If Qualcomm seemed rather taken by surprise by Apple’s use of a 64-bit chip in a smartphone, first dismissing it as a gimmick and then hastily backtracking and announcing it would be making 64-bit smartphone chips itself, that’s because it was, says Dan Lyons in a nicely-written piece on HubSpot. The piece includes what has to be a strong contender for tech quote of the year:

The 64-bit Apple chip hit us in the gut,” says the Qualcomm employee. “Not just us, but everyone, really. We were slack-jawed, and stunned, and unprepared. It’s not that big a performance difference right now, since most current software won’t benefit. But in Spinal Tap terms it’s like, 32 more, and now everyone wants it.”

The reference is to a scene in the 1984 mockumentary This is Spinal Tap where the band proudly shows an amp that goes all the way up to 11, explaining that “it’s one louder.” What Qualcomm missed was that while 64-bit smartphone chips may be of limited immediate value, the A7 made for a compelling marketing sell, leaving other companies scrabbling to catch up.

Qualcomm has just created a 64-bit version of its Snapdragon SOC and expects to see it appearing in Android phones sometime in the second half of next year.

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18 Responses to “Qualcomm employee said Apple’s 64-bit A7 chip was Spinal Tap moment”

  1. With a new Android device coming out once or twice a month, anyone wanting a 64 bit chip already owns a note, galaxy, one, or nexus. So they will have to wait a year before most of them can afford it.

  2. What I don’t understand is why Apple chooses to include unnecessary hardware that’s ahead of its time like the 64-bit A7 chip in the iPhone yet it leaves out 802.11ac compatibility with it’s top of the line Retina MacBook Pro.Not to mention they also decided that I no longer need an ethernet port? I’m lucky enough to have access to very reasonably priced gigabit fiber optic internet in my area(EPB fiber optics in Chattanooga,TN) but in order to take advantage of those speeds I have to use a thunderbolt to ethernet adapter and be actually plug in the cable.

    • Laughing_Boy48 says:

      How could you possibly understand the genius of Apple because it’s so far ahead of its time? You probably said the same thing when Apple got rid of floppy drives and you’re still upset about that. I hope you saved all those old floppies just in case they come back into widespread use.

    • Tallest Skil says:

      >>unnecessary

      You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. That’s why you don’t understand.

      >>leaves out 802.11ac

      So basically you’ve never even seen the computer. http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/specs-retina/ Shut up.

      >> ethernet

      Get over it. Did you whine about ADB, modem, and floppies being dropped?

      • Dropping ethernet is a pretty big deal. They’ve done it purely to save having that big a connector, otherwise the macbook would be thicker. Dropping an integral networking standard simply to shave a few fractions of a mm off of the thickness is foolish.

        You equate it to ADB, modems and floppies, but EVERY SINGLE ONE of those technologies was dropped AFTER a viable alternative was already in widespread use. There is STILL not a wireless network standard which can compete with ethernet.

        I understand you’re a fanboy, and I enjoy Apple products myself. But in the case of ethernet they made a bad decision for the wrong reasons.

      • Ben Lovejoy says:

        It was certainly done for the reason you give, but with Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapters, I don’t think it’s too big a deal. There was also a lot of complaining when they dropped the optical drive, but really, who misses that now?

      • Tallest Skil says:

        Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter. Boom. Already in place. Not sure why you’re complaining.

    • The voice of Siri was conceived and recorded in 2005 … 6yrs before Siri was announced in any product…they are thinking and planning 5yrs ahead…This is just smart business and what others should do and not play catchup.

  3. ziongpham says:

    Oh yeah! Let’s just ignore the fact that 64bit is more power efficient, faster and future proof and call it 100% marketing!

  4. Laughing_Boy48 says:

    But… but… but all the iHating idiots said that a 64-bit chip is useless and merely a huge part of Apple’s usual marketing hype. Why? Because Android doesn’t have it. If the world’s most prolific mobile platform doesn’t support 64-bit processors then they must be utterly useless. After all, Google and Android are the unbeatable duo.

  5. What’s worse? Having 64bit chips with no software or having software developers lamenting your lack of 64bit chips? Seems like I’d rather have the horse first then the cart vs the other way around.

  6. Anand covered this. (www.anandtech.com) He said, and it seems quite plausible, that the 64 bit ARM instruction set is better. IIRC, he said that the move to the 64 bit ARM instruction set by itself should yield about a 10% performance gain. When tablet and smartphone RAM nears and exceeds 4GB, there will be a real need for the 64 bit addressing. It’s not far off. Newer smartphones are coming with 1 and 2 GB.

    Not to mention the fact that the A7 is a royal screamer in both CPU and GPU performance.

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      Yes, I think Qualcomm was seeing 4GB RAM as the trigger point for 64-bit chips

      • It matters more than just 4GB RAM. A7 is itself much faster due to Reduced Instruction Set Computing and increased size of general purpose registers.
        That article by Anand Shimpi is quite exhaustive and informative.
        Also I am studying Computer System Architecture this semester :p

      • Ben Lovejoy says:

        Yes, Anand estimated something like a 10% gain from the instruction set, but I’m pretty sure Qualcomm saw 4GB RAM as the point at which the move made sense

  7. Indeed, RAM actually makes everything slower. That’s why new computers won’t even have RAM in them, it’s all SCIENCE people!

  8. Quadcode + 64bit + LTE = battery drainer…..common to Android phones.