Apple, at least for a foreseeable future, is dependent on Samsung Electronics for making its system on chip, something it won't confirm but which optical die and SEM cross-section images analysis performed by UBM TechInsights has inferred as early as March 2011.
Now Jason Abt, chief analyst at the research outfit, says "One note of potential interest would be a die size comparison of the Apple A5 processor with Samsung’s newest dual core equivalent – The Exynos."
Officially there are three different Exynos SoCs but Samsung Electronics has only ever told us the name of one of them, the Exynos 4210.
The chip has a die size of 118 square millimeters which is just a smidgen smaller than the A5's 120 square millimeters. This dwarfs the Tegra 2 which comes at under 50 square millimeters and its predecessor, the A4 at 53.3 square millimeters.
Abt adds, "Although we haven’t yet done a functional breakdown of the Samsung processor, one might conclude that both Samsung and Apple are packing some further functionality into their devices – perhaps for future use, or some other performance enhancements that aren’t immediately visible."
Both SoCs are based on ARM's Cortex A9 architecture and have two cores. The biggest difference between the two is the graphics subsystem. Apple uses Imagination Technology's Power VR SGX543 while Samsung sticks to ARM's Mali 400.
Analysis earlier this year by UBM Techinsights revealed that the A5 is still using an old 45nm manufacturing process, the same as the A4, and that its chip cost is roughly $10 more than that of the Tegra 2 at $25. The question therefore remains as to what the extra die size on the A5 and the Exynos 4210 will be used for.