64-bit is a term that you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about in the mobile space over the next year or two. ARM’s new V8 architecture and chips are scheduled to appear sometime this year, Intel has been working on its own 64-bit kernel, and, of course, there’s Apple’s overemphasis on its own move to 64-bit capable chips too. Speaking with CNET, ARM’s Tom Lantzsch has suggested that Android could be in for the 64-bit treatment sooner than the company expected, with phone and tablet manufacturers rushing to embrace 64-bit designs.
ARM says that the move over to 64-bit devices is taking place faster than it originally thought, one of the major driving factors being that 32-bit code runs faster on ARM’s newest 64-bit chips. Now, this does not necessarily have anything to do with 64-bit per se, ARMv8 chips, such as the new Cortex A53 mobile CPU, are expected to boost performance overall. Anyway, ARM originally expected much of the early demand to come from corporate servers and the like, interest from the mobile industry appeared to catch the chip designer’s executives off guard.
“Certainly, we’ve had big uptick in demand for mobile 64-bit products. We’ve seen this with our [Cortex] A53, a high-performance 64-bit mobile processor,” Tom Lantzsch
However, we’re still waiting on confirmation of a 64-bit OS and software before smartphones can really take advantage of 64-bit’s actual benefits. Lantzsch could not comment as to when a 64-bit version of Android would be released, but he expects that 64-bit capable phones will arrive before the end of the year. However, that’s not much of a radical premonition, we’re already expecting both Qualcomm and Intel to have their own 64-bit SoCs for Android available well before then anyway.
“Even existing 32-bit code will run more efficiently on [ARM's 64-bit] v8-A architecture than on native 32-bit ARM architecture. The architecture itself allows for more efficiency in the code. So, that means better battery life, quicker responsiveness, better features,”
Whilst it may appear that Android will be stuck waiting for full 64-bit support for a while longer, hardware has to make the first leap, with software developers to follow. If ARM is experiencing strong demand for 64-bit designs already, the pressure will surely be mounting on Google to make sure that its operating system can keep the pace.