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Summary:

Apple is touting its new A7 chip and M7 co-processor in the iPhone 5s but where the heck is the M7? A teardown didn’t find the chip, indicating it may be a different company’s digital signal processor.

iPhone5s internals featured

Along with Apple’s new A7 chip, the iPhone 5s has a low-powered co-processor called the M7. This specific silicon is meant to read the iPhone’s sensors so that applications can use the data without having to rely on the the bigger A7 chip. This offloading of sensor reading is more battery efficient. But where exactly is the M7 and who makes it?

On Friday, iFixit posted its expected full breakdown of the new iPhone components by taking apart the handset. The A7 and all the other chips and bits are available for all to see, save for the M7: iFixit couldn’t find it.

iphone 5c internals

It’s possible that the M7 currently isn’t an Apple chip at all. Instead, it’s could be a signal processing chip made by another company, similar to Motorola’s X8 chip architecture found in the Moto X.

Motorola uses a modified Qualcomm chip for the processor and other functions, but includes two separate Digital Signal Processors (DSP) to handle natural language processing and “contextual computing” that handles sensors and the touch display. It’s likely those two chips on the Moto X system on a chip are from Texas Instruments, according to AnandTech’s Brian Klug.

Here’s another circumstantial clue that Apple doesn’t make the M7 but is instead dubbing someone’s DSP as the M7: The images of the A7 and M7 on Apple’s iPhone 5s product page. Note the markings of the A7 around all the sides? These are Apple’s own chip codes for identification purposes. There are no such markings on the M7 image.

A7 and M7

Granted I could be reading too much into the stock images. And iFixit did find some other Apple-branded chips inside the iPhone 5s, even though none have the M7 branding.

If the iFixit folks can’t find and identify the chip however, I think it likely that the M7 isn’t made by Apple: Just like the Moto X8 it’s both a very useful piece of silicon that’s made by another chip company and smart marketing on Apple’s part.

Update at 11:20pm PT: Not long after I published this post, iFixit released more information on its iPhone 5s teardown. Thanks to Chipworks, the M7 co-processor is indeed not an Apple chip. It’s made by NXP says iFixit and is “an NXP LPC18A1 device that was buried beneath a neoprene-looking cover.”

  1. Maybe it’s an internal co-processor installed in the PoP, or even integrated into the A7 die. Qualcomm says its Snapdragon has the Krati CPU and the Adreno GPU, and they’re in one package.

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  2. Just because its a separate processor doesn’t mean its a discrete piece of silicon. It could just be in the same package as the application processor. For example, you also don’t see the PowerVR GPU broken out somewhere because its integrated into the A7 package, this is the point of System-on-a-Chip (SoC) designs.

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    1. Nicholas Paredes Friday, September 20, 2013

      I can’t imagine why a motion processor would be separate from the processor in such a device.

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  3. May be it is integrated into the A7 SoC

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  4. I would guess there is a Cortex Ax and Cortex Mx inside the A7 SOC.

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  5. Thank god for Chipworks finding the NXP LPC18A1. No Reality Distortion Field.

    I was ready to go to Charlies Manson’s, underground city of gold to find the M7.

    Plan B was the island of Lost.

    Plan C – get Elon Musk to launch SpaceX 2.0 to find it on the Mormon’s planet Kolob.

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