New mobile chips are a big deal and 64-bit chips are an even bigger deal. To wit, Qualcomm has just announced the future availability of 64-bit eight-core Snapdragon chips, called the 600 series, with integrated LTE network handling. In short, these are some pretty beefy mobile processors that may be useless until Google launches its own 64-bit version of Android.
You’ll recall that when Apple went 64-bit with the A7 last October a Qualcomm marketing exec called it a gimmick. Now, it seems, the internal scuttlebutt is that the A7 hit the chipmaker “in the gut” and that no one there was ready.
Luckily, they’re ready now. Peformance-wise this chip is supposedly on par or faster than Apple’s. The 601 is pin compatible with the slower Snapdragon 401 which means manufacturers can swap it out with ease without much engineering. While some wags would call 8-core mobile chips dumb, it’s clear that Qualcomm is interested in playing the speeds and feeds game along with their customers.
The cores are ARMv8 compatible which means they are backwards-compatible with 32-bit applications. This is an important consideration since there is very little that runs at 64 bits in the non-iOS ecosystem.
The chip will be available in the third quarter and should start shipping next year. In addition to the 1.5Ghz speed, the 600 series will also feature Qualcomm’s Adreno 405 GPU, which brings DirectX 11.2 and Open GL ES3.0 to the handheld.
What does this mean for the average consumer? Not much… yet. 64-bit Android is still MIA, although Intel and presumably Google are working on possible implementations. It’s obvious that this is a reactive move by Qualcomm to offer the “latest and greatest” in its mobile portfolio and I suspect we can see an uptake of the platform speed-up if and when Google announces its 64-bit architecture. Until then, the words “eight cores” and “1.5GHz” can make for some great box copy for handset OEMs.