Apple set off a torrent of speculation on Tuesday after announcing theiPhone 5s would come packed with a desktop-like 64-bit processor. As we reported, Apple has little reason to switch iOS devices away from 32-bit processors right now, so this is clearly a play for the future. The most likely scenario, analysts say, is that Apple is laying the groundwork for a unified operating system that covers everything the company makes, drawing together Macs and iOS devices.
Not wanting to appear to lag behind its biggest rival in the mobile space, Samsung says its smartphones will also get a 64-bit upgrade--but not just yet. "Not in the shortest time. But yes, our next smartphones will have 64-bit processing functionality," Samsung mobile chief JK Shin told The Korea Times on Wednesday.
Processors with a 64-bit address space are typically used in desktop machines and servers that require extra horsepower to crunch data. Mobile devices, meanwhile, typically use 32-bit chips. The main difference between the two processors is that 64-bit processors are capable of accessing more than 4GB of memory at once. The resulting processing boost primarily means applications can run faster on 64-bit machines than their 32-bit counterparts.
So far, however, smartphones have yet to require that much power with most mobile devices relying on a 1GB or 2GB of RAM. Only Samsung's recently announced Galaxy Note 3 exceeds that with a whopping 3GB.
It's not clear when Apple began working on a 64-bit ARM-based chip for the iPhone 5s, but Samsung licensed the tech from ARM in October 2012 when the new 64-bit ARM architecture was announced. At the time, many analysts speculated that Samsung was about to get into the low-power server market where 64-bit data crunching is critical.
Now that we know Samsung is planning a 64-bit play, the question is what Samsung will do with a 64-bit super phone? Apple has complete control over its smartphone OS and ecosystem, while Samsung depends on Google for its mobile platform. That means Samsung would have to wait for Google to make Android 64-bit compatible and push third-party developers in that direction as well.