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TWO can play this 64-bit mobile game, says Samsung, crossly

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Samsung's next smartphone will feature a 64-bit processor, according to co-chief executive Shin Jong-kyun: he's keen to prove it's not only Apple who can stuff more register bits into a chip.

Apple's latest flagship iThing, the iPhone 5S, features a 64-bit ARMv8 processor labelled the A7. The performance boost may not be apparent, but the new package gives Cupertino bragging rights and that's not something Samsung is willing to stand for - certainly not after all the legal wrangling between Apple and Sammy.

"Not in the shortest time," the executive explained to the Korea Times, "but yes, our next smartphone will have 64-bit processing functionality."

Computer-science students will know it's not the width of one's chip registers that matters but what one does with them. Apple at least has control over iOS and its suite of utility apps, which have been recompiled as 64-bit binaries, but Samsung is dependent on Google to push Android along and the world's biggest advertising agency has shown no inclination to go that way.

Android does, in theory, come under the auspices of the Open Handset Alliance, of which Samsung is a member. (Few bother to maintain the fiction that the operating system belongs to anyone but Google.)

A 32-bit Android will run on a 64-bit ARM processor, but without taking advantage of larger CPU registers and associated instructions, nor the ability to address virtual memory beyond 4GB (and physical memory beyond a ridiculous 1TB), there'd be little point beyond the associated bragging rights.

Much more interesting, in architecture terms, is the M7 coprocessor Apple has added to supplement its 64-bit system-on-chip A7. The M7 is an always-on appendage constantly monitoring attitude and acceleration, comparable to the "X8 Computing System" that Motorola has bunged in its Moto X handset to pop up alerts and listen for voice commands without bothering the main processor.

This kind of innovation is more interesting than measuring clock speeds or counting bits, but it's also more complicated and hard to compare - which is better, the M7 or the X8? It's impossible to say, but everyone knows that 64 bits is better than 32 bits, probably twice as good! (Or not.)

The real winner in this competition is Brit chip core designer ARM, which came up with the processor blueprints used in Apple's 64-bit wonder. ARM shares went up ten per cent on the announcement from Cupertino, and will surely jump again when ARM-friendly Samsung follows suit. ®

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