ARM Says Cortex-A7 Processor's 'big.LITTLE' Technology Enables Increased Power Efficiency

The new big.LITTLE technology employed by the processor allows a single device to leverage the performance of a Cortex-A15 and the energy-efficiency of a Cortex-A7 processor, which is five times as much as the Cortex-A8. ARM's big.LITTLE processing also enables an application to selectively assign each of these processors to different mobile tasks, based on performance demands. In other words, big.LITTLE technology delivers two processors in one.

Cortex-A7 advancements are expected to lead to price reductions on high-end smartphones within the next few years. According to ARM, the chip could ultimately deliver sub-$100 smartphones by 2013 that boast the same performance of phones selling for $500 today. The company has expressed a long-term goal of using the Cortex-A7 to supply "the developing world" with a mobile platform.

"As smartphones and tablets continue to evolve into users' primary compute device, consumers are demanding performance as well as the always on, always connected service they expect. The challenge for our industry and the ARM ecosystem is how to deliver on this," said Mike Inglis, executive vice president, Processor Division, ARM, in a statement. "The introduction of Cortex-A7 and big.LITTLE addresses this challenge and extends ARM’s technology leadership by setting a new standard for energy-efficient processors and redefining the traditional power and performance relationship."

ARM partners, including Samsung, LG, Texas Instruments, Red Bend and Sprint are already on board to offer the Cortex-A7 processor within their smartphones.

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"The advanced devices enabled by ARM's big.LITTLE processing will change how we live and work," said Yoram Salinger, CEO of Red Bend Software, in a statement. "Red Bend is uniquely positioned to leverage the virtualization extensions in ARM's processors and bring the most comprehensive Mobile Software Management solutions to device manufacturers and service providers, the automotive industry, enterprises and other markets. We are proud to be ARM's partner and work to improve the mobile user experience worldwide."

ARM could not confirm whether Apple, which has a license to build chips using the ARM architecture and deploys them in its iOS devices such as the iPhone, has signed to use the Cortex-A7.