My phone’s running at 800MHz. Oh yeah? My phone’s running at 1GHz. Pshaw! I’m sporting a dual-core one-point-two! That’s nothing, mine’s a quad-core!
Do you remember back when CPUs were only talked about in the context of computers? Ah… the good ol’ days! Today, however, we have computers in our pockets! Sure, they’re smaller, have lighter-weight apps and operating systems, but they’re still computers.
So why the push for quad core, especially on Android? Let’s consider some possibilities.
Unfortunately, you can’t put a benchmark score on “buttery smoothness” (yet?), but it’s no secret that some platforms are “smoother” than others.
In this regard, iOS is generally considered the “smoothest” platform available. Windows Phone is arguably a good distance behind, and Android brings up the rear. Any disagreement?
Why is this the case? After all, Androids have lots of cores, and they’re clocked fast! To get to the bottom of this we have to define “buttery smoothness“.
Buttery smoothness (is that trademarked yet?) is how smooth, or fluid, an operating system feels. Generally, it indicates an overall lack of lag and an almost predictive intuition about what you want to do next.
iOS leads in this regard, wouldn’t you agree? Android, with all it’s gigahertz and cores, is still described by many as “laggy” in comparison to Apple’s OS. The reason for the differences in user experience comes down to priorities.
Apple wanted their UX to be “smooth”, so they made all interactions users have with it to have all but exclusive priority to their processor(s). That means essentially every thing else is put on hold while you’re touching the screen. Try it out.
Android, on the other hand, keeps chugging away at anything (and everything) you were doing in the background (loading web pages, sending email, updating Facebook), and adds an “updating the UI” thread into the mix. Depending on how much stuff you’ve got going on your “buttery smoothness” may feel fairly lumpy. No one likes lumpy butter.
(Windows Phone does something in the middle, or so it seems. We’ve heard different sides to this story, so we’ll just leave it at that.)
Do Androids have multiple cores simply because they NEED them to keep up with their higher-calorie competitors? Perhaps.
Geeks Love Power
Mobile users can be divided into two groups: those who know tech, and those who don’t (I should trademark that one, too!). Those who don’t know tech get whatever is recommended to them and will accomplish what they want. Nothin’ wrong with that.
Those who do know tech research their options and are a lot more concerned with specs than their less-techie counterparts. Do they need all that extra power? Probably not… But you don’t need that fancy, high-powered sports car either, right?
To a geek, just being able to say they have twice as much RAM, or twice the number of cores, or “Retina Display? Pshaw! Mine’s HD!” is sometimes worth the premium. The cores aren’t there because geeks need them, they’re in there because geeks want them.
Does Android have quad-core CPUs just because that’s the platform that geeks flock to? Again, perhaps.
What are your thoughts? Would the world be a simpler place if we didn’t have all this mumbo-jumbo about multi-cores? Should Android adopt the “preemptive UI” metaphor that Apple has? Should we all drive Italian sports cars? Let us know in the comments!