UK-based Arm designs chips and licenses these designs to companies such as Samsung, Qualcomm and MediaTek. Some companies, like Apple, only license chip instruction sets, the interface software uses to control a chip. Other licensed complete CPU designs, like the A77. Licensors combine these chip brains with other components that Arms new Mali-G77 graphics processing device, in a single package called a system on a chip.
A77's performance boost over today's chips, known as the A76s, requires more power from your phone's battery, says Rene Haas, President of Arms Intellectual Property Rights. Arm announced the new chip technology on the Computex show in Taiwan along with plans by MediaTek to use it in chips in early 2020.
Better performance is important for getting more out of our phones. We stay longer on our phones, but when we upgrade, speed allows us to use new features such as usable voice-to-text transcription, video editing and snapchat filters that offer gender change.
What is yet to be seen is whether Arm's A77 will help Android phones close the performance gap with Apple's iPhones. Apple's iPhone XS scores 4,797 on the Geekbench speed test using Apple's own processors compared to 3.414 for the Samsung Galaxy S10 using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 chip – the phone call Samsung sells in the United States.
Various chipmakers can choose to increase performance with features such as better graphics, dedicated circuitry for AI, and larger amounts of cache memory for high speed data access. Everything that makes chips bigger and more expensive makes chipmakers different decisions about the best choices for their products.
Arm also says that the G77 graphics processing unit's design is 40 percent faster than the current G76. It is primarily useful for games where players can get more sophisticated imaging or smoother movements, but also for higher resolution displays that have to curl through multiple pixel data.
"The game will never come," said Haas. And the extra performance is also good for the larger screens of folding phones like Samsung's Galaxy Fold.
Although the A77 brain does not come with dedicated circuits for AI, the way that advanced processors from Apple and some others do, Arm offers an AI option through its Project Trillium designs. And even without it, lots of software uses the clear old CPU for AI. Arms optimization work gives a significant boost to the AI software framework like Google TensorFlow, Haas said.
Many mobile chip makers use other AI chip designs, but Haas believes that they enter Arm fold. "Unless it's a bit higher performance, ask yourself why you should build this when you can get it off the arm," he said.