Die Photo Analysis
Companies that design their own SoCs, such as Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm, keep their chip designs strictly confidential. Understanding the designs, however, is of great importance for academic researchers, especially when the design is mature enough to put into production. Just from die photos, we can glean a lot of insight on the circuit level as well as on the architecture level. In our group, we have analyzed several generations of SoCs from Apple and deduced the number of specialized IP blocks.
Below, we can see that the number of specialized IP blocks has been growing steadily generation by generation. Data for A4 through A6 is obtained from Maltiel Consulting (http://www.maltiel-consulting.com/Next-Apple-iPhone-iPad-A-Processor.html). Data for A7 and A8 were measured manually as shown in the die photo breakdown below. Click the images to see their full resolution versions.