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ARM A9  (Source: CNET News)
A9 can go all the way up to quad-core for smartphones

The smartphone world is filled with handsets running ARM processors. Many of the most popular smartphones around including the iPhone 3G S and the new Palm Pre run ARM-based processors. A new ARM processor architecture is due to hit next year that will greatly increase the performance that smartphones offer.

The new processor is the ARM Cortex-A9. The current Cortex-A8 used on devices like the Palm Pre and is a single-core processor. The A9 set to debut early in 2010 is a dual-core processor. ARM says that while the new A9 architecture is a dual-core chip, it will still offer users increased battery life in daily usage compared to current single-core ARM processors.

The reason the processor can offer significantly higher performance and still give better battery life is due to the construction of the new A9. The A9 will be built using a 45nm process whereas the current A8 uses a 65nm process.

ARM wireless segment manager James Bruce told CNET News, "You'll definitely see handsets shipping with a dual-core A9 in 2010." He continues saying, "the A8 is just a single core while the A9 will be dual-core, all the way up to quad-core to give smartphones an even bigger performance boost."

The new A9 processor operates inside the 300-milliwatt power envelope that is the golden rule in the mobile phone industry. By comparison, the wildly popular Intel Atom processor needs 2,000 milliwatts, but future Atom versions codenamed Moorestown will bring Atom power levels to the realm of smartphone usability.

Other than performance improvements of compared to that of the A8, the A9 will also allow smartphones to support 1080p video along with HD video recording and playback.

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RE: multicore
By psychobriggsy on 6/16/2009 5:27:03 PM , Rating: 3
The iPhone OS, being built upon Mac OS X, fully supports multitasking - indeed the jailbreaked iPhones have full multitasking capability. However Apple have restricted multitasking on the iPhone, and instead forced applications to have incredibly quick state-saving and quit behaviour, and an appearance of loading instantly. This is good for all those applications that you don't need running in the background, but sucks for, e.g., streaming audio.

Of course the iPhone OS allows the iPod software to multitask, as well as the background notification handler, and the springboard launcher, and about a dozen other services. Quite why Apple didn't let people write lightweight background services is beyond me, it strikes me as rather dictatorial control over their platform.

Anyway, a dual-core A9 next year with 512MB RAM will be more powerful than some early PowerMacs with dual-G3s/G4s. No reason to not enable multitasking then, IMO.

RE: multicore
By eddieroolz on 6/16/2009 6:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
Well it's Apple. They'll charge you $20 to unlock the multitasking capability of your phone instead of giving it to you outright.

RE: multicore
By psonice on 6/17/2009 6:55:30 AM , Rating: 2
There are quality issues to consider with background services.

If an app leaks memory or hangs, it crashes or you force quit the thing and there's not much issue. If a background service starts leaking memory everything else gets affected and you're left wondering why and rebooting the phone every few hours. If it hangs in a way that leaves it taking 100% cpu time, if you're lucky you'll notice that everything is running slow and reboot the phone. If not, you'll be out of battery in an hour or so. Not good!

Another thing to consider: the phone has limited memory. A lot of apps use pretty much all of the memory available, especially games. If you're running half a dozen apps, you're not going to have the memory left to even launch those apps. Also, if you're running something that uses a fair bit of CPU, then launch a game, the speed is going to be poor. None of this is adding up to a good user experience..

I guess apple will want solid ways of dealing with these cases before allowing any kind of user multitasking. The pre presumably has ways of dealing with it, but then the pre has no real sdk and no real apps so far, just advanced web apps. It'll be interesting to see what the pre is like when they start allowing native apps.

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