How many billions of transistors in your iPhone processor?

In about 10 years, Apple has multiplied by 19 the number of transistors in its mobile processors. It corresponds roughly to a steady rate of improvement of 34% per year on the number of transistors, or a doubling every 2.5 years. In real dollars, an iPhone has roughly a constant price: the price tag of a new iPhone increases every year, but it does so while tracking the inflation. Thus you are getting ever more transistors in your iPhone for the same price.

processor release year transistors
Apple A7 2013 1 billion
Apple A8 2014 2 billions
Apple A9 2015 2 billions
Apple A10 2016 3.2 billions
Apple A11 2017 4.3 billions
Apple A12 2018 6.9 billions
Apple A13 2019 8.5 billions
Apple A14 2020 11.8 billions
Apple A15 2021 15 billions
Apple A16 2022 16 billions
Apple A17 2023 19 billions

Daniel Lemire, "How many billions of transistors in your iPhone processor?," in Daniel Lemire's blog, October 18, 2023.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

12 thoughts on “How many billions of transistors in your iPhone processor?”

  1. That’s an interesting observation. It would be a good addition to track process level change (nanometers) but I imagine it follows that well. Chip-size might be another nice one.

  2. Plotting the data seems to suggest that transistor count increase is slowing down:

    Note that the y-axis is logged to show multiplicative increases as a linear trend. I was going to say that 2018 was the end of exponential growth but looking at the gradient doesn’t show much happening then. Presume it’s being limited by the increasing difficultly of engineering these bigger devices.

      1. I see three different trend lines. One to 2018, and then two more each with less extreme slopes consisting of two years each. Unknown why this is.

  3. Moore’s law still at its works, although it may have paced down a bit.

    I wonder if we can reach sub-nanometer resolution with optical technologies, as it is already deep in x-ray range. Is that finally the end of silicon-based computing as we know it, which has been announced for long but engineers kept teaching us otherwise so far?

    Are there any serious contenders on the horizont to dethrown current serial computing technology? Maybe from nanotechs? Also it seems quantum computing will not hold up to the high hopes many marketeers have promised (thats at least what some physicists say), not to mention the algebraic issues around it…

      1. The English language is an idiosyncratic mess, but I’d interpret the (overly terse!) comment as referring to the “billions” appearing repeatedly in the table rather than the title.

          1. Yup, think I agree on use of adjective vs noun, but reading your table pedantically I’d borrow the “transistors” from the heading and interpret, e.g., “8.5 billions” as being an abbreviation of “8.5 billion transistors”. Hence the use of “billions” in the rows incorrectly applies a plural to an adjective.

            That said, I’d probably move the billions from the rows up into the heading as it’s repeated in every row, maybe as “Transistors (billions)”. The author of the latex package “booktabs” influenced my thinking about this a lot.

            I didn’t notice this when I was reading the post when it was published, only when I got notifications about subsequent comments. What I did notice was the varying precision in the numeric values, e.g. the first few rows have one significant figure while later you have up to three significant figures. Presume this is just a limitation of the data you received and I could get more accuracy if I cared.

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