Move to 64-bit Android phones accelerating, says ARM

ARM tells CNET that the shift to 64-bit devices is taking place faster than expected. Part of the reason is that even 32-bit code runs faster on ARM's newest 64-bit chips.

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Phone and tablet makers are rushing to embrace 64-bit designs, surprising even those executives behind the chip platform.

Tom Lantzsch, ARM's executive vice president of corporate strategy, spoke with CNET after the company reported first-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

ARM supplies virtually all of the basic processor designs for phones and tablets running on Android.

"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," he said.

This caught the chip designer's executives off guard, as they believed that 64-bit ARM would only be needed for corporate servers in the initial phase of the technology's rollout.

"We've been surprised at the pace that [64-bit] is now becoming mobile centric. Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Marvell are examples of public 64-bit disclosures," he said.

This echoes comments from a Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. executive last week, who said the conversion to 64-bit has in the mobile device industry accelerated in the last six months after Apple made its 64-bit A7 processor -- also an ARM design -- announcement.

So, when will the transition to 64-bit processors happen for Android phones and tablets?

"We believe the capability will be there for a 64-bit phone by Christmas," he said, referring to phones and tablets with 64-bit bit processors.

Lantzsch could not comment about when a 64-bit version of Android would be released. All software, nevertheless, will run faster, he said.

"Even existing 32-bit code will run more efficiently on [ARM's 64-bit] v8-A architecture than on native 32-bit ARM architecture" he said, referring to the company's newest processors like the Cortex-A53 chip.

"The architecture itself allows for more efficiency in the code. So, that means better battery life, quicker responsiveness, better features," he added.

And when 64-bit software finally does arrive, products could change in a big way.

"There will be early adopters. The applications with the most need will certainly go first. And then the rest will come over time," he said.

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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