The year of 2011 will mark the breakout of the dual-core Android beast. In fact, we've already shared a couple of stories with you regarding this newly emerging technology. But I'm sure many of you have asked yourselves... why does this matter to me? What does this mean to me in a real-world sense? Today I will share with you the practical reasons why this is very exciting stuff, and why moving to a dual-core based phone will be an easy choice next year.
First, let's get one thing out of the way before we move onto the practical stuff. We should give kudos to the Android for being the first phone to market with dual-core chips. The iPhone 4 was originally rumored to be coming with a dual-core chip, but its release has already come and gone, and its just a single-core chip. The first phones arriving with dual-core appear to be the LG Star and the Motorola Olympus. Both are sporting NVIDIA's new Tegra 2 chip, and both are scheduled to be released soon. Does having a dual-core chip automatically mean the Android is "better" than an iPhone 4? Of course not, but it does mark a significant technological leap forward for the Android over the "Goliath" of the industry. This is perhaps a "sign of things to come."
The first dual-core chips to start filtering into the market are:
- NVIDIA Tegra 2
- Samsung Orion
- Qualcomm MSM8660
- Texas Instruments OMAP4430
As previously stated, the NVIDIA Tegra 2 is the first chip to make it into a phone that will be released soon, but I'm sure the other CPUs will start appearing in newer phones early next year. Because NVIDIA will be the first to market with a dual-core chip we will use some info from their whitepaper to share the purported advantages of dual-core technology. There are several advantages detailed in their whitepapers, but today I want to focus on the three primary advantages that I believe will entice the end-user to purchase a dual-core chip phone.
The first is "highly responsive and smoother UIs (user interfaces)". From my own experiences and from talking to other users this seems to be one of the biggest issues that is important to people. Although some of the newer phones like the Droid X and Droid Pro for Verizon and the HTC EVO and Samsung EPIC for Sprint have made great strides in this area, it would seem that there is still a bit of room for improvement. Having even the slightest hint of sluggishness when using a touch-screen creates a mild irritant akin to someone poking you repeatedly or a fly landing on the back of your neck constantly.
For many of us that have the most advanced phones available already, this won't be that big of an issue, but we have to think that there are many users out there that still use older style phones like the original Droid for Verizon or the HTC Hero for Sprint, or perhaps even, god forbid, haven't even moved to a smart-phone yet! These people will be the potential large-scale adopters that provide that big push that will make the dual-core Android market dominant in 2011. In other words, sometimes its the little things that appeal to the end-user and make for good marketing.
The second and probably most important benefit to dual-core phones is that they have far greater battery-life efficiency. NVIDIA put it very succinctly themselves, "...a single core CPU not only runs at higher clock frequencies and voltages than a dual-core CPU, but also takes longer periods of time to complete a given task." A dual-core chip running at lower clock speeds and using lower voltages directly translates into lower energy consumption, resulting it longer battery life, or at least allowing you to use your favorite apps and games for longer periods of time than previously. NVIDIA estimates their chip to be up to 40% more efficient than the typical single-core chip in cell-phones today. Furthermore, according to this source, the new dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processors may be up to 75% more energy-efficient than their previous designs.
In fact, this same technological leap already happened with home-computer technology from Intel and AMD a few years ago, and for the same reasons. Before multi-core processors became the norm both AMD and Intel realized that the power and thermal requirements of their eternal CPU war were reaching critical levels. They were going to hit a wall in which faster processors would simply be too power-hungry and would put out massive amounts of heat. No-one wants a home computer that requires a personal nuclear reactor to run and has the danger of melting through your floor. It turned out that clock-speed wasn't really king... data processing efficiency was. So both Intel and AMD took queues from the older IBM Motorola Power PC designs and improved upon them with their own chips.
The cell-phone industry is learning this lesson even more quickly because with a device that runs only on battery power it becomes even more necessary. Our smartphones have become one of the most important tools in many people's lives. From the business user that constantly uses his scheduling and calling features, to the traveler that likes to keep in touch with their family, to the mobile gamer that uses their phone as an enhanced entertainment device, everyone can benefit from better battery life.
Speaking of "mobile gamers", this leads into the final reason I believe that dual-core (and eventually multi-core as we previously reported here), smartphones will take off like a rocket in 2011. Games are probably not the most "important" reason that will create a massive market for dual-core chips next year, but games are going to be the most indirectly marketable reason. From the early days of the personal computer, it is easy to trace the meteoric rise of the PC over the Mac to the charming power of games. Nothing is quite as enticing as an interactive form of entertainment to people. It's simply the way our brains are wired. If you can create pleasurable stimulae to the brain, whether it be from a physical source like food, or from a psychological one like a video game, human beings will be drawn to it.
The new advances from NVIDIA and eventually others will create a "higher quality game play experience for advanced console-style mobile games." By 2012-2013 these manufacturers anticipate having graphical gameplay experiences comparable to the power of an XBOX 360 or PS3... on your cell phone!!! Now I realize that not everyone plays games or would even use their cell phones for games, but for those gamers out there... can you envision a future when you carry your gaming console around with you in your pocket. Impromptu LAN parties abound! Could games potentially be the "killer-app" of the multi-core cell phone future? I think probably yes.
I hope you've found my prognostications entertaining and informative, but more importantly... I'd like to hear from you. Let us know what you guys think in the forums. Regardless whether you agree with me, your opinion is important to this community and I think we can all agree that some of the new technology coming soon makes this a great time to be alive!