My iPhone 7 Plus seems like a fast smartphone. Apps load quickly when I touch an app icon. Menu items respond quickly to a touch. What’s not to like? I can even scroll very long documents or webpages and everything seems to work as expected.
Mark Spoonaurer ran some benchmark tests on iPhone 8 and other premium smartphones, and decided the new iPhone is the “World’s fastest phone (it’s not even close).” How fast is fastest? Far faster than the premium Android smartphones. Faster than a Dell XPS 13 notebook. Faster than a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Inside.
I never quite understood the full ramifications of the phrase from the last century. Speed kills. Is it a speeding car that kills? Certainly. Was it the drug called speed that kills? Probably. In the case of iPhone 8, it’s speed that kills competitors.
Check out the benchmarks on Tom’s Guide for yourself. They’re interesting but not necessarily indicative of real world usability. But extra speed that ranges far beyond the competition couldn’t hurt. You know; bragging rights.
The real world is a bit different. If it takes you four seconds to find the app you want to launch then it doesn’t matter much that the app could have been launched in 1.2-seconds, right? In some cases, usability can be a greater determining factor to enjoying a device than mere CPU speed.
Think of all the computations that go on in real time when you tap the iPhone’s camera shutter. Or, how much data is being churned to capture a video clip in 4K at 60-fps, or 1080p at 240-fps. Not that many years ago even professional equipment would struggle to match what an iPhone can do with ease these days.
iPhone X has the much publicized Face ID facial recognition system which uses a unique combination of sensors and light projections to capture images of your face and its features. Apple calls this the TrueDepth camera system. In an instant, iPhone X builds a detailed depth of of your face and stores it on your phone. How long does all that take? Like Touch ID, the first setup takes a minute or two, but after that it just works. Instantly. That means the camera looks at your face, sprays it with light, captures the bounce as depth which identifies you, matches it with what’s on record on your iPhone X, and unlocks the device. Instantly.
Wait. There’s more going on that needs to be computed, too.
Apple has a built-in proximity sensor which helps the TrueDepth camera system determine how much infrared light should be sprayed out. Then, the infrared camera captures the dot pattern, or heat signature, that is reflected from your face.
All that happens in an instant, including the biometric authentication system which compares the patterns– the one captures and the one stored. There is much more going on but all of it– camera, Face ID, et al– require a few gazillion computations in an instant, and that requires a fast CPU. Apple designs their own CPUs and it’s not just a matter of bragging rights. Apple is very good at using all that processing power and making sure each component works together properly to help form iPhone’s superior usability.
The new CPUs in iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are the same as in iPhone X. It’s called the A11 Bionic, a six-core CPU that is 25-percent faster in two cores and up to 70-percent faster than iPhone 7’s A10 Fusion CPU. New this year is an Apple-designed GPU that is about 30-percent faster than last year (Apple used a 3rd party GPU in previous models).
Because all the new iPhones have the same Apple-designed CPU it means the diminutive iPhone 8 with the smaller 4.7-inch display could be a bit faster than the far more expensive iPhone X– $699 vs. $999. Again, it’s all bragging rights, but real world use means the bar has been set again this year and everyone else needs to play catch up.