cores, and four energy-efficient cores.
In short, Apple’s recent generations of processors offer better CPU performance than every other smartphone processor, from any company. Why?
On paper, the scores for Apple’s processors (which only have 6 cores) are faster than the octa-core scores for all the processors. And not just for one generation, but two, or even three. Things like the GPU, the DSP, the ISP, and any AI-related functions. These other parts of the SoC will influence the day-to-day experience of any devices using these processors. However, when it comes to raw CPU speed, Apple is the clear winner.
This can be a bit hard for Android fans to stomach. So what is the reason? First, we need a bit of a history lesson.
It is fair to say that Apple caught Qualcomm sleeping when it announced the 64-bit A7 back in 2013. Until that point, Apple and Qualcomm had both been shipping 32-bit Armv7 processors for use in mobile devices. Qualcomm was leading the field with its 32-bit Snapdragon 800 SoC. It used an in-house Krait 400 core along with the Adreno 330 GPU. Life was good for Qualcomm.
When Apple suddenly announced a 64-bit Armv8 CPU, Qualcomm had nothing. At the time one of its execs called the 64-bit A7 a “marketing gimmick”, but it didn’t take long for Qualcomm to come up with a 64-bit strategy of its own.
In April 2014, Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon 810 with four Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. The “Cortex” range of cores come directly from Arm, the custodians of the Arm architecture. But in that same year, Apple announced the A8, its second-generation in-house 64-bit CPU. It wasn’t until March 2015 that Qualcomm was able to announce its first-generation in-house 64-bit CPU, the Snapdragon 820, with its custom Kryo CPU core.
In September of the same year, Apple released the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus using the A9 processor, Apple’s third-generation 64-bit in-house CPU. Suddenly Qualcomm was two generations behind Apple.
In 2016, Qualcomm’s offering was from Arm again, but it had a twist. Arm created a new licensing program that allowed its most trusted partners early access to its latest CPU designs and even some measure of customization. The result was the Kryo 280 CPU core. According to the spec sheet, the Snapdragon 835 uses eight Kryo 280 cores, however it is generally accepted that it has four Cortex-A73 cores (with tweaks) plus four Cortex-A53 cores (with tweaks). For the Snapdragon 835, Qualcomm moved the announcement from spring to winter meaning the 835 was announced after the Apple A10 and the iPhone 7.
Qualcomm’s first 64-bit CPU arrived in the same year as Apple’s third.
This ping-pong match continues. Things changed slightly when Arm introduced the Cortex-X range. These CPU cores were designed to lessen the gap between Android’s processors and Apple’s. The Cortex-X CPUs are designed first for the highest performance, even at the risk of higher power consumption. That is why there is normally just one Cortex-X core in a mobile processor and then three high-end Cortex-A cores, and then four power-efficiency cores. A 1 3 4 setup.
So, what is different about Apple’s CPU cores?
There are several key things to recognize about Apple’s CPU cores.
First, Apple had a head-start over just about everyone when it comes to 64-bit Arm-based CPUs. Although Arm itself announced the Cortex-A57 back in October 2012, the proposed timeline was that Arm’s partners would ship the first processors during 2014. But Apple had a 64-bit Arm CPU in devices during 2013. The company has since managed to capitalize on that early lead and has produced a new CPU core design every year.
Second, Apple’s SoC efforts are tightly coupled to its handset releases. Designing a high-performance mobile CPU is hard. It is hard for Apple; for Arm; for Qualcomm; for everyone. Because it is hard, it takes a long time. The Cortex-A57 was announced in October 2012, but it didn’t appear in a smartphone until April 2014. That is a long lead time.
However, that lead time is changing. The cadence at present seems to be that Arm announces its new CPU designs in the late Spring and OEMs start to announce devices towards the end of the year or the start of the next year. Normally around 6 to 8 months after the CPU designs have been announced. Of course, the smartphone makers don’t get to hear about the newest processors when we do, they are read-in to what is happening for maybe 18 months ahead.
Third, Apple’s CPUs are big and in this game, big means expensive. It is estimated that the Snapdragon 888 has around 10 billion transistors, whereas the Apple A14 has 11.8 billion transistors. The A15 consist a total of 15 billion transistors. The A16 Bionic is even bigger at 16 billion transistors, allowing faster data processing. The new chip is based on TSMC’s latest 4nm fabrication process, which makes it super efficient. The key here is that Apple sells smartphones, not chips. As a result, it can afford to make the SoCs more expensive and recoup the money in other places, including the final retail price.
Arm and Qualcomm, however, are in the chip selling business. Arm does the CPU core design for Qualcomm (and others like MediaTek) and Qualcomm designs the chips, which it, in turn, sells to handset makers like Samsung, Sony, LG, etc. Arm needs to make a profit. Qualcomm needs to make a profit. All the OEMs need to make profits. The practical result is that Qualcomm can’t afford to make overly expensive processors or OEMs will start looking elsewhere.
Apple can afford to make its SoCs more expensive and recoup the money in the iPhone’s final retail price. Arm and Qualcomm can’t.
Forth, and finally, Apple’s plan of making processors with wide pipelines at (initially) lower clock speeds has come to fruition. In very broad terms, SoC makers can either make a CPU core with a narrow pipe, but run that pipe at high clock frequencies; or use a wider pipe, but at lower clock speeds. Like a real-world water pipe, you can either pump water at high pressure through a narrower pipe or at lower pressure through a wider pipe. In both cases, you can theoretically achieve the same throughput. Arms processors tend to use narrower pipes (but that has changed slightly with the Cortex-X range), while Apple is in the wider pipeline camp.
iPhones Have Large Cache Memory
The cache is an important factor in the performance of smartphones today. Cache memory performs much faster than RAM, and a large cache memory allows smartphones to perform significantly better.
Lags and system glitches are way too common even in flagship Android smartphones; iPhones are not prone to this thanks to a larger high-performance cache. Apple’s CPUs have big caches. Silicon costs money and for some chip makers, their profit margin can be found in just 0.5 mm2 of silicon saved. Apple is able to make bigger chips (in terms of silicon costs) and that includes large caches.
The Apple A14 has 4MB of L2 cache for each of the high-performance cores, and 16MB of system cache. The A15 uses even bigger caches with 6MB for each of the high-performance cores and 32MB of system cache. These caches are huge compared to the 2.5MB total of L2 cache for the high-performance cores on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or the 10MB total of L3 and system cache.
Both the A16 Bionic’s Everest (P) cores now have access to a total of 16 MB L2 cache (vs 12 MB on the A15). On the other hand, the System Level Cache (SLC) has been slashed to 24 MB from the A15 Bionic’s 32 MB. The increased memory bandwidth should offset the lower cache value. On the other hand, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 cores can use the shared 6 MB level 3 cache.
A larger cache memory allows faster data exchange with the CPU, thereby boosting the overall processing speed. Despite Android smartphones having vast amounts of RAM, iPhones perform considerably better thanks to the high-performing cache memory.
iPhones Have Excellent Software and Hardware Optimization
Whether Apple processors are better or not, what matters most is iOS is optimized to work perfectly with the few devices Apple makes. Meanwhile, Android is dropped into a sea of smartphones, tablets, and other products. It’s up to OEMs to optimize the software for the hardware, and they sometimes do a poor job at it.
The iPhones are faster than Android phones because the iPhone’s hardware is optimized for its software and vice-versa. Apple’s closed ecosystem makes for tighter integration, so iPhones don’t need super powerful specs to match the high-end Android phones. It’s all in the optimization between hardware and software. Since Apple controls production from beginning to end, it can ensure resources are used more efficiently. Furthermore, developers have to follow a stricter process to release apps, not to mention they don’t have to optimize their apps for what may seem like an infinity of devices.
This is not to say all iOS devices can outperform all Android devices. Some Android phones are made with beastly internals and stunning performance. Generally, though, iOS devices are faster and smoother than most Android phones at comparable price ranges. For example, an iPhone 14 can perform nearly as well as the highest-end iPhone, and it starts at $799 MSRP. Even the budget iPhone SE is a great performer.
iPhones Have No Bloatware
Bloatware is software you don’t want that burdens and slows down your device. These are programs that are preinstalled on new devices, come bundled with other downloads, or are injected into your system through malicious sites.
No matter how you buy your iPhone, where you buy it from or what iPhone you buy, you won’t see any bloatware preinstalled when you boot it up for the first time. That means it’s clean from the very start, with no power- or data-siphoning apps you didn’t ask for sabotaging things behind the scenes. The iPhone has only has a few pre-installed Apple apps, and you can uninstall even those in just a few taps.
The Android device, in comparison, the moment you power it on for the first time, you’re treated to a sea of unwanted apps that not only clutter your phone but also affect its performance. Even spending $1,800 on a Galaxy Z Fold 3 doesn’t spare AT&T customers from the affront of seeing software like CNN and DirecTV Now cluttering their app drawers. And it can be even worse if you buy a budget handset that has been heavily subsidized by a discount carrier. Tons of Google apps are automatically added, and not to mention the unwanted OEM apps. It is almost impossible to get rid of these apps for good without rooting your phone.
Bloatware significantly impacts the overall performance of your device. A large number of background resources are utilized by these unwanted apps causing your Android not to use resources where needed.
See also: Why Are iPhones So Slippery? Here’s The Truth!
Reasons why iPhones are faster than Android phones: now you know!
Apple’s iPhone has consistently delivered a brilliant smartphone experience to its loyal users. The iPhones are Generally faster than android phones and it will be very rare to find an Android device that can compete with the iPhone. There is no doubt that the iPhone is very expensive compared to flagship Android devices, and while many term it “Apple Tax,” the truth is far from it.
iPhones are generally much smoother, faster, and have significantly better longevity compared to Android smartphones. They can outperform flagship Android devices thanks to Apple-manufactured hardware and system software.