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After playing with a smartphone equipped with a 1GHz Snapdragon or Hummingbird processor, it's hard as hell to go back to a last-gen mobile phone plodding along at 500-600MHz. The difference is really night and day. Be that as it may, are we on the dawn of a new smartphone era?
According to Networkworld.com, smartphones sporting dual-core chips are right around the corner. Qualcomm, the company behind the aforementioned Snapdragon CPU, has already shipped its first dual-core processor, the MSM8660, and later this year the company will start sampling a faster dual-core chip.
Qualcomm isn't alone, either. Texas Instruments is said to be shipping a dual-core mobile chip later this year, and if all goes to plan, it could show up in devices in the first quarter of 2010.
The question is, do we need dual-core processors in our smartphones? As far as we're concerned, the answer is a resounding "yes." While usage depends on the user, we often find ourselves using our smartphones for anything but making calls, and a dual-core foundation could open up a world of possibilities.
"This benefit allows for far more concurrency in applications. You've got an additional processor to handle background tasks, running multiple applications, or updating multiple webpages simultaneously," said Richard Tolbert, director of product management for the OMAP smartphone business at TI.
That's all fine and dandy, but the other part of the equation is battery life. Contrary to what most people assume, a dual-core processor might actually help in this case. According to Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst of Insight 64, slower-clocked dual-core chips can save power and reduce heat output compared to faster clocked single-core parts.
"[Processors] typically require more power ... as you increase clockspeed. If you keep the frequency lower, you can save enough power to drive two cores at a lower frequency," Brookwood said.
The challenge, then, will be in getting developers to code for multicore chips.