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Apple using an "old" chip in the iPhone is a good thing for everyone

Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 Compute Platform Chip
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

I'm not going to be buying an iPhone 14 for many different reasons, but there is one thing about it I really like — the fact that the "lesser" models are using last year's Bionic chip.

This is something I hope we see more of because it's really the best thing that could happen to the smartphone industry.

What's happening here?

The hole-punch display cut out on the iPhone 14 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's iPhone 14 comes in several different flavors. You have the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus that are positioned as models for most users, and the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max that are marketed towards the smartphone professional, whatever that is.

The cheaper models are using the older but very capable A15 Bionic that debuted in last year's models, while the more expensive Pro models are using a newer A16 Bionic chip that is better because 16 is one more than 15. 

Both models have the same connectivity options — including the emergency SOS satellite feature — and run the same software. there are other hardware difference like camera configurations, but these don't have anything to do with the chip inside.

Why this is a great idea

Galaxy S21 FE 5G

(Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

You might think this means the price for the cheaper models has got to be lower than last year because Apple is using older hardware. Of course you're wrong, but it is the same price. In Apple world, that's sort of being on sale. But this isn't why I like this move.

I think every company that makes phones could do this — using existing hardware that is fully capable to power new phones while using brand new chips in the Ultra expensive (see what I did there?) "pro" models for the true hardware chasers.

We see something similar from every other smartphone maker, where cheaper phones use less powerful hardware. Samsung's A-series phones are a great example of this. And of course, there will always be super cheap phones using whatever chip can be sourced for just a few pennies. Those should still be made, too, because not everyone wants or needs to spend more than $300 on a phone.

What's missing though, is a true "flagship" model that is fully featured, has all the rest of the gadgets and gizmo features, but is using last year's Snapdragon chip. And that's where consumers could benefit.

Think about the Galaxy S21 FE if you will. The biggest complaint about it is the price tag. Sure other things are missing when compared to the regular S21, but the real problem with it was that it was only $100 cheaper.

Nobody wanted a phone with lesser general hardware specs for the $699 initial price, especially when the better standard Galaxy S21 was out there for less because of sales and discounts. The smart money move was to buy a Galaxy S20 or another awesome older phone at a big discount instead.

It didn't have to be this way but Samsung decided customers would rather have lesser cameras and fake metal than using the previous year's Snapdragon processor. The same Snapdragon processor that the company raved about when it released the S20. It had to cut corners and costs somehow.

In fact, that processor runs the very same software just as well as the "upgraded" Snapdragon 888 in the S21 FE does and has mostly the same connectivity options. Clearly, the Snapdragon 865 was as capable for almost everyone. If it wasn't good enough for you, you could have bought the pro model.

Of course, the company benefits from this decision because it doesn't have to deal with getting 100 million new chips made to slap them in 100 million new phones. This is big deal now that the world has reached the point where fabrication plants just can't keep up with demand.

I'm more concerned with how we benefit though and having more choices when it comes time to buy a new phone is always better. A Galaxy S23 with the same chip as the Galaxy S22 would be great to use and would save us money.  

Samsung Galaxy S22, Plus, and Ultra.

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Enough trying to tie this to actual products filled with "what-ifs" and "I wish-es." Apple users have the opportunity to buy a phone that's fully capable and will be fully capable for the next few years and that's great. 

I'm not an iPhone user, but I'm not afraid to admit it when the company does a good thing. That's what it did in 2022.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.