Apple motion coprocessors
The Apple M-series coprocessors are motion coprocessors used by Apple Inc. in their mobile devices. First released in 2013, their function is to collect sensor data from integrated accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses and offload the collecting and processing of sensor data from the main central processing unit (CPU).
The NXP LPC18A1, also known as the M7 motion coprocessor
|Produced||From September 2013 to present|
|Designed by||NXP Semiconductors|
|Max. CPU clock rate||150 MHz|
|Min. feature size||90 nm|
|Product code||M7: LPC18A1|
As of May 2017[update], the M-series coprocessors so far released have been the M7 (codename Oscar), the M8, the M9, the M10, the M11, and the M12. The M7 was introduced in September 2013 with the iPhone 5S and the updated version, M8 was introduced in September 2014 with the iPhone 6 and also processes data from the barometer that is included in the iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2. September 2015 brought the M9 motion coprocessor embedded within the A9 chip found in the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone SE and within the A9X chip found in the iPad Pro. The iPhone 7, iPad Pro 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch feature the M10 motion coprocessor. Apple included the M11 in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X.. The most recent addition to the M-series processor line is the M12, which first appeared embedded into the A12 Bionic processor found in the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR.
Chipworks found that the M7 most likely is a NXP LPC1800 based microcontroller called LPC18A1. It uses an ARM Cortex-M3 core with a customised packaging and naming scheme indicating that it is for an Apple customized part. iFixit have identified the M8 in the iPhone 6 to be an NXP device with a very similar name, the LPC18B1.
The Apple M7, M8, M9, M10, M11, and M12 coprocessors collect, process, and store sensor data even if the device is asleep, and applications can retrieve data when the device is powered up again. This reduces power draw of the device and saves battery life. In addition to servicing the accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and in M8 and later coprocessors, barometer, the M9 coprocessor can recognize Siri voice commands from the built in microphones of the device.
The M-series motion coprocessors are accessible to applications through the Core Motion API introduced in iOS 7, so they do, for example, allow fitness apps that track physical activity and access data from the M processors without constantly engaging the main application processor. They enable applications to be aware of what type of movement the user is experiencing, such as driving, walking, running, or sleeping. Another application could be the ability to do indoor tracking and mapping. In iOS 10, the motion coprocessor is used to implement raise to wake functionality reducing idle power usage.
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