Qualcomm gambit: Apple 64-bit A7 is a 'gimmick'

A top exec takes a risk by dismissing the new 64-bit A7 too quickly. The chip supplier will likely have a different message if it brings out its own 64-bit design.

Apple A7 chip layout.  The 64-bit design gives Apple a leg up on the future.
Apple A7 chip layout. The 64-bit design gives Apple a leg up on the future. Chipworks

A Qualcomm executive dissed Apple's new 64-bit chip architecture, putting the San Diego company in a tough spot if it decides at some point to move to a 64-bit Snapdragon design.

Here's what Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Qualcomm, said to the IDG News Service "I know there's a lot of noise because Apple did [64-bit] on their A7. I think they are doing a marketing gimmick. There's zero benefit a consumer gets from that."

He went on to repeat a well-known fact that a 64-bit architecture is necessary for addressing memory beyond 4GB but that most smartphones, like Apple's iPhone 5S, only have 1GB or 2GB of memory.

What's true today may not be true next year, however.

See also: The real reasons Apple's 64-bit A7 chip makes sense .

ARM, the company behind the chip designs from Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, and Nvidia, believes that there will be a need for 64-bit ARM chips in future smartphones and tablets.

James Bruce, ARM's lead mobile strategist, explained to CNET last month that high-end smartphones and tablets are already headed toward the 4GB limit . And he added this: "The important thing is that the major OS [operating system] guys want an OS that works across multiple [designs], all the way from smartphones to tablets and devices beyond that.

In other words, no one can predict what device makers will do in the next 12 months. Apple's A7, for instance, could be paving the way for future iOS devices that require a 64-bit architecture. Ditto for future Android devices.

"Just imagining what people will do with [64-bit] made the decision to invest in it an easy one," according to a statement on Apple's Web site.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek put it this way last month in a note to investors. Though switching to the 64-bit A7 processor may not benefit apple in the short term, he said "we believe that longer term it is a game changer as apps are rewritten and cross platform capabilities become utilized. We view 64-bit as an example of the investments Apple needs to make to stay competitive despite limited near-term payback."

And Qualcomm may find that comments about gimmicky 64-bit chips in consumer devices hard to justify when rival Samsung eventually announces its 64-bit chip and Apple moves to a second-generation 64-bit design.

Qualcomm, which declined to comment, may be singing a different marketing tune when that happens.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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