Apple's A6 chip to boost speed, battery life in next iPad

The schedule for Apple's A6 processor points to a June launch for the next iPad, a noted industry analyst said

Apple's next iPad will be faster and more power-efficient thanks to its new, quad-core A6 processor, but the new tablet may not be ready to ship until next June, an industry analyst said Monday.

The A6 will succeed the dual-core A5 processor used in Apple's iPad 2, said Linley Gwennap, founder and principal analyst at The Linley Group. The A6 will likely be made by chip foundry company Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), Gwennap said, citing multiple sources. The A5 is manufactured by Samsung, and Apple is embroiled in a legal dispute with that company.

The manufacturing schedule for the A6 suggests it won't be in production until the second quarter next year, which means the next iPad might not appear until June, Gwennap said.

A report in the Wall Street Journal last week, citing unnamed sources, said Apple hopes to launch the iPad 3 early next year.

The A6 should bring more performance to Apple devices while preserving battery life. Many of the improvements will come from TSMC's 28-nanometer manufacturing process, Gwennap said. The process will shrink the circuitry compared to the A5, which is manufactured on a 40-nanometer process, making the A6 smaller and faster.

"The tablet guys are excited to offer more performance with the same battery life," Gwennap said.

Smartphones with dual-core processors are already being released, and some analysts predict that the iPhone 5, expected later this year, will be powered by the dual-core A5 processor.

The A6 will square off against quad-core mobile processors from Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Qualcomm. Nvidia's quad-core Tegra processor, code-named Kal El, will appear in devices by the end of this year, Nvidia has said.

The A6 will likely be based on ARM's Cortex-A9 processor, which is the same design used in the A5. ARM has announced an upcoming Cortex-A15 processor, but the first devices based on that design won't ship until late next year or early 2013, Gwennap said.

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