It's no coincidence that a 64-bit Exynos chip and an ARM-64 supporting KitKat is nearing a public reveal.
Looks like we may be getting ready to see a 64-bit Android phone from Samsung in the near future. A number of reports surround this conclusion, starting with Samsung's own admission that it plans to produce a 64-bit chip. The news arrived immediately after Apple introduced its iPhone 5S packing a 64-bit A7 chip, which coincidentally was manufactured using Samsung's 28 nm high-k metal gate technology.
Now sources in Korea have narrowed down Samsung's 64-bit plan, reporting that the next-generation SoC will be an Exynos Octa eight-core chip using four high-performance Cortex-A57 cores and four energy-efficient Cortex-A53 cores. These cores will be able to operate independently, or in big.LITTLE processing configurations.
Samsung presumably intends to release this chip with full support for big.LITTLE MP, allowing the SoC to use all eight cores simultaneously rather than the configuration used in the current two chips where only one set of four are used at a time. The company plans to address this limitation in the near future with a software patch, sending software threads with high priority or high computational intensity to the 'big' Cortex-A15 cores while threads with less priority or are less computationally intensive can be performed by the 'LITTLE' Cortex-A7 cores.
Recent reports have suggested that the upcoming chocolaty build of Android 4.4 "KitKat" will introduce 64-bit support. To some degree, Android has always had baked-in 64-bit support thanks to its Linux roots. Even Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin recently admitted that 64-bit support has been a part of the platform for a long time. But in the latest "Who Writes Linux" report, the Linux Foundation states that some of the 2012-2013 Linux kernel development highlights include support for 64-bit ARM architecture.
Obviously moving into the 64-bit arena is a big deal. This architecture allows for greater memory capacities in devices used in both the consumer and enterprise markets, the latter of which ARM is targeting with its ARMv8 architecture. The Enterprise sector, where performance, cost and capacity are key, is the one market Intel still dominates, but that could soon change.
As seen with the new iPhone 5S, Apple chose not to take advantage of the new A64 memory capacity allowance, shipping the device with a mere 1 GB of LPDDR3 memory. The company may eventually cram 2 GB into the iPhone 6 and perhaps 4 GB into the iPhone 6S. Meanwhile, Samsung is already shoving 3 GB memory sticks into phones, and it's only a matter of time before that number doubles.
Thus, for Apple, the move to A64 brought performance gains to the new phone thanks to an increase in the number of general purpose registers, double the number of FP/NEON registers (not to mention larger 128-bit registers for improved Single Instruction Multiple Data performance), and new cryptographic instructions for hardware acceleration. This architecture also enables that fancy thumb scanner that even cats can use.
For Android devices, having a 64-bit chip should bring increased performance to Google's platform. Granted Apple has a limited hardware set and can fine-tune iOS to perform at blazing speeds. Comparisons between iOS and Android can sometimes be downright embarrassing in everyday applications like navigating through screens or simply opening an app.
Regardless, signs point to an upcoming 64-bit Samsung smartphone in the very near future. The company may not have snagged the "world's first" title, it's not going to let Apple stay in the spotlight for very long either.