If 2010 belonged to the 1 Ghz chip, 2011 looks all set to be dominated by dual core powerhouses. Two years ago the market was very different from what it is now, the consumers while picking up smartphones looked at some of the more conventional features of a device, the camera, the screen, storage space and brand name. Today a lot more people are interested in the processor it runs on, the RAM, if there is a dedicated chip powering graphics and so on.
This transition happened for a number of reasons. The world’s biggest manufacturer shipped a device that was not running on the fastest hardware of the time and coupled with a not so great firmware, the user experience pretty much hit rock bottom for a number of people. The key takeaway for most was that it ran poor hardware. Around the same time companies like HTC started releasing smartphones that were running on 1 Ghz chips and when coupled with Android 2.1 (which was the first nicely polished Android version) the user experience that people witnessed was nothing short of impressive. Soon we started seeing hoardings around shops, banners on the internet which began to list the processor along with the usual specs like camera, storage and the consumer was thus trained to take better notice of the internals.
Just like 8 Megapixel sounds better that 5, the key marketing message became that 1 Ghz is better than 600 Mhz (which in most cases is!). Today we are at the cusp of seeing the market flood with dual core device, Motorola & LG have one, Samsung will announce its lot at the Mobile World Congress (the Galaxy S successor) and you cannot expect companies like HTC to not follow suit. The smaller players will also keep up, just to keep themselves in the news.
In the end, the majority of dual core devices will run Android, which will mean that we will soon see even more fragmentation on Android. The budget 600-700 Mhz device, the 1 Ghz powered ones and the superphones. Developers have two choices, first to continue making games/apps that run fine on 1Ghz chips so as to cover the largest marketshare (current gen + superphones) or start developing afresh for the superphones that handle power graphics processing with ease. Once that happens, and sooner or later it will, developers might have a hard time keeping with everything.
While all of this goes on, there will be a bunch of 1+ Ghz phones announced that, while impressive in their own right will not be given there due because a new kid is on the block. Nokia will announce its MeeGo lineup of smarthphones with 1 Ghz or similar chips, and from the day they launch you will find people cribbing about how the hardware is outdated and how the Finnish manufacturer cannot keep up anymore.
At the end of 2011 there will still only be a handful of apps (majority of them games) that will really need dual core processors to run. Therefore, it will become important for manufactures who go down the dual core route to show how their device is actually using that processing power, just like Motorola has. While putting the latest Android on a dual core chip and a nice large screen will make the device very tempting and give you bragging rights, it will offer very little value for the consumer who is upgrading from a 1 Ghz smartphone.
This is where Motorola has taken the lead with the Atrix docking solutions that actually provide value to the consumer, come 2011 the value addition beyond the now accepted smartphone functionality is what will drive both innovation and consumers.