Apple’s new device marketing tends to be aggressive every year in marketing system-on-chip improvements, which made this year’s silence on the Apple Watch Series 5‘s S5 processor noteworthy: The company said little more than that it exists. Now its development tool Xcode is spilling the details on chip-level improvements to the new Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone 11, and there are some surprises across the board.
According to developer Steve Troughton-Smith, Xcode reveals that the Apple Watch’s S5 chip, which previously saw year-over-year performance doubling, is virtually identical to last year’s S4 — all that’s changed is an additional sensor and more storage capacity. Since most of the Watch’s components are part of the system-on-chip, it’s technically a new part, but closer to an S4-S revision than a generational step forward.
Xcode also shows that the entire iPhone 11 family has 4GB of RAM, from the base level $699 model all the way up to the $1,099 iPhone 11 Pro Max. Apple previously distinguished its least expensive and most expensive new models by outfitting the entry-level iPhone XR with only 3GB of RAM to maintain its lower-resolution display, but this year bumped the iPhone 11 to a higher level — something that could aid in computational photography and future multitasking. The iPhone 11 Pro models stick with last year’s 4GB of RAM, despite rumors that they might jump to 6GB.
The seventh-generation iPad also saw a stealth RAM upgrade, jumping from 2GB in the early 2018 model to 3GB in the late 2019 release. That’s particularly noteworthy because Apple didn’t bump the model’s CPU at all from a generations-old A10 Fusion processor, leaving it well behind the curve compared with the more expensive iPad Air and iPad mini. A full gigabyte of extra RAM will more than compensate for any additional overhead needed for the 0.5-inch larger, slightly higher resolution screen, which was the tentpole feature of the new tablet.
Apple generally does not disclose or market the RAM for its devices, which are often noticeably lower-specced in that regard compared to competing products — solely because they’re radically more efficient at using memory. Android phones shipped over the past year have frequently touted between 6GB and 12GB of RAM, and leading chipmaker Samsung has hinted that system memory will continue at those levels during the second stage of the 5G era.