Apple A6 investigation shows highly customized dual-core, triple-GPU layout

There's been a significant mystery lingering around the A6 processor found in the iPhone 5, even as it became clearer that Apple was veering further than usual from the basic ARM formula. A microscope-level inspection by Chipworks and iFixit is at last identifying the key elements of the 32nm, Samsung-assembled chip and revealing just how far it strays from the beaten path. The examination confirms earlier suspicions of a dual-core design with triple-core graphics -- it's how that design is shaped that makes the difference. Apple chose to lay out the two processor cores by hand rather than let a computer do the work, as most ARM partners do. The procedure is expensive and slow, but also gives the A6 a better-optimized design; it explains why the chip is noticeably faster than much of its competition without needing the brute force approaches of higher clock speeds or extra cores. Some mysteries remain, such as the exact PowerVR graphics that are at work, but it's evident Apple now has the design talent and resources to speed up mobile devices on its own terms rather than wait for off-the-shelf layouts like the Cortex-A15.