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.
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.
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.