It would be unfair to describe the Samsung Galaxy S III as a prototype of the next iPhone. But the similarities between Samsung’s flagship phone — and the capabilities that will be available to Apple’s next iPhone — are striking.
Like Apple’s iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S III is now a global brand. While silicon inside its handsets vary from market to market, Samsung is rolling out very nearly identical handset across different carriers and different countries. And like the next iPhone, the Galaxy S III has access to a treasure chest of new technologies that simply weren’t available next year.
And while even Apple may not know if it will stick with the 3.5-inch-high resolution screen on the iPhone 4S or go with something comparable to the monster 4.8-inch screen on the Galaxy S III, the array of silicon now available for Apple to play with means that one thing is already clear: the next iPhone will be fast as hell.
Two reasons: fast processors and faster networks. Let’s start with processors: Apple now relies on Samsung to build the digital brains for its smartphones. Samsung’s own smartphone processor — Exynos chip, which includes four CPU cores — relies on manufacturing capabilities that weren’t available last year to shrink the size of the features on its chips to just 32 nanometers, allowing it to wring more power out of the same amount of energy.
Even if Apple turns to another manufacturer to build its chips, it will almost surely move past the 45 nanometer process technology to build the processors now found in the iPad and iPhone. Access to that manufacturing technology alone should make the iPhone’s chips comparatively quick, even if Apple doesn’t follow Samsung and Nvidia to four-core processors (think of each computing core as a digital ‘brain’ able to tackle a different set of tasks) and sticks to a dual-core processor design.
The real payoff, however, will come thanks to access to the latest-generation of wireless chips that can handle both older, slower networks and the latest ‘LTE’ wireless networks being rolled out by wireless carriers. Older handsets relied on two separate wireless ‘modems’ to do all this work, which added bulk and subtracted battery life. That’s a compromise Apple chose not to make with the iPhone 4S.
Now that tradeoff is no longer necessary. In the U.S. market, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s latest ‘Snapdragon’ chips, which combine a dual-core processor using the latest 28 nanometer manufacturing technology with support for LTE networks. Apple will probably go a somewhat different route: while Qualcomm isn’t talking, analysts say Apple will almost surely use Qualcomm’s MDM9615, which combines support for every network a phone could need — including LTE – on a single 28 nanometer part.
Combine that part with an improved processor, and Apple will be able to phone that tears through applications — and downloads — at ridiculous speeds compared to today’s iPhone 4S. The technology now available to Apple means that it can. Competition such as the Galaxy S III means that it must.