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For many years Qualcomm, the world’s largest supplier of application processors for mobile devices, was the first, or among the first, to adopt new technologies, such as new cores or architectures from ARM Holdings. However, with ARMv8 64-bit technology Apple managed to beat Qualcomm by at least several quarters since its A7 chip-based iPhone 5S and new iPads are already available. An insider from Qualcomm admitted, Apple has really left it behind.

“The 64-bit Apple chip hit us in the gut. Not just us, but everyone, really. We were slack-jawed, and stunned, and unprepared. It’s not that big a performance difference right now, since most current software will not benefit. But in Spinal Tap terms it is like, 32 more, and now everyone wants it,” said an unnamed employee of Qualcomm, in a conversation with Hubspot web-site.

Earlier this year Qualcomm’s former chief marketing officer, Anand Chandrasekher, downplayed the importance of 64-bit processing for mobile. Soon after that he was reassigned to a new position within the company. Earlier this month Qualcomm formally announced its new low-cost Snapdragon 410 system-on-chip for mainstream mobile devices that also boasts with 64-bit general-purpose cores. The first devices based on Snapdragon 410 are expected to arrive in the second half of 2014.


Apple A7 chip on Apple iPhone 5s' mainboard. Image by iFixit. Click to enlarge.

Nowadays, smartphones and tablets cannot take advantage of 64-bit computing technology: they do not feature more than 4GB of memory and modern programs do not use 64-bit registers. This is exactly why companies like Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics or MediaTek decided to release ARMv8-based application processors rather later than sooner. But Apple decided that the earlier the transition to 64-bit starts, the sooner it will be finished, which is why it accelerated its roadmap.

“The roadmap for 64-bit was nowhere close to Apple’s, since no one thought it was that essential. The evolution was going to be steady. Sure, it is neat, it’s the future, but it is not really essential for conditions now,” said the insider.

For Apple, releasing 64-bit application processors plays a bigger role than for the rest designer of mobile system-on-chips. With 64-bit processor, Apple can start transition of its own iOS eco-system to the new technology earlier than adopters of Google Android (and SoCs from aforementioned companies) and therefore gain advantages particularly with demanding applications.

Tags: Apple, ARM, ARMv8, Qualcomm, Snapdragon

Discussion

Comments currently: 4
Discussion started: 12/19/13 12:43:56 PM
Latest comment: 12/20/13 12:02:57 PM
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1. 
Typical coporate reaction, downplay it when your competition beats you. It's not only about 64 bit, it is about ARMv8 and the good 30% performance gain the new instruction set gives.

Having 9-12 months advantage to market (or maybe more) and the fast adoption that iOS have, will make Apple's ARM more powerful and efficient for a long time.
1 1 [Posted by: Sopota  | Date: 12/19/13 12:43:56 PM]
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2. 
Qualcomm was not the only one surprised by Apple's unexpected CPU design prowess, as ARM Holdings expressed some amazement at Apple's ability to take the ARM ISA, and design a CPU that outperforms the, yet to reach the mobile market, ARM Holdings' 64 bit refrence designs. The Apple purchase of PA Semi and other IP, as well as some impressive brainpower, has paid of handsomely. Maybe Apple can really up the ante with Intel, as the benchmarks on the A7 show that Apple may just be able to, with a future design, reach low end tablet/laptop Haswell performence levels, with better power efficiencies much sooner than previously expected.
1 0 [Posted by: BigChiefRunAmok  | Date: 12/19/13 12:48:56 PM]
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3. 
Why exactly would Qualcomm care, Apple aren't a competitor because Apple isn't in the business of selling their designs to other companies. The only way it hurts Qualcomm is if android and wp8 phone sales decrease due to the iPhone/iPad having superior performance, which hasn't happened. Qualcomms competition is Samsung/TI/free scale, not Apple.
0 0 [Posted by: genie  | Date: 12/20/13 07:09:47 AM]
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You never Know what Apple may do in the future, or the Apple Chip design engineers may do in the future, should they strike out on their own, or stay at Apple and produce the first laptop based ARM derivatives! Apple, Google, facebook, others are probably sizeing up the calxeda arm-based server IP, as we post. Apple does have internal server needs, and wads-o-cash to invest, those Apple web-services don't run on gerbil power, and if you think Google wants control, the house that Steve built takes the cake.
1 0 [Posted by: BigChiefRunAmok  | Date: 12/20/13 12:02:57 PM]
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