After Apple took the stage to announce the iPhone 5s last year, the market was left in a bit of a panic. Its latest A7 chipset, made of a 1.3GHz dual-core Cyclone CPU and quad-core PowerVR G6430 GPU, had something no other smartphone chip came with at the time: 64-bit architecture.
Thanks to this 64-bit computing, Apple’s iPhone 5s is able to “crunch numbers more efficiently“, thanks to extra registers, explains The Verge‘s Aaron Souppouris. This difference is especially helpful for things like encoding and decoding video, says Souppouris.
The true usefulness of 64-bit in smartphones, however, is a couple years out, at the very least. The 64-bit architecture unlocks the ability to utilize more than 4GB of RAM, which Android OEMs are actually encroaching more quickly than Apple yet still have not reached. The iPhone 5s comes with just 1GB RAM, while many competing Android handsets ship with at least 2GB RAM, if not 3GB. And the LG G3, which will be announced later this afternoon, is rumored to have 4GB RAM. We’re not holding our breath for this rumor.
Just a short while after the announcement of the market’s first 64-bit smartphone, other OEMs who had already been hard at work on similar projects announced their plans for 64-bit SoCs in what appeared to be a “me, too” measure. 64-bit was all the rage. Qualcomm unveiled its Snapdragon 410, 610, 615, 808, and 810 platforms, all with 64-bit architecture; a Tegra K1 variant with 64-bit from NVIDIA surfaced in benchmarks a few months ago; and Samsung and Intel both announced plans to jump to 64-bit mobile processors in the not too distant future.
In fact, it was anything but. Manufacturers have planned years ahead to avoid a rapidly approaching wall, the outer limits of 32-bit computing on mobile devices.
Now, just eight months later, it’s almost as if the 64-bit hype has fizzled. Rumors about unofficial devices running newer chipsets go with barely a mention of the 64-bit architecture.
The question is, does anyone even care anymore?
As mobile operating systems and mobile applications become more demanding, 64-bit SoCs will certainly matter, especially as the requirements exceed 4GB of RAM. But for now, marginal improvements in number-crunching doesn’t seem like a significant enough bump to necessitate the jump, especially not from a consumer’s point of view. Future-proofing the hardware and software, on the other hand, is a legitimate argument in favor of 64-bit.
Still, I want to hear your take on it. Personally, 64-bit won’t affect me or my purchase decisions for at least the next year or so – maybe even longer. I’ll have to see real life advantages to buy into the hype.
What say you? Take our poll below to tell us how you feel about the impending 64-bit era of mobile computing.