The best things come in small packages

One tiny rectangle inside the latest iPhones is responsible for creating tremendous value for its owners. This tiny rectangle is called the A13 Bionic.

Apple’s lead in developing processors, the brains behind any computing device, is generally regarded as being at least two years ahead of the competition in the mobile phone market. And yet, the closest the A13 Bionic gets to being the top feature is in the iPhone SE’s overview on Apple’s website, where it is second to the price. In case you were wondering, it is in the bottom half of the iPhone 11 Pro overview, and quite near the bottom of the iPhone 11 overview.

The performance found in the A13 Bionic seems almost unreal when compared to traditional computers. When benchmarked, it beats both the Intel Core i9 iMac 27-inch models (starting price RM10,550) and the Intel Xeon Mac Pro models (starting at RM26,000) in single-core performance. For multi-core performance, it is on par with the best MacBook Pro processors you can get in 2017, while easily topping the latest MacBook Air models released in 2020.

Equally important is the fact that the A13 Bionic achieves its performance level while being energy efficient. The previously mentioned desktops use 39W and 101W of power while idling with their screen turned on. That is the amount of power being used while the desktop is essentially doing nothing. Meanwhile, the current iPhones gets things done at 1.25W. This is derived from using a simple calculation of dividing the 15.04-watt-hour battery in the iPhone 11 Pro Max by the 12 hours rated by Apple for video streaming, the most strenuous task listed under Power and Battery. While not exactly a scientific calculation, it does provide a good ballpark figure.

While there are variables in how processing power is utilised by different platforms and software, the combination of raw speed and power sipping exhibited by the A13 Bionic is exactly why Apple has announced the transitioning of their Mac product line to Apple Silicon. Just imagine the possibilities once the tight constrains in heat dissipation and thermal packaging of a mobile phone is scaled out to the larger spaces afforded by notebooks and desktops. Or being able to leave your desktop computer on while only sipping the energy equivalent to a fraction of an LED light bulb, instead of the equivalent to a fluorescent or incandescent bulb. The environment will be grateful.

Being the fastest with a long lasting battery is great for most new phone buyers, but there are a few extra benefits that are not readily apparent. Allow me to illustrate tomorrow’s benefits.


Software support

One of the unique aspects of buying an iPhone is that it will usually receive 5 major software versions during its lifetime. For example, the iPhone 6 series was initially released with iOS 8 and received major updates until iOS 12 before it was excluded from compatibility with the current iOS 13. As major updates are released yearly, the means an iPhone will get all the new features deliverable in software that does not also require a corresponding new piece of hardware, such as a new camera lens, for a full 5 years. Apple has even continued to release updates to fix security issues found for the older iOS 12, with 6 updates already delivered after the release of iOS 13. In addition, many app developers usually continue to support a minimum of 2 previous major iOS versions, meaning almost all functions will be fully available for 7 years.


Smooth operator

One key driver for new phone purchases is when completing a simple task feels like it takes too long. Especially with touch-centric devices, a perceptible lag between tapping the screen and completing the desired action is disorienting and can lead to frustration. Having the fastest chip in your phone today allows your phone to perform well in later years. If history continues guiding the future, the latest iPhone today will still be as fast as a just released premium non-Apple phone from 2 years in the future. Additionally, Apple is unique in that it continues to optimise new iOS releases for older iPhones. When introducing iOS 12 in 2018, there was actually a slide for Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi to highlight faster app launch, keyboard display, and camera launch on the then 3 year old iPhone 6s Plus.


Value retention

When you are ready to get a new iPhone, you can count on getting a good price for your current iPhone, whether that is in a trade-in or a direct sale. The clearest example of this is found in the lease prices offered by the major mobile networks for iPhones. Invariably, an iPhone has lower monthly payments when compared to an equal priced non-Apple phone on the same monthly mobile plan. This is due to the iPhone retaining more of its value because there is a ready market of buyers who appreciate a high quality and reliable product at a lower price. Since the mobile network is guaranteed to recoup more cash value from an iPhone, they can pass this on to the perpetual iPhone lessee. The iPhone secondary market is as large as it is due to the nature of mid-tier non-Apple phones. For example, the iPhone 6s series released in 2015 performs similar or better than a mid-tier non-Apple phone released in 2019. For the savvy consumer, this means it is more beneficial to buy a pre-loved iPhone over a brand new mid-tier non-Apple phone. The iPhone SE is a phenomenal deal compared to the premium non-Apple phones, but that’s another story.

It is easy to get distracted by the upfront figures when buying an iPhone and making the case that it is expensive. However, if we dive in just a little, there is no doubt that an iPhone offers the best value proposition in the mobile phone market.