Smart­phone makes sense

A smart­phone with four brains? They’re real and they’re here, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley-ni­chol­son

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

IT’S one of the most sought-af­ter smart­phone fea­tures of 2012 and it’s at the cen­tre of a mo­bile phone arms race. Phones with four brains — bet­ter known as quad-core pro­ces­sors — are fi­nally emerg­ing in Aus­tralian stores, of­fer­ing un­prece­dented power, no­tice­able speed boosts, easy multi-task­ing and the abil­ity to per­form tasks once only pos­si­ble on full-size com­put­ers.

The quad-core chips are emerg­ing in tablet com­put­ers, but it is their in­clu­sion in topend smart­phones that has the in­dus­try abuzz.

Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­perts say the speedy new fea­ture rep­re­sents the smart­phone’s ‘‘ evo­lu­tion’’ and could de­liver a host of new fea­tures to the com­put­ers in our pock­ets.

But they also warn smart­phone buy­ers should look at more than just spec­i­fi­ca­tions, as th­ese phones are only as good as their soft­ware al­lows and none fea­ture 4G in­ter­net con­nec­tions yet.

Samsung fu­elled the new trend late last week with the launch of its much-an­tic­i­pated quad-core de­vice, the Samsung Galaxy S III.

The com­pany’s new flag­ship smart­phone uses a Samsung-cre­ated 1.4GHz quad-core chip that has seen it top phone test­ing scores.

But Samsung was beaten to launch by its clos­est An­droid ri­val, HTC, that de­liv­ered a 1.5GHz quad-core chip in the HTC One X this April.

Th­ese two stand­outs will get plenty of com­pany as the year pro­gresses with LG, Huawei and ZTE all poised to re­lease quad-core phones shortly.

Tel­syte re­search direc­tor Foad Fadaghi says it is no sur­prise all in­com­ing quad­core phones are Google An­droid-based as that is where com­pe­ti­tion is most fierce.

‘‘ In­no­va­tion is more likely to oc­cur, whether it’s 3D screens or quad-core chips, in the An­droid mar­ket,’’ he says.

‘‘ As a phone maker, you have to try to stand out from the crowd with An­droid and of­ten it is a spec­i­fi­ca­tions bat­tle, whether that’s the num­ber of gi­ga­hertz, the megapix­els in the cam­era or the den­sity of the pix­els.’’

Fadaghi says phone users will ben­e­fit from this bat­tle as the power boost could de­liver bet­ter mo­bile gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, smoother multi-task­ing and may even­tu­ally see phones ‘‘ en­croach on what peo­ple can only do now on pow­er­ful com­put­ers’’.

Ovum prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst Adam Leach says the ad­di­tion is part of a new ‘‘ evo­lu­tion’’ for smart­phones that could de­liver new fea­tures and en­hance ex­ist­ing ones.

Speech recog­ni­tion, for ex­am­ple, could be pro­cessed inside a phone with quad-core power, he says.

But Leach warns just adding a new chip to a phone is not enough to en­sure a qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence. Con­sumers, he says, should care­fully con­sider a hand­set’s en­tire fea­ture list and the ex­pe­ri­ence it de­liv­ers.

‘‘ You could put eight cores in a phone but it won’t mat­ter if the soft­ware isn’t up­graded to use it,’’ he says.

Fadaghi says some smart­phones may not re­ceive the pro­cess­ing boost this year for an­other rea­son: bat­tery life.

While some quad-core chips prom­ise to be power ef­fi­cient, they can tax a smart­phone’s bat­tery. It’s why Fadaghi pre­dicts Ap­ple will not add a quad-core chip to its new iPhone this year.

‘‘ If you look at the new iPad, it’s only got a dual-core chip with a quad-core video pro­ces­sor be­cause it’s more power ef­fi­cient,’’ he says.

It’s the same rea­son phone mak­ers have yet to cre­ate a quad-core phone with 4G con­nec­tiv­ity: the two most wanted phone fea­tures are also the two most power-hun­gry. In­tel­li­gent: A model with the lat­est Samsung Galaxy S III

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