Apple is the latest smartphone manufacture to announce a shift to 64-bit processors. A statement issued this week says: “Starting February 1, 2015, new iOS apps uploaded to the App Store must include 64-bit support and be built with the iOS 8 SDK, included in Xcode 6 or later.”
The personal tech giant started using 64-bit CPUs with last year’s iPhone 5S issue, but most software developers are still building mobile apps for the 32-bit majority. With this new stipulation, which also applies to updates to existing apps, Apple seems to be pushing for a long-awaited sea change in the industry.
The Apple statement follows HTC and Samsung previews of phones with new 64-bit octa-core CPUs and rumours other Android phone manufacturers are accelerating plans to install 64-bit CPUs for use with Android L. The hotly anticipated new OS will be optimised for 64-bit operation, and commentators were already speculating that 64-bit hardware could be standard by late 2015.
64-bit operation will allow designers, artists and musicians to work more effectively on their phones by better supporting more power-hungry operations using specialist apps. Players of resource intensive games will also noticeably benefit. But the change will also allow faster processing and improved graphics performance, which, it is hoped, will improve the user experience for everyone without adding significantly to purchase prices.
Every forward-looking app development company is expected to make the shift before the inevitable curtailing of 32-bit support, and not all will exploit the full potential of 64-bit immediately. But even a unified 64-bit market is likely to lead to improved performance by simplifying the support environment.
In the meantime, Apple recommends using Xcode’s “Standard architectures”, which includes both 32-bit and 64-bit code. A helpful 64-bit emulator preview of Android L was released for x86 processors last month to ease the transition for Android developers by allowing them to start testing new 64-bit apps in advance of the launch.