64-bit Processors for Android: Will they really make a difference?
The smartphone and tablet industry is busy tinkering with 64-bit processors for mobile devices. Some brands have already developed 64-bit processors for phones and tablets while the rest are catching up, and there’s no stopping it.
In fact, the 64-bit processing is being considered the future for all our favorite gadgets, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s more than 32-bit, right? But some still question the value of 64-bit processing for mobile devices. Does it really matter for mobile OSes, especially for Android? Will it be able to bring a big boost in performance, or is it just a hype?
Let’s start from the bottom of all this. In simple terms, the bit computing refers to the amount of memory a processor can actually access. A 32-bit chip is limited to address a maximum of 4 gigabytes. Stepping up to 64-bit, it lets you access 16 exabytes, that is 16 billion gigabytes!
So the fact is 64-bit computing can make a difference when it comes to mobile hardware as it brings new manufacturing processes. But for Android, it’s not only about the bits that really matter; there’s something more to it.
We are talking about the ARMv8 chip architecture. The new architecture introduces support for 64-bit chips with a focus on performance optimization and power-efficient implementation, which is what the latest progress in this new arena of mobile CPUs is all about!
The 64-bit architecture, no doubt, will open doors to bringing new features on our phones and tablets, which are currently not possible to land on 32-bit chips. Furthermore, it will also provide us enough power to do what we want to do on our Android devices, but what we actually need is to make our devices perform more efficiently and do things while using less battery juice.
Although a few companies, like Intel, have developed their own 64-bit architecture to be integrated in smartphones, most companies, including NVIDIA or Qualcomm, will license ARM spec and will expand on its technology to design their architecture even better.
However, with the majority of users having 32-bit software, the apps won’t be able to use the new features of the chip because they weren’t coded for any of them. But the things are going to change as we will soon see the next version of Android, called “L”, which will support 64-bit processors.
Nick Stam, director of Technical Marketing at NVIDIA, recenly shed light on why the new 64-bit chips are important to Android (via Android Central):
Nearly all mainstream and high-end consumer notebook and desktop CPUs transitioned to 64-bit many years ago, and for good reason– they afford higher performance for applications coded to use the 64-bit features, and larger memory addressing for the operating system and multiple applications.
For Android, the story is not simply 64-bit, but really more about the new ARMv8 Architecture. In addition to enabling 64-bit applications, ARMv8 brings a host of improvements in power efficiency as well as performance that have a direct and significant impact on nearly every 32-bit Android application in the market today.
Google announced at this year’s I/O conference that the next version of Android – “L” – will offer 64-bit CPU support. In fact, NVIDIA is already developing L on our 64-bit Tegra K1 mobile processor, which includes our custom-designed Denver CPU.
HTC and Lenovo have already announced their smartphones, the Desire 510 and the Vibe Z2 respectively, which are ready for the 64-bit compatible Android OS when it launches later in the year. The transition to the new architecture is coming from all vendors, and I guess, 2015 is going to be huge, in the sense that it will bring a revolution in our mobile CPU architecture.