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2011 promises to be the year of dual-core smartphones - and may even usher in the age of the quad-core mobile. Many of last year's top smartphones packed a 1GHz processor - devices such as Apple's iPhone 4, HTC's Desire HD and the Windows Phone 7 handsets that arrived towards the back end of 2010, with Microsoft stipulating 1GHz as a minimum requirement for its OS. And then in December, mobile maker LG announced what it described as the world's first dual-core smartphone: the LG Optimus 2X. The 2X packs an Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz processor - a dual-core system-on-a-chip based on ARM architecture. The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the Tegra chip still promises 1GHz of processing power - so why all the fuss?
What a dual-core chip does
Dual-core chips enable more power to be squeezed out of the processor because the chips contain two 1GHz cores - meaning there are two 1GHz processors that can be used in parallel to speed up performance, provided the mobile software has been optimised to take advantage of the parallel processing power. It's not as simple as saying a dual-core processor is twice as fast as a single-core processor, but dual-core chips should enable a noticeable speed and performance hike, particularly when it comes to multitasking.
And it's no longer the only dual-core offering in mobile town. will give users faster web browsing and quicker response times when multitasking. "In the same way that 1GHz was the standard for top of the range smartphones in 2010. which is heading for UK shops next month. every topend device in 2011 is likely to have a dual-core processor. Various tablet PCs were also shown off packing dual-core chips. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. may look like any other top of the line touchscreen smartphone but it sports a dual-core processor (Photo credit: LG) LG claims the Optimus 2X. "We may even see the first quad-core chipsets emerging in handsets by the end of the year.LG's Optimus 2X. and the Droid Bionic. above. Motorola announced a pair of dual-core smartphones that would be coming soon: the Motorola Atrix. due in the UK in Q2 this year." ." predicted Nick Dillon. analyst at Ovum.
"It's just the onward march of technology." Fogg added: "Consumers care about the overall experience.but it isn't sufficient in its own right to create a compelling environment." Dillon added. it's not the hardware but what you do with it that counts. Dillon reckons multicore mobile chips are more technology evolution than big bang transformation . there's nothing that demanding beyond the 1GHz threshold at the moment." he said.a type of 3D tech that does not require users to wear special glasses to view the content." "1GHz processors were the tipping point for smartphones .most likely on Android . in theory.to gain that advantage. They care about the software. be given a boost by multicore hardware is autostereoscopic 3D-enabled mobile handsets . "It may take some time for the first dualcore phones . mobile makers are hoping to convince consumers to keep on upgrading to the latest shiny handset.What dual-core mobile phones mean for you While the advent of dual-core smartphones means the bar has definitely been raised for players of specs-sheet top trumps." said Fogg.we've almost gone beyond the point where it really makes any difference." A device such as Google's Nexus S . "People will create apps that will start to push the boundaries . "It's not really going to enable anything dramatically different ." Multicore's 3D boost? One next-gen technology that could. added Ian Fogg. like in the PC market .I imagine gaming is probably the most interesting area where you're likely to make the most of these performance upgrades. He added that even Apple's iPhone 4 . with handheld games consoles making up the lion's share of portable 3D deployments.supporting an incremental performance boost rather than unlocking a raft of radical new functionality. "This is the natural evolution of processors. In other words. how good is the video playback. particularly the games. how good is the camera? And really.the graphics and the processor and the memory and everything else.a single-core smartphone . "Handset makers need to have next-generation features to persuade consumers to continue to spend money to get a top-line device ." he said. You might see more complicated graphics in gaming and more advanced games in that respect.starts to look dated from a specs point of view." Ovum's Dillon said apps that take full advantage of dual-core hardware are likely to emerge in time.is already at risk of looking outmoded when compared to the new dualcore Android handsets. said Fogg. What can it do for me." he said. analyst house In-Stat predicts 3D-enabled smartphones will account for almost half (45 per cent) of all 3D-enabled mobile devices shipments. how good are the games. principal analyst at Forrester Research. the overall package." By adding multicore chips to devices. "Where the iPhone 4 is competitive is because the software and the apps. are taking full advantage of all the hardware abilities of the iPhone 4 .the most cutting-edge Android smartphone when it was announced late last year . "There is a continual arms race to add new features.it's going to be an incremental performance improvement. . "But in terms of other applications.rather than saying a mid-range smartphone is good enough. By 2012.this is Moore's Law moving on leading to things getting faster and more efficient. dual-core is an enabler of all of those things . yet not necessarily when it comes to the integration of its hardware and software.
Apple already enables iPhone. to do great console-quality gaming and make them even more potent.Asked whether multicore smartphones could boost the prospects of 3D-enabled smartphones. to handsets.but what dual-core will do though. "There it becomes critically important to have some power behind it . "It will also enable these phones to do those things while doing something else. web browser and emailer. Users can then plug in a .com. according to Forrester's Fogg.a smartphone which includes a feature called Webtop that enables the handset to offer a desktop PC-style experience when it is plugged into a dedicated dock or connected to an HDTV. there's no guarantee this would." he said." Smartphones as your personal hub Using smartphones as a hub for wireless streaming of media to other devices such as TVs also gets a boost from dual-core.if you're streaming HD video from the phone to a TV or to a TV set-top box. Ovum's Dillon said 3D would technically benefit from multicore chips in the hardware." Fogg told silicon. Existing features in today's top of the line smartphones that should get a performance boost from dual-core chips include HD video recording and playback.which were trends we saw arrive in 2010 .the convergence theme got a boost last week when Microsoft demoed a full version of its Windows OS running on ARM chips at CES." said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.. "Much more potent smartphones will arrive in 2011 capable of HD video playback and HD video recording . "We're entering a new generation where you'll be able to use Windows from the small screen to the biggest screens. while most smartphones and tablets are based on the more energy-efficient but lower powered ARM architecture ." Adding even more fuel to the convergence fire is Motorola's dual-core Atrix . he added. you still want to be able to make and receive phone calls and you still want to be able to read email and use the other functions on the device. streaming media from a smartphone becomes more desirable as the phone can still function well as a telephone.the more powerful category. being as it is a processor-intensive activity.with mobile users trading in their laptops and using dual-core smartphones instead. iPad and iPod touch users to do this with an Apple TV or Airport Express using its AirPlay software. rather than underpowered hardware. With multitasking abilities boosted by dual-core chips. Multicore hardware has been gracing the insides of desktop PCs and laptops for years. even while it's being used as a playback hub. Even with multicore chip tech in place. but he said the tech is more likely to be constrained by lack of consumer demand. are based on Intel's x86 architecture. it will turn those abilities to do HD video.. "Smartphones will be increasingly used as a personal hub where video and other content sits on the device. Dual-core smartphones versus laptops Although the underlying architecture of mobile and desktop devices remains distinct . said Fogg. so the arrival of dual-core smartphones might suggest the two device types are well and truly on the road to convergence ." said Fogg. PCs and laptops. "Windows PCs will continue to adapt and evolve. and Windows will be everywhere on every kind of device without compromise.
others will continue to require more powerful hardware ." he said.keyboard and mouse and turn the erstwhile handset into a virtual laptop. "That dock combination was very interesting but it looks very much like an experiment.because it's big and heavy so you may as well carry around a netbook or a laptop.even than can be found in dual-core handsets and tablets." he added. complete with desktop-style UI. But I don't think in the short to medium term there will be any large-scale cannibalisation of laptops by smartphones.smartphones and laptops and tablets and so forth." Ovum's Dillon added that while some mobile users could technically go smartphone-only. "The weight of the dock will limit its adoption in reality . "There are certainly overlaps in the abilities of the different devices . the form factors are too different. . "The device characteristics are too different. but Forrester's Fogg is not convinced Motorola's smartphone-turned-laptop is anything more than an interesting experiment in functionality overlap.if not converging (Photo credit: Motorola) Developments such as these might suggest convergence is already happening. The Motorola Atrix laptop dock suggests laptops and smartphones are colliding .
portable media players." Convergence or not. ..." he said. I think this is not so much convergence but it is the success of the smartphone in disrupting other product categories. "We're seeing the iPhone App Store model being exported onto the Macintosh. "Whereas if someone is just primarily browsing on the web and checking their emails maybe a large smartphone or a tablet would suit them fine and they could ditch their laptop.."They are still different devices. "If you're doing a lot of typing. ebooks or even full-fat desktop operating systems such as Windows." he said. or using really processor-intensive apps like video editing and graphic design work you're still going to need the more powerful software and hardware you have in a laptop. becoming a successful product category and the tablet is doing that basically based on smartphone software and smartphone hardware.. "We're seeing the tablet market.. We're seeing innovation in smartphones rippling out into adjacent product categories. still different use cases. It depends what kind of user you are. noted Forrester's Fogg.. smartphones are certainly influencing other product categories and markets be they tablets.
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