Qualcomm, Nvidia and Broadcom are prepping s 64-bit quad-core chips
for introduction in smartphones and tablets in the first half of 2014, reports Digitimes
. The report aligns with ARM's roadmap
for 64-bit chips that will see its partners begin mass production of 64-bit chips using its Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 designs in early 2014. Although not mentioned in the report, Samsung is also expected to produce a 64-bit Exynos Octa chip for its forthcoming Galaxy S5 that will use ARM's big.Little arrangement pairing four high-performance 64-bit cores with four low-power 64-bit cores.
Apple surprised the industry when it launched the iPhone 5s in September with a 64-bit chip as ARM's published roadmap did not hint at Apple's plans. The Apple A7
custom processor uses ARM architecture in its 'Cyclone' cores and, like the Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 designs, supports the ARM v8 instruction set. While it is highly likely that the Apple A7 chip is a custom variation of the Cortex-A50 series designs
, it appears that Apple and ARM struck a deal allowing Apple early access to its designs and special technical support. Apple has previously had similar arrangements with Intel, although in this instance, Apple was also one of ARM's three co-founding companies.
While the ARM Cortex-A50 series designs are backwards compatible with 32-bit operating systems and apps, the big question is when Google will re-architect Android to support 64-bit chips natively. Intel recently announced that its forthcoming Bay Trail mobile chips will feature a 64-bit architecture, however it is putting its considerable resources into creating an x86-64 compatible version of Android itself. While Apple was able to keep its 64-bit chip plans secret, it also managed to keep secret its work on re-architecting iOS 7 to fully support its 64-bit A7 chip. The iOS 7 built-in apps, iLife apps and iWork apps have all also been updated to take full advantage of the A7 chip as well.
Whether Android is 64-bit compatible or not when the 64-bit chips hit the market is, however, unlikely to stop the marketing machine of device makers from touting the new 64-bit chips when they hit the market. Samsung touted the dual-core chip in its Galaxy S2 as a competitive advantage over the then single-core iPhone 4 when the Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' OS that shipped with it did not support multi-core processors.