Saturday, 2 April 2011

Do We Even Need Faster Phones?

When the T-Mobile G1 launched back in 2008 with its 528MHz Qualcomm-made processor, we thought it was fast enough for our needs. I personally went a year and a half without the urge to switch phones and I’m sure there are many who are the same. I even know people still holding on to the G1 to this day and they are some of the most die-hard Android fans I know.
Times change, though. Although Android itself seems to demand less and less resources as each new major version of the operating system is launched, power users beg for more. They want more RAM, a faster processor, a better GPU and the whole nine yards. My question: when is enough enough?
Chipset vendors Qualcomm, Samsung, Texas Instruments, and NVIDIA came to market with 1GHz single-core offerings and we were blown away. Finally, there’d exist a flock of CPUs fast enough to keep up with those who find themselves doing a ton of mobile multi-tasking. Suddenly, even that hasn’t been enough for some folks lately.
All of the aforementioned vendors have come to market with dual-core offerings with NVIDIA being the only one with their technology currently inside of commercially available hardware. (The LG Optimus 2X Motorola XOOM and the ATRIX 4G, of course.) I can understand why you’d want more power in a tablet, but it seemed a bit excessive for a phone.
My feelings changed a bit when trying out devices such as the T-Mobile G2X and LG Optimus 2X, the Motorola Atrix 4G and the HTC EVO 3D however. Navigating the user interfaces on these phones was a buttery smooth experience and I immediately longed to own a device that could finally stand up to the iPhone 4 in terms of speed.
Android’s clear lack of UI responsiveness – even with 1GHz chipsets – compared to Apple’s devices bothers every Android user whether they like to admit it or not. We could wait for Google to implement system-wide hardware acceleration like iOS (something we expect to happen with the release of Ice Cream), but getting a dual-core phone is the next best choice for the foreseeable future.
And while we’re still waiting for the market to be filled with more of these powerful handsets, folks like NVIDIA are already about to ship quad-core mobile chipsets. We’re sure that these will be more tailored to tablets and netbooks starting out, but just as with dual-core there’s a possibility these could come to smartphones as well.
I’m not saying I don’t want to see devices get faster and better, but do we really need them to be? Do we see ourselves using all of that juice to its full potential or do we just want to say we have this many gigabytes of this and that many gigahertz of that? When is the industry going to get to a point where they’re happy with the advancements made in just a few short years?
Chipset optimization is already prominent in the industry as vendors look to improve their current offerings and it’ll continue to be a focal point with dual-core devices going forward, but how optimized can you really get with phones? It’s not like the PC market where you have tons of different needs from different users. Although the market is heading in a mobile-dominated market, a phone can only do so much compared to personal computers.
I know one of many benefits to dual-core technology is improved battery life due to the CPU not needing to work as hard for as long but most telecoms and manufacturers don’t use that advantage as part of their marketing campaigns. It’s usually the promise of faster speeds and batter graphics that they use to pull new customers in. That’s great for the growth of mobile gaming which Nintendo seems to be taking a harsh stance on. What else, though?
I’m personally happy with where we’re at. My 1GHz device – a Samsung EPIC 4G – was more than enough for me for a long time. My EVO 4G before that was also sufficient enough for my needs  - 3D gaming with today’s popular and most graphic-intensive titles  wasn’t even a bad experience on it and it didn’t have the most powerful GPU in the world.
I’m most likely going to move forward with a dual-core device but I don’t anticipate needing another device for a VERY long time after that. I want to know how you folks feel, though. Are some of you happy with the speed of your devices now or are you already itching for the latest and greatest to rest inside your pants pocket?

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