Last week we brought you news that an image of the iPad 3’s logic board had leaked, with a processor labeled A5X. The processor appears not to be the quad-core processor that the tablet has been rumored to be getting. It appears, though, that rumors of the A6 processor’s demise may have been exaggerated.
According to a recent report from 9to5Mac, there appear to be references to both the A5X and the A6 in the betas of iOS 5.1. The code includes references to a processor labeled S5L8945X, and another labeled S5L8950X. The current-generation A5 processor is labeled S5L8940X, and the A4 chip in the iPad and iPhone 4 was S5L8930X. Assuming Apple has followed the same naming scheme with its next generation processors that it followed with previous generations, the two new processors in the beta of iOS 5.1 are probably the A5X and the still-unconfirmed A6. Apparently both labels were placed in the code at the same time, which suggests that Apple has been developing them simultaneously. Check out the image below from 9to5Mac, which shows the references to the two chips:
So, if Apple has an A6 processor in the works, and the image of the iPad 3 logic board with the A5X processor is genuine, what’s up? Why is the iPad 3 not getting the quad-core A6 chip? The first reports that the iPad 3 would be getting the new quad-core chip came out in January, when references to it were found in the beta release of iOS 5.1 (which will almost certainly be launching when the iPad 3 does next month). Later, references to a quad-core processor (and LTE capability) in the iPad 3 were found in diagnostic software that had apparently been run on a prototype iPad 3. Then, though, the photo of the A5X leaked, suggesting that the iPad 3 might not be getting a quad-core processor after all.
There are several reasons Apple may be working on two chips at once. A few are suggested by 9to5Mac: the chips were developed at the same time to see which would work better for the iPad, the A5X could be going in a non-iPad device like the possible next-generation Apple TV (which may be coming soon too), Apple is planning to split the iPad line and put the A5X in the lower-end model, and the A5X might be going in the long-rumored but unlikely iPad Mini.
Another possibility is that the A5X may be going in the iPad 3, and the A6 going in later devices, like the next-generation iPhone, and possibly the iTV. It may also be that the A6 was initially intended to go into the iPad 3, but was not ready in time, leading to the production of an enhanced version of the A5. At this point, there is little to do but speculate. Any confirmation will have to wait until those later devices are released. In the meantime, check out our full range of iPad 3 coverage here.