New smartphones are increasingly being defined, at least in part, by the power of their processors. Single core, dual core, and quad core processors by makers and brands like Intel, ARM, Qualcomm act as mini computer processors, able to provide phones with their computing power, while also integrating graphics processors.
The speeds offered by top of the range phones are due to the design of their processing chips, which have exponentially grown in terms of power over the past few years.
What, then, are the top smartphone processors, and what can we expect from future processors?
Used for the iPhone 5, Apple’s A6 processor is a modified version of its existing processors, which have been adapted from ARM designs. Notable features of Apple’s processors include the ways in which they are modified to be highly compatible with iOS, and how they’ve been gradually streamlined and made smaller, without losing their speed and processing power. The current A6 processor packs 1 GB of RAM.
This chip is one of the fastest on the market, and in its Z240 designation can deliver 2 GHz of speeds on a single core – compared to dual and quad core processors, Intel’s chip is notable for using hyper threading to deliver comparable speeds. Indeed, Intel’s Burst Performance technology has made strides in terms of efficient energy use and conservation. The Atom can be seen in new phones like the Motorola RAZR i.
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
The latest version of Qualcomm’s super-fast processors, the Snapdragon S4 is found in the new HTC One S, and uses a dual core Krait CPU. The Snapdragon is able to provide 1.5 GHz speeds on 1 GB of RAM, and is upgradable to 1.7 GHz on some phones, making it one of the fastest mid range processors on the market.
Exynos 4 Quad
Found in Samsung’s Galaxy S III smartphone, the Exynos 4 Quad is the South Korean company’s version of ARM’s Cortex A9 chip, and represents one of the fastest quad core processors available. The 1.4 GHz processor of the 4 Quad comes with 1GB of RAM, and doubled the previous speeds achieved by the Samsung Galaxy S II. The processor makes Ice Cream Sandwich run smoothly on Samsung phones.
ARM Cortex A8
Still one of the fastest processors, this 1 GHz processor is the previous model used by Apple for the iPhone 4S. Although not quite as fast as the current iPhone 5 processor, the use of NVIDIA architecture means that the A8 is able to pack a serious punch.
Another chipset that draws on ARM’s processing technology, the Nvidia Tegra delivers 1 GHz speeds, and provides multi-core processing power – phones to use these processors include the Motorola Atrix 4G, and the Motorola Droid Bionic phone.
In terms of what to expect from future processors, Intel are developing an advanced 48 core processor – although this is unlikely to be a commercial reality for at least 5 to 10 years, the potential that this processor could achieve is staggering. A 48 core processor would make smartphones indistinguishable, in some respects, from a high end computer, and will allow for smooth multitasking. At the same time, ARM are working on a 64 bit processor, which promises three times the performance of current chips, and may be used for Samsung phones in the future.
Gaudin, Sharon. ‘Intel working on 48-core chip for smartphones, tablets.’ Computerworld. Oct 30 2012. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9233039 Intel_working_on_48_core_chip_for_smartphones_tablets.