I don’t buy the hype surrounding 64-bit processing without putting this into context. Yes, it’s cool to have a sticker on the back of your handset that says “64-bit” and I’m sure there’s a certain smugness to know that your device processor could handle more than 4 GB of memory, but the simple fact of the matter is that mobile devices do not need so much memory. Why not? Because applications do not need so much memory, that’s why. Instead, what our modern devices need is quicker processors so that they can complete whatever task our applications have given them and then return to idle, because an idle processor uses almost no energy and this is good for battery life. Our super high resolution screens make high demands on memory and having a chipset that can handle significant amounts of data very quickly is also useful, too; having a wider data bus for quicker memory access is handy. Another major advantage to the new generation of 64-bit processors is that they have a streamlined, more efficient architecture, which goes back to using less battery.
At the end of 2014, then, we are finally seeing the first 64-bit Android devices launching. This doesn’t mean that our 32-bit powered older handsets are suddenly obsolete; by the time the 32-bit Nexus 6 is two years old, I expect most if not all devices will have 64-bit processors but the Nexus 6 will still be relevant and (hopefully!) will still be running a current version of Android. But! What have the manufacturers released for us as we enter 2015, if we want something with a 64-bit processor? I’ll start off with a couple of Samsung devices, the Samsung Galaxy Mega 2 being the first. This device has been out since September and is based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, which is Qualcomm’s mid-range 64-bit replacement for the hugely (and deservedly so) Snapdragon 400. The Mega 2 has a 6.0-inch, 720p display, 1.5 GB of RAM and a 2,800 mAh battery, running Android 4.4 KitKat. The second Samsung device is the Note 4, but only in some markets. That’s because where the Note 4 comes with the Samsung Exynos 7 Octa, a 64-bit processor built on a 20nm process (this means that the physical size of the processor is very small and is advantageous for power consumption).
HTC sells three 64-bit handsets, the Desire 510, Desire 620 and Desire 820. The Desire 510 and 820 are based around Qualcomm processors, the 410 and 615 respectively, and are already available. The Desire 620 will use an octa core MediaTek processor and is being prepared for a launch in Asia. Next, I’d like to write about the Lenovo Vibe Z2, a metal-built device based around a 5.5-inch, 720p resolution display and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor. The Vibe Z2 is joined by its stablemate, the Lenovo Sisley S90, which looks very much like an iPhone but dispenses with the Apple processor and uses a 64-bit Snapdragon 410 processor.
There are a number of other Chinese handsets that are about to launch with a 64-bit processor and the first is the Oppo R5, which is an incredibly thin (4.85mm) handset based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, the same as is found in the HTC Desire 820. The Snapdragon 615 uses the big.LITTLE approach to combine the two quad-core processors; a low power quad unit is used most of the time but when the device has more to do, the higher powered quad-core is put into use. These big.LITTLE processors are designed to maximize both performance and battery life; Samsung have used big.LITTLE processors for over a generation now whereas Qualcomm have just started to implement them. The R5 is joined by the Oppo 1105, which uses the Snapdragon 410 processor and may be considered the R5’s somewhat chunkier cousin.
There are two Huawei handsets that join the 64-bit club; the Honor 4X, which uses the Snapdragon 410 processor and is based around a 5.5-inch, 720p resolution screen. There’s also the Ascend Y550 4G, which again uses the Snapdragon 410 processor. And the final device to mention is the Elephone P6000, which is based around a quad-core, 64-bit MediaTek MT6732 processor and a 720p display screen.
Putting this together, there is one pattern that emerges: Qualcomm Snapdragon. The Nvidia Tegra K1, as used in the HTC Nexus 9, doesn’t get a look in to any of these smartphones. MediaTek’s 64-bit processors, Samsung’s Exynos 7 get a mention, but it’s the Snapdragon 615 and especially the 410 that have currently the lions’ share of the 64-bit market. Given the success of the Snapdragon 400 – which has appeared in all manner of devices such as the Moto G, HTC One Mini and numerous tablets – this is unsurprising. As for my current choice of handset, it’s the HTC One M8; by the time I am ready to replace this, I expect it’ll be with a 64-bit processor as it’ll be early 2016. What do our readers think? Are you planning on swapping your 32-bit device for a 64-bit device in the next few months or have you already made the swap?