|From September 9, 2015 to Present|
|1.85 GHz (iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPad 9.7 2017)|
|16 nm (TSMC) to 14 nm (Samsung)|
|A64, A32, T32|
|Per core: 64 KB instruction + 64 KB data|
|3 MB shared|
|4 MB shared|
|Apple A10 Fusion|
|PowerVR Series 7XT GT7600 (six-core)|
The Apple A9 is a 64-bit ARM-based system-on-chip (SoC), designed by Apple Inc. Manufactured for Apple by both TSMC and Samsung, it first appeared in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus which were introduced on September 9, 2015. Apple stated that it had 70% more CPU performance and 90% more graphics performance compared to its predecessor, the Apple A8, and was one of the most powerful and energy-efficient mobile chips on the market then along with the Samsung Exynos 8890 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 820.
The A9 features an Apple-designed 64-bit 1.85 GHz ARMv8-A dual-core CPU called Twister. The A9 in the iPhone 6S has 2 GB of LPDDR4 RAM included in the package. The A9 has a per-core L1 cache of 64 KB for data and 64 KB for instructions, an L2 cache of 3 MB shared by both CPU cores, and a 4 MB L3 cache that services the entire SoC and acts as a victim cache.
The A9 includes a new image processor, a feature originally introduced in the A5 and last updated in the A7, with better temporal and spatial noise reduction as well as improved local tone mapping. The A9 directly integrates an embedded M9 motion coprocessor, a feature originally introduced with the A7 as a separate chip. In addition to servicing the accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and barometer, the M9 coprocessor can recognize Siri voice commands.
The A9 features a custom storage solution, which uses an Apple-designed NVMe-based controller that communicates over a PCIe connection. The iPhone 6s' NAND design is more akin to a PC-class SSD than embedded flash memory common on mobile devices. This gives the phone a significant storage performance advantage over competitors which often use eMMC or UFS to connect to their flash memory.
The A9's microarchitecture is similar to the second generation Cyclone (used in A8 chip) microarchitecture. Some of the microarchitectural features are as follows:
About half of the performance boost over A8 comes from the 1.85 GHz frequency. About a quarter comes from the better memory subsystem (3× bigger caches). The remaining quarter comes from the microarchitectural tuning and smaller technology node.
Apple A9 chips are fabricated by two companies: Samsung and TSMC. The Samsung version is called APL0898, which is manufactured on a 14 nm FinFET process and is 96 mm large, while the TSMC version is called APL1022, which is manufactured on a 16 nm FinFET process and is 104.5 mm large.
There was intended to be no significant difference in performance between the parts, but in October 2015, it was alleged that iPhone 6S models with Samsung-fabricated A9 chips had slightly lower battery life than those with TSMC-fabricated versions. Apple responded that "tests which run the processors with a continuous heavy workload until the battery depletes are not representative of real-world usage", and said that internal testing combined with customer data demonstrated a variance of only 2–3%.
While the Twister CPU core implements the ARMv8-A instruction set architecture licensed from ARM Holdings, it is an independent CPU design and is unrelated to the much older but similarly named Cortex-A9 and ARM9 CPU that are designed by ARM themselves and implement the 32-bit ARMv7-A and ARMv5E versions of the architecture.
The processors are nearly identical visually. The packaging have the same dimensions (approx 15.0×14.5 mm) and only superficial differences, like the designation text. Inside the packaging the silicon die differs in size.
The A9 processor is listed as the minimum requirement for ARKit.