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Wednesday, 12 March 2014 08:24

64-bit chips will dominate the mobile landscape

Written by Peter Scott



1.12 billion units by 2018

The first 64-bit mobile SoC appeared last year, in the form of Apple's extremely successful Cyclone core, used in the A7 application processor. Although 64-bit support was dismissed as a marketing gimmick in some circles, and to some extent, the floodgates have opened and we're about to see a torrent of 64-bit chips in smartphones and tablets.

Apple has them, and so does Qualcomm. MediaTek isn't far behind and neither is Nvidia. Intel has nothing but 64-bit parts on its mobile roadmaps. The first devices based on this new chips are coming soon, with Intel as a notable exception - its 64-bit parts have been around for a while.

ABI Research expects shipments of 64-bit mobile processors to exceed 182 million units this year and 20 percent of them will end up in Android devices. The rest will be divided up by Apple and Intel, which hopes to ship 40 million Bay Trail tablet parts this year. Apple should account for 100 to 120 million. ABI Research points out that many 64-bit chips announced over the past few weeks are aimed at the mid-range market rather than the high-end.

“A number of early adopters will initially use 64-bit 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. “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.”

In other words - Android is still not ready for 64-bit parts. Many industry watchers believe Android 5.x will be the first Android version with proper 64-bit support. Luckily that shouldn't take too long.

By 2018 shipments of 64-bit parts should exceed 1.12 billion units, representing 55 percent of the market. Android devices will account for about 60 percent of these shipments, while iOS and Windows devices will account for 30 and 9 percent respectively.

The latter figure is interesting, as it deals solely with Windows devices, most of which have to use x86 chips. Therefore ABI believes x86 parts will have a 10 percent share of the market by 2018. This is not very good news for Intel, let alone AMD. The share is going up, but just 10 percent divided up by Intel and AMD doesn't sound like much.

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