You may have noticed today's review of the Palm Pre. While I strongly suggest reading it if you're at all interested, I do have some new data for your consumption. After the announcement of the iPhone 3GS I posted an article discussing the hardware specs of the 3GS. I outlined the single chip CPU/GPU SoC as follows:

  iPhone 3G (ARM11) iPhone 3GS (ARM Cortex A8)
Manufacturing Process 90nm 65nm
Architecture In-Order In-Order
Issue Width 1-issue 2-issue
Pipeline Depth 8-stage 13-stage
Clock Speed 412MHz 600MHz
L1 Cache Size 16KB I-Cache + 16KB D-Cache 32KB I-Cache + 32KB D-Cache
L2 Cache Size N/A 256KB


The iPhone 3GS uses an ARM Cortex A8 processor running at 600MHz, much like the Palm Pre. Many weren't confident that the 3GS used the new ARM A8 core instead of a higher clocked ARM11, so after waiting in line to grab a 3GS this morning I decided to run a few tests (the iPhone 3G tests were using OS 3.0 and the Pre tests used OS 1.0.2).

Update: Thanks to the many readers who have pointed out my incorrect wording of the 3GS' performance improvements. The tables in the article have been updated to reflect the correct percentages. I appreciate the corrections :)

WiFi Apple iPhone 3G Apple iPhone 3GS Palm Pre T-Mobile G1 16.3 s 7.8 s 8.2 s 17.2 s 17.7 s 6.3 s 7.8 s 17.8 s 35.2 s 14.7 s 11.2 s 24.4 s 33.3 s 15.0 s 18.0 s 34.0 s 34.3 s 15.0 s 22.1 s 40.0 s 24.1 s 9.6 s 9.0 s 20.5 s 21.4 s 16.4 s 13.8 s 26.0 s 26.0 s 10.0 s 20.9 s 46.0 s 31.7 s 13.5 s 19.6 s 37.7 s
iPhone 3GS Advantage over Palm Pre   21%    
iPhone 3GS Advantage over iPhone 3G   122%    


The new 3GS renders web pages 128% faster, on average, than the old iPhone 3G. The 45% clock speed boost alone isn't enough to generate such a large performance increase, this is a new microarchitecture. Also, note that the 3GS' performance mimics that of the Palm Pre - another Cortex A8 based phone.

Not too surprising given the just-released nature of the Pre's webOS, the 3GS is actually able to render webpages slightly faster than the Pre in some cases. The overall performance advantage ends up being 22.6% in favor of the 3GS over the Pre.

Application launch time has also improved (I've updated the results with data from the iPhone OS 3.0):

Application Launch Time in Seconds Web Browser Dialer Google Maps Camera Email
Apple iPhone 3GS 0.7 s 0.7 s 2.7 s 2.8 s 0.8 s
Apple iPhone 3G 0.8 s 1.2 s 3.3 s 3.9 s 1.2 s
Palm Pre 3.0 s 1.5 s 8.6 s 4.4 s 3.3 s
T-Mobile G1 5.4 s 2.0 s 4.4 s 4.9 s 2.0 s
iPhone 3GS vs. 3G Performance Advantage 14% 71.5% 22.2% 39.4% 50%


While the old iPhone 3G was no slouch, the 3GS is anywhere from 14 - 72% faster in basic application load times. It's the magic of a brand new CPU architecture.

I'll be working on the 3GS all weekend and hope to provide a more thorough look at CPU, GPU and battery life performance with the new hardware. Enjoy.

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  • ltcommanderdata - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    Anand, I hope you'll look further into what specific SGX model is in the iPhone 3G S. Seeing the processor and RAM is identical between the new iPhone and the Palm Pre, it'll be interesting if the Pre has the GPU advantage with the SGX530 if Apple did use the SGX520.

    As well, could you also do your speed tests between the iPhone OS 2.2.1 and iPhone OS 3.0 using the original iPhone 3G? It'd be interesting to see what type of speed-ups have been accomplished in software. As well, it'd be very interesting to see if there have been fps speed-ups just from iPhone OS 3.0 with the old MBX as John Cormack thinks a 2 times improvement could be possible if Apple would spend more effort on optimizing the OpenGL stack.
  • nowayout - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    it's funny that I got the same times with my iphone 3g too.
    Camera launch time was exactly 4.6 secs. It's even funnier that I did the tests with the old 2.2.1 firmware.
    With 0s 3.0 these are the results

    Application Launch Time in Seconds
    WB Dialer GM Camera Email
    Apple iPhone 3GS 0.7 s 0.7 s 2.7 s 2.8 s 0.8 s
    my result with os 3.0:
    Apple iPhone 3G 0.7 s 1.1 s 2.2 s 2.6 s 0.7 s

    Yeah I know it is funny :)
    Try it yourself.
  • nowayout - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    I must also add that I did tests with iphone 3g os 2.2.1 with and without JB (themes and all)

    And the phone was approximately about %60 slower when jail broken. Mobile substrate just halts your phone to a crawl.
  • nowayout - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    you should also time more intensitive apps, that's where the new iphone 3gs will shine.

    Apps like web or dialer are damn too fast to even measure, they have none load time, you just wait for the opening animation to finish and the app is ready.
    Apps like settings, clock and calendar discriminating. Also I've seen game load times and 3gs is definetaly faster.

    My times for those with iphone 3g os 3.0 are

    settings : 1.9 s
    clock : 1.9 s
    calendar: 2.6 s
  • altarity - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    I might be wrong, but you didn't specifically mention the OS on the 3G. The only reason I mention this, is I've seen a noticable increase in page render speed on my Iphone original after going to 3.0.
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    I like how AT used its competitors' websites for testing; they sure are confident.

    However, great review, as always.
  • icrf - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    Maybe they know their clientel aren't exclusive and probably visit half the sites on the list, so it's a good set of test cases readers might actually visit on their phones.
  • aguilpa1 - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    It would likely rival the 3G s in speed since the current 3G is under clocked and has quite a bit of headroom.
  • mesiah - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    as anand stated, the increase in speed is only due in part to the increased clock. The cortex a8 is an entirely new processor that can handle two instructions per cycle instead of the single that the arm 11 did. Even if the old iphone were OC'd to 600mhz the 3g s with its more robust cortex a8 would easily outpace it.
  • solipsism - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    Dear Anand,

    I assume that the browser and app tests here and on the Palm Pre review for the iPhone 3G are for the older OS. If so, would you mind listing both so we can see any performance changes between OS and WebKit/SquirrelFish optimizations?

    Thank you for your time.

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