The biggest hardware upgrades is expected from Apple in this year is a A6 chip. This chip is faster than A5 in 2011, and have more cores. If some code that was found in iOS 5.1 is any indication, the prospects of a quad-core A6 may have gotten a boost.
The code, buried deep down in the iOS 5.1 beta, tells the story. A hidden panel in the firmware reveals the number of cores supported. As with more things related to programming, the numbers starts with 0, so a single-core device would be core.0, the second one would be device core.1, and so on. The code in 5.1 reveals core.3, which can only mean a quad-core CPU.
This mean for buyers of new iOSdevices in 2012? While a quad-core chip would need appropriate software support to be effective, a well-implemented setup will make everything faster. Apps will open in a flash, those same apps could be more powerful, and gaming can move closer to console-level. With the right software development Apple wouldn’t likely ignore this, a quad-core chip would take everything that was improved with the A5 and give it a nitro boost.
OS 5.1 is reportedly the software that the next iOS devices are being tested on. That means that the iPad 3 and the iPhone 5 (or iPhone 6, as it will be the sixth one) are candidates for a quad-core A6 chip. Apple is always looking ahead, so it’s also possible that the quad-core references allude to the generation of devices after that (A7?), and that the A6 will be another dual-core device.
A quad-core CPU wouldn’t be completely out of left-field. There is already one Android tablet with four cores (the Asus Transformer Prime), and we will be hit with a barrage of Tegra 3 phones and tablets in 2012. Apple doesn’t sell its products based on specs, but upgraded hardware does tend to provide the enhanced user experience that the company prioritizes.