What does a dual-core phone mean for me? - Best Buy Canada

James Descombes; edited by Natasha Dennis June 29, 2011

2011 is the year of the multi-core smartphone. Within just a few months a slew of these super-powered phones will be available to buy, but did you know that they’ll introduce more features than just a simple speed boost? Oh yes. Read on for the full lowdown about the dual-core revolution.

More power

Last year’s hottest phones, like the HTC Desire HD and iPhone 4 used 1GHz single-core processors. They remain incredibly powerful devices, but incoming dual-core phones will make them look like turtles in comparison. The best part is that most will be available for the same price as today’s top-end phones.

Like a head with two brains that work together, a dual-core processor can do more things at the same time, unleashing more power, speeding up performance and making the previously impossible, totally possible.

Glorious gaming

One of the most obvious advantages of a dual-core phone’s power is in gaming. The extra grunt these processors provide will mean smartphones can shift more polygons, render more complicated and intricate textures and produce higher frame rates. Advanced graphical techniques like anti-aliasing will also be unlocked, which will smooth-out rough edges in 3D games. Before the year’s done, we’ll start to see games that don’t look all that different from those of today’s home consoles.

It’s not just graphics that will benefit from the raw power of dual-core either; in-game physics and artificial intelligence will be taken to the next level. These game elements put huge strains on a system’s processor, and that has limited how clever mobile games have been up until now.

The result? Cars that handle more realistically, enemies with better brains, and objects that move and react to the world like the real thing. It’ll take developers a little while to catch up with the next gen tech, but once they do the results will be even more mouth-watering.

1080p Full HD video

Dual-core processors enable 1080p resolution video, both in terms of movie playback and capture from a phone’s built-in camera. The most powerful phones on the market so far can only handle 720p video, but new devices will be able to pump out video to max-out the resolution of top TVs.

Phone makers are becoming more video-savvy too, introducing features like HDMI outputs and DLNA wireless media streaming as standard, letting you watch video from your handset on your living room TV with ease. Pack your phone full of movies and TV episodes and it’ll function as the most versatile and portable home media centre you could ever own.

Dual-core phones with high-end cameras will also be able to shoot 1080p video. Some models have already been confirmed as being capable of filming in 1080p at a full 30fps – the same as a high-end dedicated digital video camera. You’ll soon be able to film your own summer holiday epic at Blu-ray resolution.

More multi-tasking

The two-brained architecture of a dual-core CPU is perfectly suited to multi-tasking, which is already available in all the top smartphone platforms. With a single-core processor, tasks in different applications are processed in single-file, but at a speed fast enough to give the impression that they’re happening at the same time. With a dual-core setup, real multi-tasking is possible.

In real-world terms, this will mean that you’ll be able to run more apps at the same time without seeing any performance slow-down – something that’s particularly common at present in some phones. You’ll be able to keep a game running in the background while editing photos on-the-fly and skipping over to a Facebook app to post those photos online, all at top speed.

Once the platform makers like Apple and Google get to grips with multi-core mobile devices, we’ll start to see even more dynamic use of these processors too – possibly even with the holy grail of mobile multi-tasking, having multiple separate apps on-screen at the same time.

Bigger and better apps

Demanding apps can also be developed to make use of dual-core CPUs, through multi-threading. This is like multi-tasking, but within a single application – multiple processes occurring simultaneously.

It’ll allow high-end apps to utilize every last drop of power out of a dual-core chip, and make more impressive power-hungry video and photo editing apps possible. This is all in the hands of the app developers, but with thousands of them out there, having made 100,000s of mobile apps and games in just the last two years, it won’t take long until we see a seriously impressive app to edit your 1080p movies with.

Better battery life

One of the least exciting-sounding benefits of a multi-core system could prove to be the most useful – battery life. With two cores whirring away at the heart of a mobile phone, when the extra power of the second core isn’t needed, it can effectively be put to sleep.

Then, if that extra burst of power is needed, for an intensive app or game, that second core can step into the ring at any time. With two cores to tap into, each core doesn’t need to be quite as powerful as its single-core counterpart, so more effort can be put into minimizing how much power they suck up.

In the past, we’ve seen manufacturers reduce the power required by their processors to gain some extra minutes of battery life, but dual-core mobiles will be able to manage power dynamically. It probably won’t bring back the pre-smartphone days of week-long battery life in phones, but should mean you won’t need to charge every single day, as some of today’s smartphones require with any significant usage.