How smartphone processors work

In the world of computing – desktop, laptop, mobile and others – a processor can be likened to the engine of the device in question. Smartphone processors work to run the devices. The more powerful the processor of your smartphone or PC, generally speaking, the faster it runs and the heavier the tasks it can carry out.

smartphone processors work

How smartphone Processors And Cores

You must have heard of single-core, dual-core and others. If you have ever wondered how they work, we bring you the breakdown.

A single-core processor has only one actual central processing unit (CPU). This unit is called a core.

A dual-core processor is a single computing component (a “chip”) with two independent actual central processing units (“cores”).

A quad-core processor is a single computing component with four independent actual central processing units (“cores”).

An octa-core processor is a single computing component with eight independent actual central processing units (“cores”).

There are also smartphones with 6 core processors = hexa-core. If/when they arrive, 10 cores = deca-core.

How smartphone Processors Work

The more cores a processor has, the more efficient it runs. This is because with multiple cores, different tasks on your PC or phone are distributed among the cores. Multiple core processors can help cut down on battery consumption and also help your phone or PC run smoother and handle heavier tasks.

Multiple cores help the most when you need to do more things at the same time on your phone or PC. This is called multitasking. In multiple core processors, each core is independent of the other. During light usage, only one core may run, and then when you switch to heavier usage, more cores kick in to help handle the load.

Doubling processor cores does not produce twice the speed. A quad-core processor won’t run your phone twice as fast as a dual-core processor. Multiple cores do not mean total speeds in multiples of the speed rating. For example, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor does not run at a top speed of 2.4GHz. It means that both cores run at 1.2GHz each for handling different tasks.

Apart from number of cores, though, processors are also rated by speed e.g. 1.3GHz, 1.7GHz, 2.0GHz. The higher the figure, the faster the core and the processor. A 1.7GHz single-core processor is more powerful and faster than a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, but the latter will provide better performance in usage scenarios involving running multiple tasks at the same time because it has more cores available to handle those tasks more efficiently.

There. I hope that you understand processors better now. If you found this useful, do share in your social circles using the buttons below.



  1. Here cones my famous automotive analogy.

    the fact a car has eight cylinders does not mean it drinks twice the fuel or produces twice the power / torque of another car with four cylinders.

    Similarly, cores don’t tell even half the story, like pixel counts alone neither determines the quality of a SmartPhone screen, nor the quality of a camera.

    Processing speed is also determined by the RAM size, as well as the Operating system chargé d’affaires.

    Those two factors may be even more important than the raw number of cores

    1. Actually, an 8 cylinder car will drink twice the fuel of a 4 cylinder. This is because no 8 cylinder car is less than 4.4L while no 4 cylinder is higher than 2.6 or probably in that range. By default, a 4.8L V8 will drink twice the fuel of a 2.2L I4. No two way about it.
      I admit other factors may come into play though like the stability of the engines, the wear and tear, throttle and drive style but all things being equal…an 8 cylinder should almost drink twice the fuel of a 4. 🙂

  2. One thing to note is that ARM based processors are mostly less powerful than their x86/64 counterparts in terms of performance, I often hear people compare their smart phone processor speed ARM (GHz) with a desktop processor x86 (GHz) speed.

    One way to determine the difference is to run a performance benchmark test that works on both processor architecture.

  3. @Babangida, I wouldn’t know, but I think you could be wrong.

    A MegaHertz is a Megahertz.

    It’s like saying an articulated vehicle (trailer) moving at 40km/hr would be slower than a motorcycle cruising St the same speed…

    I do t think so.

  4. I guess I probably should have used the word computing power instead of performance.

    To be fair comparing a desktop CPU and a mobile CPU is wrong, both CPU’s were designed for different applications even if their CPU clock speeds are the same.

    The answer given by allquixotic over at superuser explains this better. He also gave a nice vehicle analogy

  5. Would have love to know how RAM comes to play in all these. Does for instance a 1.2GHz processor backed by a RAM of say 2Gb perform better than a 1.7GHz processor paired with 1GB of RAM?

    1. Dharn,

      It is difficult to measure the specifics, but from my experience with scores of gadgets, I’d take the device with 2GB RAM in your comparison, all other things being equal.

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