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Saturday, 2 April 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Android Gingerbread is changing its name to, eh, Android Gingerbread!

Android 2.3 is called Gingerbread and Android 2.4 is called, well, Gingerbread. Not following, well you’re not the only one. Google released Android 2.3 in December 2010 and it’s now March 2011, at time of writing, and how many new devices do you think run Android 2.3? Well it’s 2.5% that’s how much Android 2.3 accounts for which is month on month stagnant. Now Android 2.2 is climbing it currently accounts for 63.9%.[1] The reality, Gingerbread was dual-cored out! Dual core Honeycomb hardware can’t run on Single Core software. This is the problem with dual core hardware and single core software – the prevalence of Wi-Fi and high-end apps means tasks which were once the domain of Personal Computers are now used on Smartphones – the original Gingerbread could not run dual-core processors so Google had to quickly repair that by releasing Gingerbread mark two. That’s why 2.4 is called Gingerbread and not, well we need to skip H because of Honeycomb, so that’s Ice Cream. The reality is that, as NVIDIA argues, flash-based content or High Definition movies or music streaming takes a lot of juice out of microprocessors so the introduction of dual core technologies will make smartphones function quicker and more importantly a lot more stable. 

What’s dual core technology and what will it bring to smartphones in 2011?  Got a HTC Wildfire or a LG Optimus? Ever ran a browser, music player and Angry Birds concurrently? Do you see major performance degradation? It’s because the architecture wasn’t designed to handle this ‘tidal wave’ of processes.[2] Increasing the size of the processor from say 600Mhz to 800Mhz does increase performance but also increases the voltage which means batteries will be sucked dry. This is why devices like HTC Desire HD or the Samsung Galaxy S have lower battery life – their infrastructure, on a semiconductor level, wasn’t engineered to handle such intensive processes. Also the cooling of the device along with battery depletion sees the form-factor increase this is problematic. So this is why Dual Core is important.

The NVIDIA Tegra 2 is two ARM Cortex A9 microprocessors which handle the main system processes with added microprocessors for graphics, audio etc. and this collective of processors work in a homogenous form-factor which require fewer transistors and delivers higher performance whilst consuming less battery power. Meaning if you’re playing Angry Birds, whilst listening to music with social networking apps, like Seesmic, running in the background added to the bloatware UI and your anti-virus software the system would probably feel a bit, well, the technical term is ‘sluggish’. 

Single Core processors have to handle Java, Flash, Active X or embedded video and other rich media content along with system processes in a combined fashion. Now a Dual Core processor has a processor which looks after the system processes, a processor which looks after the media rich content, a processor for the audio. You get it… It means the architecture works in synergy and the result is improved performance and battery life.

NVIDIA aren’t the only players in 2011 releasing the next wave of microprocessors for Smartphones. They include the Motorola Atrix, Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 and the Intel Moorestown. The new phones which will incorporate Dual Core are expected in 2011. They include the LG Optimus 2x, Motorola Atrix 4G and Droid Bionic and Samsung Galaxy Pro. These phones will incorporate both Dual Core technology and, more tellingly Android 2.2. Why would the latest smartphones from the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturers release flagship devices running an older Android OS over the new Gingerbread variant. 

Android 2.4 when is it due? Well the word is April 2011. It’s why Android 2.3 hasn’t been released by carriers and Google. They’re waiting for Android 2.4 – don’t worry it’s still Gingerbread – which will change the architecture-to-software relationship for smartphones from 2011 onwards. What this means is that we have reached the end of the Smartphone era and now we are entering the Superphone era! This is not an exaggeration it’s a reality. This year will see phones with processor speeds reaching 1.2Ghz to 1.5Ghz yet with the smaller form factor and increased power and graphic capabilities – Win Win? – well only time will tell if this will usher in a new era in Android functionality. This is why Android, the new dual-core processors and the new raft of phones will create a period of change within the Android community.

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