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The 64-Bit Mobile Processor Race Is On

Tablet and smart phone processors will increasingly shift toward 64-bit architectures, though it will be a few years before these chips power the majority of devices.

The shift is being driven, at least in part, by Apple's rollout of its 64-bit A7 processor, according to market research firm ABI Research.

According to a new report released this week by ABI, "Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm and Nvidia all announced their first 64-bit mobile processors at Mobile World Congress this year but 64-bit-compliant smartphones are unlikely to hit the market before the release of the next Android update, expected in the second half of the year. By the end of 2014, ABI Research expects shipments of 64-bit mobile processors to exceed 182 million, of which only 20 percent will power Android devices."

While the benefits of 64-bit processing in smart phones and tablets may be debatable at present, in the longer term, the architecture will allow applications to address greater amounts of memory and reap other benefits (including some limited performance benefits), opening the way for more memory-intensive applications (read: serious applications).

In the short term, though, 64-bit is likely to be used "as a catchy marketing strategy to easily communicate differentiation using 'more-is-better' adage previously used for promoting performance in the multi-core processor race," said Malik Saadi, practice director at ABI Research, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "This is not to say that 64-bit processing will not add any significant value to the Android sphere but the benefits of this technology will become apparent only when its implementation over Android matures."

By 2018, according to ABI, there will be more than 1.12 billion smart phones and tablets shipping with 64-bit cores — 55 percent of all mobile devices.

"Android devices will be leading consumption of these chips with 60 percent market share, followed by Apple's iOS with 30 percent and Microsoft Windows in the third position with less than 9 percent market share," according to ABI.

ABI added that while ARM will remain dominant, by 2018, Intel will have captured 10 percent of the 64-bit mobile processing market.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).