A couple of weeks after the official unveiling of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, we found out that Apple’s latest smartphone duo was being shipped with two variants of the new Apple-designed A9 SoC – one manufactured by Samsung using the 14nm process and the other by TSMC based on the 16nm fabrication node.
Naturally, this information compelled concerned users to share benchmark tests while one developer even put together a crowd-sourcing tool called CPU Identifier to help users identify the A9 chip version on their iPhones, creating a running database of units containing TSMC chips versus those shipped with the Samsung A9 SoC. To the relief of iPhone 6s and 6s Plus owners, initial benchmarks didn’t show a significant difference between performance on the two chips.
However, the story doesn’t end there, it seems. New findings indicate that the Samsung A9 chip might have drawn the short straw when it comes to battery life. According to one Reddit user commenting under a related post, the TSMC version might offer up to two whole hours of extra run time compared to its Samsung counterpart. The inference comes from a Geekbench battery test the redditor ran on two identically set up iPhone 6s Plus units, one with the Samsung A9 and the other with a TSMC chip.
Ran this test a couple times and results were consistent. Always about a 2 hour difference in duration. Both phones were tested using the same backup, same settings. Also tried testing them as new phones and results were similar.
You’d think the smaller sized chip would be more efficient but the benchmarks don’t really reflect that.
Following are the results of the test:
Geekbench Battery Test scores for Samsung A9 (left) versus TSMC A9 (right)
That’s an approximate 20% difference in favor of the TSMC chip, which comes as a surprise, since Samsung’s 14nm FinFET should be less power hungry compared to the TSMC’s 16nm node. Not just that, the smaller architecture of the former should reduce heat output, but if the info relayed by the OP of the aforementioned Reddit post is anything to go by, it seems to be skipping out on that benefit as well. The post quotes multiple tests across two posts by Chinese website MyDrivers showing the TSMC with considerably more battery life and a running temperature of 37.4°C versus 40.5°C on the Samsung A9 chip.
Running temperature for Samsung A9 (left) versus TSMC A9 (right) after 12 AnTuTu Benchmark tests
Battery life on the Samsung A9 (left) versus TSMC A9 after 12 AnTuTu Benchmark tests
How to check which chip is in your phone?
In light of these unexpected findings, we wouldn’t blame you for being anxious to know the make of your new iPhone’s A9 chip. If you’re looking for an easy way to do that (other than the aforementioned CPU Identifier), you can download Lirum Device Info Lite to your iPhone from here. The app will tell you the model number. For the iPhone 6s, model N71AP contains the Samsung A9 chip while N71MAP contains the TSMC variant. For the iPhone 6s Plus, the Samsung model is N66AP and its TSMC counterpart goes by N66MAP.
Update x1: The app Lirum Device Info Lite has been pulled from the App Store. Here’s another free app which you can use to check your model number under System tab. Download it from here.