by Anton Shilov
10/03/2013 | 11:30 PM
Apple has never been known as a chip designer, but it managed to become the world’s first company to launch a 64-bit ARMv8-compatible application processor last month. While Apple may not get a lot of immediate direct benefits from the new chip design, it will get a number of indirect advantages. Nonetheless, a high-ranking executive from Qualcomm, the world’s leading supplier of mobile app processors, claims that the 64-bit is just a marketing gimmick.
“I know there is a lot of noise because Apple did [64-bit] on their A7. I think they are doing a marketing gimmick. There is zero benefit a consumer gets from that. A benefit of 64-bit is more memory addressability, but that is not relevant in today's smartphones or tablets. The iPhone 5s has only 1GB of DRAM,” said said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Qualcomm, in an interview with IDG Connect web-site.
Apple A7 system-on-chip that features two custom-designed 64-bit general-purpose processing cores compatible with ARMv8 architecture, powerful Imagination PowerVR series 6 “Rogue” graphics engine with OpenGL ES 3.0 support, 1MB of L2 cache and so on. The chip contains over a billion of transistors and is believed to be made by Samsung Semiconductor using 28nm process technology. Even if the software does not take advantage of 64-bit registers of Apple A7, the chip itself is the fastest dual-core application processors on the planet; moreover, it has the latest graphics processing unit from Imagination, which enables great visual effects in latest games.
“Predominantly, you need [64-bit] for memory addressability beyond 4GB. That is it. You do not really need it for performance, and the kinds of applications that 64-bit get used in mostly are large, server-class applications," said Mr. Chandrasekher, who previously ran Intel's mobile platforms group.
Although it remains to be seen which advantages 64-bit processing will bring to mobile devices, it is obvious that there will be some. Being on the forefront of transition to 64-bits, Apple will likely introduce certain interesting technologies for iPhone and iPad devices in the coming year. In addition, software makers, who already know how to benefit from 64-bits on personal computers, will likely introduce mobile versions of their programs for iOS operating system, bringing exclusive software to the platform.
Qualcomm, just like other designers of application processors, is developing its own system-on-chips featuring 64-bit ARM general-purpose cores. It is unknown when the company plans to roll them out to the market. It is also not clear whether Qualcomm plans to use Cortex-A53 or A57 cores designed by ARM, or develop its own ARMv8-compatible cores.