Do We Really Need Quad-Core Phones?
This has been something I have been thinking about since Nvidia announced Tegra 3 last year. Don't get me wrong; I do like having fast hardware wherever I can get it, and the computer I am typing on to post this is a quad-core laptop as well. What really got me thinking about the practicality of these quad-core phones is the kind of market these devices will be entering.
When I first heard that Nvidia was designing a chip that held four CPU cores inside, I was actually quite excited for it. The fact that we practically quadrupled the number of cores in ARM devices in less than two years is really astonishing when you think about it. Even the demo they used to show the increase in graphics fidelity got me really enthusiastic about what was coming. As we near the imminent launch of the quad-core phones, however, I am starting to question whether or not moving into quad-core so soon was the right thing to do. I'm sure most of you are ready to argue that having additional CPU cores never hurt anyone, or that the move to quad-core was inevitable anyway, but hear me out first.
My main concern about the arrival of these phones has a lot to do with battery life. This isn't about quad-cores being inefficient with power usage, because they can be efficient, as Intel's Sandy Bridge was able to demonstrate. Rather, this has more to do with the where companies are spending their engineering resources in. Couldn't Nvidia have spent most of its R&D cash on improving the battery life of the chip, rather than trying so hard to fit four cores into a single dye? Honestly, I would be much more impressed if Tegra 3 was a dual-core CPU with all-day battery life, rather than a quad-core with passable battery life under modest load (not even using all of its cores).
The thing is, I don't think they are caring enough for battery life and power efficiency, and when you consider that 4G will soon be the staple network of choice, battery life is going to be a serious issue for a lot of these handsets. Shouldn't we be working on making battery life longer in anticipation of 4G? Maybe Quad-core could wait later; we should be prioritizing making phones last all-day, especially once 4G factors into regular phone usage.
As for the huge leap in performance that quad-core could bring, do we really need that much performance on our phones right now? I don't recall anyone picking up a dual-core phone and complaining about how sluggish it is, and it's not like we are running Photoshop or Crysis on our mobile devices anyway. Let's not forget that we already have chips to take care of the video-related tasks. So really, why are we in such a hurry to get to quad-core, aside from the inevitable games that will be written to take advantage of them?
Maybe I'm just not the right person for these kinds of handsets. I just believe that we should be focusing on battery life when there are already upcoming technologies that are threatening to drain it severely. 'Crysis Mobile' can probably wait another day. For now, I think it's best that companies focus on keeping its devices away from the charging cable for as long as possible. What do you guys think?