Do mobile devices really need multi-core chips?

Today's mobile apps don't benefit from dual-core or quad-core processing power

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"There are going to be tradeoffs with faster processors, such as battery life," Burden said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said most applications today don't need a dual-core processor on a smartphone or a quad-core processor on a tablet. But he predicted that within a year, the developer community will build apps taking advantage of faster processor speeds.

At Sprint, smartphones and tablets are being launched with multi-core processors, but there's a recognition that the network behind the device also needs to be fast. Sprint announced two smartphones that will run over its coming 4G LTE network -- the Galaxy Nexus and LG Viper. Both have dual-core processors.

"We're always chasing the fastest technology, but it might be more important to us in the industry [than to consumers] since we all want to be at the front," said Ryan Sullivan, a Sprint product development director.

Ryan Sullivan said that Sprint learned when it first deployed its WiMax network as a 4G technology that it wasn't enough to say the network was fast. "We had to tell them what they could do with 4G, and that made it more real to people. So you can't just talk about speeds and feeds or fast processors, but what are the apps they use."

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Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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