ARM: smartphone and tablet performance to double before close of 2013
Smartphones and tablets will have twice the processing power they currently possess by the end of 2013, according to ARM’s James Bruce
Know Your Mobile sat down with James Bruce, ARM’s lead mobile strategist, at Mobile World Congress 2013 for a chat about smartphones, tablets, and the semiconductor technology that makes all that processing power possible.
High-end smartphones like the Nexus 4, HTC One, and LG Optimus G Pro all possess one thing: insane processing power – power that’s delivered by ARM’s practically ubiquitous semiconductor architecture. And while current levels of performance are impressive, there’s still plenty more to come, according Bruce.
During the past two years, smartphone adoption by consumers across the globe has risen – more and more people, from a variety of backgrounds and regions, are trading their feature phones in for smartphones. This trend is being driven by innovation at lower price points, and it’s a key factor in today’s mobile market, according to Bruce.
In 2010, the Motorola Atrix and its dual-core powered ilk were top of the range handsets, delivering never-before-seen gaming and performance capabilities. Today, that level performance can be found inside mid-to-low-end smartphones – a process that’s taken just two years.
‘You can now get smartphones running Cortex A5 chips that offer excellent user experience – similar to that of Apple’s iPhone 3G - for as little as $48 in China,’ said Bruce. The introduction of Mozilla’s lightweight HTML5 based Firefox OS in emerging markets throughout 2013 will compound this trend further.
‘2013 is going to be a very interesting year at the lower end of the market.’
Does that mean feature phones will soon be extinct? Don’t count on it. Durable handsets - ones that can be dropped, kicked about, and scuffed up on rough surfaces and building sites - will always serve purpose in some form or other.
The market itself though will always be defined by top tier devices from the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Google. Current breakneck speeds of innovation at the high-end of the market might feel dizzyingly fast to some, but it’s a trend that’s here to stay.
‘At ARM, we’re outpacing Moore’s Law,’ said Bruce. And the result of this surge forwards will be apparent before the close of the year with smartphones and tablets delivering around double the performance they’re now capable of.
‘From the end of 2012 to the end of 2013 you’re going to see a doubling of performance at the high-end – both CPU and GPU,’ said Bruce. That’s a remarkable prospect given current levels of muscle inside today’s leading handsets.
But the evidence is already here. Downstairs, following our briefing, we were treated to a demo of Google’s Nexus 10 running Epic Games' Unreal Engine at a 2.5K resolution as well as driving a full 1080p display at the same time.
Commenting on the demo, Bruce said: ‘the actual performance of these processors – NVIDIA’s Tegra 4, Samsung’s Exynos 5, and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 – is approaching the level of a typical consumer laptop. It’s staggering. And we will maintain this pace for years to come.’
The end result of all this innovating and performance is obvious, says Bruce. One day, perhaps a few years down the line, your smartphone will become your go-to computing device for everything. You simply won’t need anything else.
And it’s already happening. Pretty soon you won’t need a PC or a laptop. All you’ll need is a smartphone. It will replace your PC, connect to everything in your home, and integrate seamlessly with all manner of devices from your HDTV and stereo to your car and wristwatch. Consider the future sorted.