Nokia CEO says multi-core smartphones are “just a waste of battery”

By on March 16, 2012, 12:00 PM

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop feels that dual-core and quad-core chips used in today’s smartphones are not all so useful and essentially just a waste of battery. Elop revealed as much in a recent interview with the Yangcheng Evening News prior to launching the Lumia 800 smartphone in China later this month.

The chief further pointed to recent “Blown Away By Lumia” and “Smoked By Windows Phone” competitions as evidence that multi-core phones aren’t always faster than their single-core counterparts. In the “Smoked” contest, Microsoft scored 640 wins with only 50 losses – not bad for a single-core handset.

The statement isn’t all that surprising considering Windows Phone OS doesn’t support multi-core processors and thus, neither do any of Nokia’s Lumia series handsets running the Microsoft operating system. Speaking with Pocket Now late last year, a representative told the publication that Microsoft wanted to do multiple cores in a big way and they weren’t ready for that just yet.

That’s all expected to change later this year when Windows Phone 8 hits the market, however. Last month The Verge reported that Microsoft’s Windows Phone engineering team was testing the Qualcomm MSM8960 chipset, a dual-core 1.5GHz system-on-chip.

With new Nokia phones sporting at least dual-core chips almost certainly in the pipeline, one can only wonder how long it will be before Elop changes his tune and gets behind multi-core processing.

How many of you have tried (or own) a Nokia Windows Phone and what are your thoughts regarding its single-core performance compared to other handsets you have used?




User Comments: 22

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Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I've got a friend at work with a windows nokia phone (can't rememeber which model but one of the higher ones) and to be honest it is almost as fluid as my duel-core iPhones 4S.

Now that I own a duel-core phone all I can say to the single core crowd "you ain't missin much!"

The problem is with the iPhones not many apps support the 2 cores yet, so it isn't fully optermized.

I'm sure though it will come in handy in a few years time.

Guest said:

i am not an expert on the subject but am educated about it. I too agree that muti-core phones are waste of battery power. How many applications are you ACTIVELY using at once? Sure they might be there in the background but not actually needing the 2nd core, 3rd or 4th core. I would rather get 2X battery life than 2-4 cores of power.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

I'm fine with up to two cores. All those wins means Microsoft has a well optimized OS as is, and I can see an additional core just icing on an already delicious cake. I hope Elop meant more than two were a waste, because I couldn't see Nokia getting anywhere near where they were with Symbian if the hardware stayed the same into the future.

If Elop was CEO of Apple then I can see it making sense not to stray from a single core, only because iOS is already well polished yet simple, and Apple only releases a single SKU per device per year.

Stupido Stupido said:

Actually even the PC's (not gaming machines or workstations, but average ones used for browsing and (light) office work) are quite OK with dual-cores...

CamaroMullet said:

It's just natural progression. I agree it does seem like overkill. However, with more and more phones being able to connect and control other devices e.g.: tvs, monitors, docking stations, cars, homes, etc... it does make more sense. For basic phone use though, yeah it doesn't make sense.

I'd like to see more development with batteries over CPUs, I mean I know there's some pretty cool tech coming around the corner. It would be awesome to have a nuclear powered cell phone, NEVER plug it in!!!

Guest said:

i am not an expert on the subject but am educated about it. I too agree that muti-core phones are waste of battery power. How many applications are you ACTIVELY using at once? Sure they might be there in the background but not actually needing the 2nd core, 3rd or 4th core. I would rather get 2X battery life than 2-4 cores of power.

You are forgetting multi-tasking. With two cores, one application could be burning one core loading while the other could happily be serving you your interface needs.

Ever wanted to launch a background app (say, Skype), while doing something else? Yeah, that's what dual core is good for.

So I do not agree with Steven. While there may not be many apps that take advantage of dual core (there aren't many in the desktop world either!), it provides for smoother experience, and that is worth it.

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Guest said:

i am not an expert on the subject but am educated about it. I too agree that muti-core phones are waste of battery power. How many applications are you ACTIVELY using at once? Sure they might be there in the background but not actually needing the 2nd core, 3rd or 4th core. I would rather get 2X battery life than 2-4 cores of power.

You are forgetting multi-tasking. With two cores, one application could be burning one core loading while the other could happily be serving you your interface needs.

Ever wanted to launch a background app (say, Skype), while doing something else? Yeah, that's what dual core is good for.

So I do not agree with Steven. While there may not be many apps that take advantage of dual core (there aren't many in the desktop world either!), it provides for smoother experience, and that is worth it.

That's not quite true, actually.

Multi-cores phones don't make the experience smoother in that sense, all they are designed to do when they are being utilized by both the core and UI thread (not the actual application, as resource intensive as they may be) is simply to offload workload to the second core.

This does not exactly mean smoother or speedup as far handling applications and/or UI animations. If the operating system was engineered to be low-intensive (such as Tango), and the platform of this OS uses efficient third-party code (such as C#/XNA), then having more cores is a waste of resources.

The iPhone 4S, while dual-core, is clocked at 800 MHz per core, combined that's only 100 MHz more than the Nokia Lumia 900's 1.5 GHz single core. A lot of people overlook this: There's a reason the 4S' core is the same as the iPad 2's, and yet the core frequencies were significantly reduced for the iPhone. It's because it doesn't need it.

Even if the iPhone had a 1 GHz core (with the same gpu, mind you) you would never notice the difference; that's because the OS is properly optimized, and apps in that ecosystem were properly engineered to not be resource hogs.

That's not to say dual cores are not needed. As OSes aim for more powerful functions, features, architectures, etc., they will be needed. But so will bigger batteries.

The reason you see people even claiming dual cores increase battery life, are usually android users; the DalvikVM is a mess, and the OS is not designed to run on a specific hardware, but to any combination. When the OS consumes as much power due its lack of optimization, offloading cpu workload to a second core might certainly help. But that is not the case with all OSes, namely iOS and WP7. Although Android 4 is a big step forward, there's a reason why a Galaxy Nexus lags sometimes, and my 2 year old Focus has been up and running 10 months straight without hiccups:

Optimization.

So, basically Elop is right as far as current generation devices. But most certainly next generation smartphones will require at least dual-cores. Question is how far are we from that?

ikesmasher said:

I want to cores. I agree quad core is unnecessary, but dual core makes my phone future proof.

Guest said:

define future proof...don't we all get new phone every 1.8 to 2 yrs?

MrAnderson said:

I kind of half to agree... unless the tech involved can shut down cores and manage to lower the energy than processors with less cores... and then when plugged in to power outlet we can try computing intensive things... not like we are going to do much multi tasking on the small displays... but if there is a HD output and bluetooth keyboard or other input I can see having more cores as a plus.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Having already read lawfer's response, I wouldn't want to dwell into the details, but from my experience I am absolutely sure that Lumia 800 feels lot faster than my current HTC Sensation with its dual core SoC, which stutters/lags at times for no real reasons, and I have only handful of applications installed on it. By the way didn't we just read that Intel's single core SoC performs on par with many multi-core SoCs out there? I think in a year's time we may be in a situation where Intel's dual core solutions would be outperforming Tegras/Snapdragons/Exynos's with quad cores just as well.

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

I think dual cores are pretty much the standard at this point. Though of course I agree that having more than that does seem a bit overkill.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I think that multiple cores are needed to take us to the point where phones replace game consoles.

ikesmasher said:

Guest said:

define future proof...don't we all get new phone every 1.8 to 2 yrs?

um, no, we dont. some people dont have the need to update from say, an iphone 4 to an iphone 4s.

Guest said:

Well a few pointers from this Kenyan

a. more cores more processing power and more capability..as seen in ubuntu for android (http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/android)

b. you cant say the phone is really future proof because manufacturers have this thing called making profits , therefore they will release an update or a new phone that will actually do what you want your current "future proof" phone and most likely make you pay a ridiculous amount for it (reasons why i like android :D )

c.battery life of the phone may not be perfect but when buying such devices , you are after power if you wanted battery life well you know what to compromise

d. Nokia thinks we don't need any more cores... well i think they have no intention of producing a phone that has diversity and capability , they are still running the same old game of selling hardware and it seems they didn't learn from symbian mistakes . Refuse to adopt ..you fail.

Guest said:

so true.

single cores phones can barely run a day.

Guest said:

He's just worried abou that, because all other marks like apple, samsung or htc are using the multi-core cpu technology and i think they are selling more smartphones each other than nokia. He only said that it is a waste of battery because they cannot make a smartphone with more cpus.

Zilpha Zilpha said:

I don't know - I kind of like his take on the matter. Smartphones have gotten a lot more fun and useful, but battery life is a joke. My Blackberry Curve would last anywhere from 3-5 days on a charge depending on how much I texted, and this android phone I have now needs to constantly be on a charger. I even turn off all background syncing, lower the screen brightness and have done every power-saving tweak I could find on the forums.

I really think it's just the power-hungry hardware.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

This does not exactly mean smoother or speedup as far handling applications and/or UI animations. If the operating system was engineered to be low-intensive (such as Tango), and the platform of this OS uses efficient third-party code (such as C#/XNA), then having more cores is a waste of resources.

There is a lot of overhead in task switching. The more cores you have, the less task switching you need to do. Associated losses include pipeline stalls, clearing and reloading registers to/from memory and so on.

The more "responsiveness critical" threads the OS is running, the more you can gain from more cores. E.g. thread for disk access API, thread for screen API, various other kernel routines.

Guest said:

dual or multicore processors=speed and what do you get from speed? please ask yourself

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If we take your theory, then why Intel's Medfield a single core SoC is competitive with quadcores of ARM ? Issue is with the OS, if it is a resource hog like Android is, it will eat up lot more resources, if it is resource efficient like iOS or WP, it will deliver more for less.

Guest said:

what a load of old pom-pom, the number of cores has no bearing at all on speed, in fact the higher the fewer and the faster the slower.

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