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Summary:

Apple surprised many with 64-bit support in its new iPhone 5s. Samsung was quick to say it would have a 64-bit Android phone soon. Here’s why the wait for such an Android device could be shorter than you think.

64-Bit superman
photo: InContext

Apple made a big splash last week when it announced support for 64-bit computing in its new iPhone 5s with A7 processor. Does that mean iOS is far ahead of Android when it comes to the 64-bit transition? Not necessarily, as 64-bit support in Android could be right around the corner, although Google hasn’t announced anything official yet.

However, Liliputing caught sight of this picture from reddit user shuriken that offers a hint of what’s to come in Android; possibly in Android 4.4 — aka: KitKat — within the next month or two:

64bit Android

The enhancements noted are actually from Intel’s Developer Forum, which took place last week, and explain how Intel is working to support the platform. Note that Intel’s Bay Trail Atom chips, already showing up in tablets, are certified as “Intel 64″ chips, meaning they can fully support 64-bit platforms. Linux too, which is the underpinnings of Android, has had 64-bit support as far back as 2004.

Apple A7

ARM, the chip architecture company that most smartphones and tablets use in their products has already announced its 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 and ARM Cortex-A57 chips that Qualcomm, Nvidia, Samsung and other licensees will use in their next generation chips. Apple has simply beaten the chip-makers to the punch with its A7 that uses the ARM v8 architecture.

What’s left after the chipmakers take the next step is for Google to bring 64-bit support to Android and its development tools so that developers can modify their Android apps to take advantage of the new functionality. I’d suspect Google will rework its own native Android apps to work in either 64- or 32-bit systems as well. My guess: 64-bit will be a central topic of discussion when Android 4.4 is released.

Don’t get too excited though: Nearly all of the benefits of moving to a 64-bit platform — support for greater amounts of memory, for example — are off in the future. You’re not likely to see much difference in device performance, save for very specific high-compute applications, on your 64-bit tablet or smartphone.

  1. If you’re excited about Intel’s x86 in mobiles, 64-bit or not, you must know something that Apple and every Android licensee does not.

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    1. It’s an interesting point. How many Android phones are shipping with an Intel processor?

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      1. Few phones now, although Intel is pushing hard in the smartphone space, as well as in tablets. Surely, ARM chips rule the market but there are signs that suggest we can’t completely overlook Intel.

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  2. Surprise! 64-bit support in Java (aka Dalvik). Lol.

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  3. Thank you for the last paragraph. I’ve yet to see what the excitement is about for a 64 bit smartphone. Until we get phones over 3GB of ram, then there won’t be much benefit. But to get more benefit you’ll still need 64 bit programs to run, and even then, most smartphone programs still would probably not utilize data where 64 bit would be much of a benefit. As I’ve said before, many 64 bit desktops still run 32 bit software.

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    1. I dont know one singel people some have 32 bits software to OS, but normaly programs is alot some code to 32 bits, self i dont see why Microsoft has push so hard to keep the 32 bit so long should has give up it alredy before Vista.

      3GB Ram was just release to Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

      Only why 64bit should be a + in a smartphone is if man wanna play some stronger games, else is not nessery to have higre that 32 bit in a smartphone becouse i think its coming take like 10-15 years for get smartphone so strong that man must have 64 bit.

      alot of app deplovers is alredy build stronges games for 32 bit and works nice.

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  4. A case of too much, too soon.

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  5. A week ago it was (http://gigaom.com/2013/09/10/how-much-is-apple-responding-to-the-market-vs-innovating)

    “How much is Apple responding to market vs Innovating?”

    This week it is

    “We’re going to have what Apple just announced first as well in the near future”

    Must be nice to play both sides. You never have to be right or wrong.

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    1. Hmmm…. one was an opinion piece and one was reporting of news. I see your point, but not sure the comparison between the two articles is an either/or situation.

      And there’s *whole* paragraph in last week’s piece praising Apple’s 64-bit move. It’s easy to “prove” a point with headlines, but don’t forget the supporting copy. ;)

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    2. Huh? In that article all he said was “kudos” to Apple for going 64 bit. It was a very small part of the article, and in any case I don’t see how he’s playing both sides on the 64 bit issue.

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  6. The 64-bit i86 support will be very nice for Android 4.4 on notebooks, convertibles and in game consoles. In phones it probably matters less. But Android has been heading for the desktop for a long time.

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  7. Of course 64 bit is near for Android. The RAM inside of new Smartphones is already near the 4GB barrier. Everyone knows it.

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  8. Moving to the ARMv8 instruction set has benefits beyond additional address bits. A good write up on the performance benefits of ARM’s 64-bit instruction set can be found here:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7335/the-iphone-5s-review/4

    I also want to clarify some terminology. ARM’s Cortex-A53 and A57 are CPU IP cores, composed of RTL that chip makers, like Samsung, use to build system on chips (SoCs). Apple, Qualcomm, and Nvidia are architecture licensees of the ARMv8 instruction set and design their own CPUs, like Apple’s A7.

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    1. Good points, Kevin; thanks! I really enjoyed Anand’s review the most since he spelled out all the chip information in what I thought was a very readable way that most people could understand.

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  9. Since Java is an interpreted language and as such makes it so flexible and able to run everywhere.

    So what apps will need updating? The core Android code inc Dalvic will need recompiling, but not sure about stuff like maps, chrome etc.

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  10. I’d like to see tablets and smartphones actually start to take advantage of all this processing power. Apple and android makers can only justify so many amazing cpu speed and power upgrades if we’re still denied true multitasking and using overly simplified apps that all still run perfectly well on an ipad 2.

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