We've had mobile phones, we've had smartphones, and what comes next? Superphones, obviously.
But you probably already knew that, as we started using the term at the start of the year when those dual-core 4in-plus Android brutes started appearing on the scene. But according to chip maker ARM, it's actually only in 2012 that we'll see superphones really hitting their stride.
Its logic – and it makes a lot of sense – is that the rise of smartphones wasn't about a new breed of device pushing past some kind of invisible dividing line, but rather the emergence of a level of data communication – 3G – that opened the way for more powerful components, and consequently more data-intensive functions and features, to find their way onto mobile devices.
That in turn created the kind of fertile ground for mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS to emerge, which is the point most of us use these days when defining what a smartphone actually is.
“Smartphones as we know them today emerged around the Cortex A8 processor and with 3G modems,” ARM CEO Warren East said as the company launched its latest Cortex A7 processor this week.
“That meant a lot more data coming into the phones, so you could deliver a lot more content and services which in turn demanded more microprocessor compute power.”
And it's the same with superphones, East says, but this time it's 4G that holds the key. We've been waiting for years and years for 4G networking to gain real traction, especially here in Europe. By and large it's been a case of mobile manufacturers and networks politely waiting for each other to make the first move, leaving the everyday consumer waiting in frustration.
But once that global tipping point is reached, 4G will provide a catalyst for another mobile performance revolution, just as was the case with 3G.
“As we look forward we can see the modem advancing to even higher bandwidth so more data coming in and out and more demand for compute power,” East said.
“That's when we will see processors like the Cortex A15… delivering the kinds of performance required for some of these high compute power services and high-end smartphones sometimes today referred to as superphones.”
East reckons that point isn't far away, and says there are plenty of products in development using the next-generation processors.
“We're expecting real Cortex A15 products next year – that's where we've got to with A15 deals for high end superphones and in form factors like computers and tablets and even straying into the server space,” East said.