James Bruce, an executive at ARM, which develops and licenses processors for almost all mobile devices in the world, explains that phone hardware is much more battery-efficient today than it was when phones lasted longer, but "the difference between a Nokia [feature phone] and a smartphone today is that there just wasn't enough there for people to keep using their phones all day."
Dual Cores Will Help
The dual-core processors (made by ARM) that have shown up in a few 2011 smartphones (auch as the HTC Droid Bionic and the Motorola Atrix 4G) may offer some hope. According to Bruce, "dual-core" phones can delegate simple tasks to one core, while directing more-complex (and more-power-hungry) tasks to the other core. As Bruce explains, if the phone is doing only simple tasks--such as sending text messages or running the calculator--on one core, the other core can power down, thereby saving battery life.
The idea that more cores could be the secret to using less battery power may seem a little counterintuitive, but ARM isn't the only company trying to solve the problem of too-short battery life in that way.
At the beginning of May, a company called Adapteva announced their new "Epiphany Microprocessor," which they hope to place in smartphones and tablets alongside ARM dual-core processors.
Adapteva's new processor can accommodate up to 64 cores on a smartphone chip. While planting a 64-core chip in a smartphone sounds like the opposite of a power-saving measure, Andreas Olofsson, CEO and founder of the company, says that most smartphones today run a scaled-down, power-hungry version of a desktop processor to connect to the Internet, run games, and play music.
The Epiphany processor, on the other hand, is a chip optimized for performing specific parts of general commands in tandem with the phone's CPU (which does all of the phone's general processing). The processor can streamline the offline duties of the phone to make gesture and facial recognition faster, for example. Olofsson says that this design could "put the power of a laptop in a smartphone today."
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