It was no surprise that Apple was the first to offer a smartphone, the iPhone 5S, with a 64-bit processor.  The move to 32-bit to 64-bit requires a tight collaboration between the hardware manufacturers (Samsung, LG, HTC, Motorola, Sony) and the people who write the Android operating system (Google).  Since Apple does both the hardware and the software, it seems to have been an easy and seamless transition.  For Android however, it will be quite the overhaul.  So in this next 3-part article, we'll discuss the need of a 64-bit processor and the likelihood it will be announced for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Is a 64-Bit Processor Faster Than a 32-Bit Processor?

How much faster is a 64-bit processor?  Not by a lot, if any.  A 64-bit processor handles twice the bits of data per cycle and has twice the amount of general purpose registers, however, not all instructions require 64 bits of data to be processed or are optimized for 64-bit processing.  The catch is, 64-bit processors always have to process twice the amount of data per cycle.  So in layman’s terms, sometimes it will be faster than a 32-bit processor for some apps, and it will be slower for others.  In terms of raw performance gains, the speed improvements are negligible.

The Real Benefits of a 64-Bit Processor: More RAM Support

The more RAM a smartphone has, the more it can keep in memory for easy app switching.  When the RAM is full, the OS will kill an app to free up some memory.  When an app is killed and is switched back to it, it will have to reload the app from storage.  Having more RAM would keep more apps in memory so that less apps would have to be killed then reloaded.  It is a time and battery consuming process.

A 64-bit processor has one major performance advantage.  The ability to address more than 4GB of RAM.  Usually, on a 32-bit operating system, not all of 4GB of RAM will be addressable.  It will be limited access to roughly 3GB of memory.

This means that for 64-bit processors to make sense at all, it needs to come paired with 4 or more gigabytes of RAM.  So does that mean that the 64-bit processor on the iPhone 5S offers little to no benefit for being a 64-bit processor?  That is correct.  For the iPhone 5S or any iPhone for the next few years, that will be the case.  Considering that iPhones have yet to come out with more than 1GB of RAM, it will be many years before any future iPhone model will be truly spreading it’s wings.

[Continue to part 2]

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