Android flagship phones set for a speed boost in 2021

Android phone chips have been behind Apple iPhone processors for years when compared for speed tests. But Arm, a chip company whose technology is used by both mobile camps, has a chip design project called X1 that shall be giving Android a significant speed boost. Recently, Arm unveiled its new Cortex-A78 processor design. The general manager of the product line, Paul Williamson said that it should be providing a 20% speed boost compared with Arm’s current A77. Chips based on the more customized Cortex-X1-based designs get another boost of up to 22% more than regular A78 designs. The power boost should help top-end Android phones and improve laptops that use Arm-family chips. 

An iPhone 11 Pro earns a Geekbench speed score of 1,328, much above the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra at 840. Even though it had arrived more than two years earlier, the iPhone X with a score of 918, is faster than the Samsung flagship phone. “The speed boost over the A78 demands a larger chip size that’s more expensive to manufacture, a design that consumes more power, or both, depending on chipmakers’ priorities”, Williamson said. In addition, he said, “The 22% speed boost comes through modifications like new data pathways that permit more high-speed cache memory so chips get quicker access to data, Williamson said. In addition to the general speed boost, X1 can double AI performance”.

Arm doesn’t manufacture chips on its own but instead, it licenses designs to processor makers like Qualcomm, Samsung and Huawei. It also licenses the Arm chip instruction set to companies like Apple that design their own chips. Arm chip instruction set is the set of commands that software uses to tell the chip what to do. Arm is helping chipmakers with X1 to customize designs so they can get better performance. Arm wouldn’t yet say who’s gone through the X1 licensing and customization program but industry observers have ideas. “I can see Qualcomm and Samsung interested in this. Maybe Huawei,” said Moor Insights and Strategy analyst, Patrick Moorhead. “Smartphone vendors are looking for areas of growth, and both Samsung and Huawei are stepping it up.”

David Kanter is a chip expert at the Real-World Technologies research firm. He said, “There is no such thing as fast enough“. More performance lets phone makers offer features like advanced image processing for better photos. Other features are making scrolling smoother, launching apps faster and helping in paving the way for newer technologies like augmented reality.

There is Arm’s A78 for chipmakers who are happy with a more mainstream design. Along with the 20% performance boost for ordinary processor tasks, there’s a 25% boost in graphics speed and 25% boost in running artificial intelligence jobs like recognizing faces in video or translating speech into text.

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