Android

The 64-bit Android question

Are you ready for 64-bit Android? Jack Wallen shares the information that's important to those interested in jumping on the newest bandwagon to hit the Android trail.

64-bit Android

Apple already released the 64-bit iPhone. Was it more marketing than necessity? After all, one of the biggest benefits of 64-bit chips is the ability to make use of larger quantities of RAM — over 4 GB, in fact. But what smartphone has over 4 GB of RAM? The applications that benefit the most from 64-bit processors are:

  • Games
  • Fingerprint scanning
  • Facial recognition
  • Speech interaction

That is where the 64-bit switch gets flipped for more users. Or at least it should. Why? The more we depend on our smartphones, the more we depend on smartphone security and ease of use. Both speech interaction and facial/fingerprint recognition will become crucial to future iterations of mobile devices. That's where 64-bit can really shine.

But as the smartphone stands (on both camps), do 64-bit chips really matter (when they aren't sold with 64-bit-worthy amounts of memory)? There are other considerations:

  • Will battery life see significant improvement?
  • Do we, as of yet, have applications ready to take advantage of 64-bit chips?
  • Will 32-bit apps perform well on the 64-bit chips?

It's those last two questions that really have me concerned. First and foremost, when the Android 64-bit becomes available, will there be apps ready to take advantage of this? I'm certain all Google apps will shine. They have to. If Google can't have their stable of apps ready for 64-bit out of the box, the tech will fail... miserably. I have every confidence that all of the Google-branded apps will be ready to rock when the first 64-bit Android phone is launched.

But what about everyone else? How will the other millions of apps in the Google Play Store fair? When Apple first released their 64-bit iPhone, they readily admitted the 32-bit apps wouldn't fare nearly as well as they did on their native 32-bit hardware. For the past decade, mobile technology has relied on the 32-bit processor. Servers and desktops made the jump early on — but think about the enormous number of 32-bit mobile devices that have flooded the market. Those devices will not run 64-bit apps. When the 64-bit devices come to market, if developers don't hitch a ride on the bandwagon, anyone purchasing a 64-bit Android — thinking they are going to see unheard of performance levels — will be seriously disappointed.

The good news? The ART runtime is already optimized to speak the 64-bit language. And Android L? You can bet it will be ready for 64-bit prime time. Ultimately, however, the question arises about whether or not you should be an early adopter. The answer to that question depends. If you're budget minded, you'll want to skip out on the early 64-bit releases. The HTC Desire 510 will be a low-end 64-bit device (powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor) that will likely see little, if any, performance over high-end 32-bit devices. It's not until you reach the Snapdragon 810-level chips that you'll see performance blow the roof. My guess is that this won't appear until the likes of the LG G4 arrives (probably May 2015). Android tablets powered by Nvidia's Tegra K1 dual-core 64-bit chip should also see some amazing speeds. These tablets should arrive before the end of 2014.

So, the best bet for users who really want to gain the most out of 64-bit architecture on Android is to wait for the first high-end devices to roll out. At that level, the performance should best just about anything available.

Are you ready for 64-bit Android? Will you drop your current device for the first 64-bit hardware when it arrives, or will you wait for something like the LG G4? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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