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What's next for mobile processing power Beyond quad-core:

With quad-core chips quickly losing their novelty, the industry will start pushing benefits like better graphics and power efficiency

Remember when a quad-core processor was the ultimate indicator of a super-smartphone? Well its 15 minutes are almost up.

Just as the current run of super-smartphones are destined for the bargain bin in a few months, so too will the novelty and obsession with the number of cores powering a phone begin to fade. Sure, smartphones with the latest quad-core chips still rule now, but companies are already preparing to change the conversation.

In its place, expect chip companies, handset manufacturers, and wireless carriers to shift their marketing away from an emphasis cores and more toward tangible benefits such as a smoother experience, bigger displays with higher-resolution graphics, and better battery life.

"That's the end game for a lot of these semiconductor companies: connect great experiences and long battery life with their chip," said Francis Sideco, an analyst at IHS.

The mobile industry has been making steady progress on the brains found in smartphones. It wasn't that long ago that a 1-gigahertz processor was the high benchmark for a mobile device. Then came the advent of dual-core processors, and this year brought quad-core chips to the mainstream.

The progression made for an easy marketing message to consumers and specification geeks: if two cores are better than one, four has got to be even better. Of course, the truth isn't really that simple, but that doesn't stop everyone in the mobile devices industry, right down to the sales staff, from repeating it as gospel.

The obsession with mobile processors has been a boon to the chip makers, giving added visibility to companies such as Qualcomm and Nvidia. These aren't exactly household names, but they are brands that mean something to gadget enthusiasts, and are often associated with quality. It's no wonder companies such as Qualcomm have spent millions of dollars marketing the Snapdragon processor brand, similar to Intel's own "Intel Inside" campaign for PCs.

But the chip industry is getting to the point where more cores will result in diminishing returns, with most companies agreeing that four will be the limit for a while. That's because few applications and tasks on the phone (or computer) can take advantage of multiple cores and actually get a benefit.

"Quad-core CPUs will have become the standard for mobile devices," said Matt Wuebbling, director of Nvidia's Tegra marketing. "While some may try to move beyond quad-core, we don't believe there will be a perceptible user benefit."

So don't hold your breath for a five or six-core smartphone.
Battery life a focus
Traditionally, more cores has meant a larger drain on battery life. That has necessitated the creation of larger smartphones with bigger batteries.

In moving beyond cores, the extension of a battery life will be a priority for these companies. Nvidia already talks about its fifth "stealth" core that helps to save battery life, but that's just the beginning.

Future Snapdragon chips will have not only the central CPU cores, but also specialized "blocks" that reduce the strain on the main cores and handle specific tasks such as managing the camera lens or controlling the sensors

Better, bolder graphics
Much like the PC industry got off its push to sell quad-core computers to focus on other features like graphics, the mobile industry should start to hear more noise about improved displays, higher resolutions, and console game-like graphics.

Emotional connection
The odds are high that the chip companies will succeed in changing the conversation. Tech trends change rapidly, and today's dominant player can be tomorrow's also-ran. Qualcomm, for instance, is the leader in the industry by far with its Snapdragon line of processors, but challengers such as Nvidia have managed to win a place in several high-profile mobile devices.

Intel, which is completely dominant in the PC chip business, can't be dismissed as an eventual competitor in the mobile market. Its Atom processor is already in a variant of the Motorola Razr M, but it has yet to make inroads in mobile devices found in the U.S. market.

source: news.cnet
What's next for mobile processing power Beyond quad-core:  What's next for mobile processing power Beyond quad-core: Reviewed by Sriram PV on 16:56:00 Rating: 5

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