Mobile coprocessors: the secret to smarter smartphones

The Apple M7 and Motorola X8 are just the beginning

That's not the end of the CCP's talents either. When the gyroscope detects a certain twist of your wrist (along with accelerometer and light sensor data), it activates the Quick Capture camera mode. There's also a Driving Mode that detects when you might be driving and connects automatically to Bluetooth, so you can safely answer calls and have your text messages read aloud to you, hands-free.

Enabling always-on applications

By offloading small tasks like speech processing and motion sensing to low-powered coprocessors, the Moto X and the iPhone 5S don't take an extra hit on battery life as the main dual-core CPUs aren't being used. The coprocessors also free up the primary processors for other tasks, improving overall system performance. Most importantly, these chips enable 'always-on' functionality - there's no need to unlock the Moto X to access the camera; no need to start the iOS Runkeeper app to track an individual workout.

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Add in extra sensor information and you could wake future iPhone models with a wave of your hand or a signature shake. The M7 already claims to reduce network pinging when sensor information suggests that your phone hasn't moved and will seamlessly switch from giving driving directions to offering walking directions based on your speed of movement. Features like these point towards a future where our phones are more aware of their surroundings, automatically adjusting settings to suit our location, movement and calendar schedule.

So we argue that adding more number-crunching power to the CPU isn't what future smartphones need. We've arguably reached a point where handsets such as the iPhone 5S, Sony Xperia Z1 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 are zippy enough. How you differentiate a new phone when every handset packs a multi-core processor and an HD screen?

More speed doesn't make a smartphone any smarter. Perhaps what matters next isn't how many cores a future smartphone has. It's how many coprocessors are riding alongside them.