According to a new report from Chinese website MyDrivers (via MacRumors), the processor that will power Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) next-generation iPad Pro tablets, dubbed the A11X Bionic, will feature eight processor cores.
That’s up from the six processor cores found inside of the A10X Fusion processor that powers the current 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets.
Three of those cores are expected to be what Apple refers to as high-performance cores, designed to handle performance-intensive applications such as 3D games, while the other five will be high-efficiency cores, which are designed to crunch through more mundane tasks while consuming as little power as possible.
Additionally, MyDrivers says that the A11X Bionic will incorporate the same Apple Neural Engine found inside of the A11 Bionic, presumably to enable Face ID capability. Bloomberg recently reported that the next iPad will also include a custom-designed Apple graphics processor just as the A11 Bionic does (though it will certainly be much more powerful than the one inside of the A11 Bionic).
The MyDrivers report also asserts that the A11X will be manufactured in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company‘s (NYSE:TSM) 7-nanometer chip technology, which promises performance and area improvements compared to the 10-nanometer technology used to build the A10X that powers this year’s 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets.
This all sounds awesome. Let’s go over what this means for Apple’s iPad business.
More performance is great, but…
The more powerful that Apple makes its iPad processors, the more freedom software developers will have to build more feature-rich applications.
For quite a while now, Apple has been positioning iPad as a replacement for Windows-based personal computers. The company has worked to make iOS for iPad increasingly capable (iOS 11 was a particularly big step up for the iPad), something that has undoubtedly been enabled by the continued performance and feature enhancements in the company’s iPad processors.
In fact, Apple even boasts that the processors found inside of its iPad Pro tablets are faster than the processors found in most laptop computers today.
For Apple to make this performance matter, though, it needs a software ecosystem that’s willing and able to take full advantage of this performance to deliver experiences that weren’t otherwise possible.
Apple should work with game developers, for example, to have them rebuild their games to automatically detect whether an iOS device is equipped with a ProMotion display (this is Apple’s marketing speak for a display that can update its contents at up to 120 times per second, enabling a smoother user experience).
Such games would be able to utilize the additional processing power found inside of the A11X Bionic to deliver smoother gaming experiences. Many iOS games today are limited to rendering just 60 frames per second, even on the current iPad Pro tablets, which feature displays that can update their contents at twice that rate.
Another area where the increased performance of the A11X Bionic could come in handy is in augmented reality apps, particularly augmented reality-based gaming. Such applications are extremely processor intensive, so if iPads with the A11X Bionic deliver an appreciably better user experience in such applications, that could be a highly marketable selling point.
The good news is that Apple’s next-generation iPad is rumored to include a design with minimal bezels and an embedded TrueDepth camera system, like the one found on this year’s iPhone X, to enable features like Animoji and Face ID authentication. Those features should be compelling to the average consumer.
Ultimately, I think Apple understands that it’s hard to sell devices on performance alone. That performance needs to be used to deliver fundamentally better user experiences for it to ultimately matter. On top of that, even if that increased performance is used to deliver a better user experience, customers won’t really know that until they’ve purchased the device.
That’s why it’s critical for Apple to keep bringing to market form factor innovations (like a design with minimal bezels) as well as fundamentally new features (like Face ID) to keep customers interested in next-generation devices.
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.