According to a product marketing manager for Sony Mobile, the company may not go quad-core until 2013. According to Stephen Sneeden, “We’re going to join quad-core when we feel that the performance matches the battery efficiency. Because right now we don’t feel that is there. What we are going to be doing in the second-half of the year is moving to the Cortex A15 architecture, which we feel outperforms the current quad-core architecture.”
When he refers to Cortex A15, he means ARM’s new battery-efficient architecture that should be debuting later this year. Most current ARM-based chips were designed using the Cortex A9 template, usually with a larger 40-45nm manufacturing process. Many of the improvements seen in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 chips were taken from Cortex A15, though Krait itself was designed independently from ARM. Performance improvements for A15-based chips are expected to be upwards of 40% at the same speeds.
Sony Mobile’s upcoming Xperia S flagship incorporates the aging Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 chipset, which is based on Cortex A9. Many manufacturers, including HTC, are expected to continue on the dual-core path until both software, battery efficiency and thermal dissipation have been improved enough for quad-core chips to be viable in smartphones. While Tegra 3 is a quad-core solution, it too is based on Cortex A9 and its battery life in smartphones remains to be evaluated.
Sneeden continued, “You’ll see in 2013, as we’re evaluating the quad-core performance where it makes sense, where you’re not suffering in quality and the performance truly is there, and there really is something that demanding applications need.” Sony Ericsson maintained single-core processors with its latest Xperia line, including the arc, ray and Play, when Samsung, HTC and LG were pushing dual-core. While it’s true that until recently Android didn’t take full advantage of multi-core chips, they are vital to the hardware-accelerated smoothness of Ice Cream Sandwich and will continue to essential as mobile games advance in complexity.