Apple’s A7 CPU promises to make the iPhone 5S the fastest yet, but it’s only part of a processor tandem that the company introduced with their latest smartphone. Apple is also touting a new M7 coprocessor, and we don’t blame you if you’re not quite sure how it improves on previous iPhone models. So let’s dive a bit deeper into what the M7 is and what, exactly, it does.
So what’s a coprocessor, anyway? As the name implies, it’s a secondary chip that assists the primary CPU in performing certain functions. In this way, it is able to lighten the processing load by taking over specific tasks that might otherwise be assigned to the main chip. These tasks can vary depending on the system, but they are typically of the repetitive, CPU intensive sort.
In the case of Apple’s M7, the chip takes over the processing of input signals from the iPhone 5S’ motion sensors (hence the ‘M’ in the chip’s name). This includes accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass data, all of which were handled by the main CPU in previous iPhone releases.
So what are the benefits of offloading motion sensor data from the A7 chip to the M7? There are several. Placing those tasks on a separate chip tailored to computing motion data frees up the A7 to focus on other functions. This not only means that the A7 can perform to its fullest, but the lower power consumption of the M7 also means fitness apps that track your movements should use up less battery.
But that’s not all the M7 offers. Because the chip is dedicated to reading motion data, it can focus on using this data in better, more efficient ways. This includes everything from determining if you are driving or walking to smartly and automatically switch navigation modes to determining when you are moving, preventing your phone from trying to engage WiFi networks. The latter, again, can do wonders to conserve battery life.
What first seems like a blip on the radar compared to other new features like Touch ID is actually one of the main reasons the iPhone 5S will be the most powerful smartphone Apple has ever produced. As a coprocessor should, the M7 handles the often mundane tasks we don’t put much thought into, and that’s the way it should be. But if you notice a bit of extra zip or a longer lasting battery, chances are you can thank Apple’s new coprocessor for that.
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