IT professionals understand the benefits of 64-bit CPUs for Windows PCs, but what does it mean for smartphones and mobile devices? This post will explain what 64-bit architecture is and describe the benefits for faster performance, longer battery life, more memory and improved security. It will also look at how apps can be optimized for 64-bit architecture.
Advantages of 64-bit Processors
The history of CPUs has followed a path from 4-bit to 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit and now 64-bit. Each successive type of processor can handle data in larger chunks, and address more memory and storage. 64-bit processors offer substantial benefits over 32-bit ones, in their ability to handle larger amounts of data at once, and to address more memory and storage. They can handle larger numbers, which can make it easier to create more secure apps without impacting performance.
The newest smartphones, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, use 64-bit processors with multiple CPU cores, plus separate graphics processors.
Now that 64-bit systems on a chip (SoC) have been around for a couple of generations, they’re becoming increasingly optimized. Some feature what’s known as a big.LITTLE configuration, with some cores running on relatively lower power, and others higher power. The operating system decides if a process should run on a high- or lower-power core, enabling the device to save power by using lower-power cores as appropriate.
Apps should be checked carefully to find out if they’re optimized for 64-bit. It’s possible to convert an app so that it will run on a 64-bit processor, but it may run more slowly than it could if the new version were fully optimized for 64-bit operation.
A 32-bit CPU can work with a number up to 232, or a little over 4 billion as a single memory register. It can handle larger numbers, but only by spreading them across multiple registers, which then requires multiple CPU cycles to access. A 64-bit CPU can work with a number up to 264, or over 18 billion, enabling it to process much larger numbers without breaking them up, making for faster processing of large numbers, a useful thing in applications from security to graphics to music.
64-bit processors support applications that use more than 4 GB of RAM. The point is moot with most smartphones at the moment, since few even have 4 GB of RAM, let alone more than that, but as with personal computers, which had 4 GB or less a few years ago, the day when smartphones have 16 or 32 GB of RAM could be fast approaching. Having more RAM available can make applications that access large amounts of data much faster, since more data can be held in RAM rather than in flash storage or in the cloud. Moreover, since the CPU can access data in 64-bit chunks rather than 32-bit chunks, the speed that data can be delivered from RAM to the CPU is also faster.
Many security apps use very large numbers to make data secure, both while in storage and while moving from the cloud to the phone. 64-bit CPUs can handle these large numbers much more quickly than 32-bit CPUs, creating less of a delay when encrypted data is unencrypted, or when large amounts of data are scanned for malware, as long as the security application is written to take advantage of the increased capacity of the 64-bit CPU.
The new SoC used in the latest mobile devices are optimized for efficient use of power, utilizing the high-power and low-power cores. Applications that don’t need the extra processing power can run on the low-power cores while the high-power cores are powered down, resulting in power savings. In addition to powering down cores when they’re not in use, the devices can power off other parts of the device, such as the cellular, Wi-Fi and GPS radios, reducing power consumption when they’re not in use.
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