iPhone 5S 64-bit Processor Takes Mobile Computing to New Level

The new iPhone 5S will be up to twice as fast as the iPhone 5, thanks to its 64-bit architecture. While a 64-bit processor is common on desktop computers, the iPhone 5S is the first phone in the world to have this architecture. Apple demoed Infinity Blade III to show what this powerful chip can do, from loading complex environments nearly instantly to supporting graphics with four times as much detail. 

Beyond gaming, new features such as the fingerprint sensor and the extraordinary camera (with its improved optics and other features) require more horsepower. Everything will simply work faster, according to a post on ReadWrite, from running apps to downloading videos. The more powerful chip also allows for more robust content-creation apps, such that mobile devices can continue to encroach on the domain of desktop computers.

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But according to an interesting article on CNET, Apple's main goal with the chip is to pave the way to the future. A 32-bit chip can only address a maximum of 4GB of memory, whereas a 64-bit chip can address up to 16 "exabytes" according to ExtremeTech, with an exabyte being 1 billion gigabytes. The article says that 64-bit apps typically use more memory, so eventually a 64-bit architecture will be necessary. Currently all smartphones only come with a 1 or 2 GB memory, except for the Samsung Galaxy Note, which has 3GB. Phones aren't yet bumping up against the limited memory, buy it likely won't be long before the new 64-bit apps need more than 4GB. Apple is focused on creating a platform for years to come and is the first phone maker to get to this level.

In addition, a Macworld article says Apple is also looking ahead to when this same chip could be used to power all their mobile devices—phones, tablets, and laptops. If a developer can develop a single application that will work on a range of devices, this will be a huge motivation for them to develop for the platform.

Of course, to take advantage of the greater power, apps need to be rewritten. During Tuesday's announcement, Apple said they've engineered iOS 7 to take advantage of this new architecture, and have re-engineered all the built-in apps. Plus, they've provided tools to developers that make it possible to convert a current 32-bit app in a couple hours. And for new apps, Apple's tools let developers create 32- and 64-bit versions of the app simultaneously.

It appears, therefore, that Apple is far ahead in terms of smartphone architecture, and that, as usual, the other phone makers will be playing catch up. This is typical Apple, always thinking long term and always working to improve their technology.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.