The Difference Between 32-bit and 64-bit Smartphones [MTE Explains]

When looking at a phone’s specifications, you may feel at home with statistics such as the amount of RAM and storage space in the device. One thing you may have spotted is when a phone is either “32-bit” or “64-bit” which isn’t self-explanatory as to what it means exactly. So, what does it mean? Let’s take a look at the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit for Android phones, what it means for you as a user, and which one is the better choice.

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Given how bigger numbers on computer hardware usually mean better things, it’s easy to figure that a 64-bit phone is an improvement over a 32-bit phone. But what does 32- and 64-bit mean exactly?

This specification relates to the type of processor within the device in question. When a processor is labelled as 32- or 64-bit, it’s referring to the amount of values that can be stored on that particular processor’s register. Processors use their register to store data as they perform their job, so more room means more values can be stored. A 32-bit processor has room for 2^32 values (around 4 billion, rounded down), while a 64-bit processor can store 2^64 of them (18 quintillion, rounded down). This means that 64-bit processors have four billion times more addresses at their disposal than 32-bit processors – a clear improvement!

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So now we’ve learned that a 64-bit processor has a lot more processing space than a 32-bit processor, which definitely sounds impressive on paper. What does it mean when we compare 32-bit and 64-bit for Android phones? What can we see on a 64-bit phone that we won’t on a 32-bit one?

Processor

With the extra space that 64-bit processors have, they can get through more data per second than 32-bit processors. After all, they have much more room to store more data, which means they can work on larger volumes of data without having to go back to memory as often as 32-bit processors do. As a result, 64-bit processors can take in and process data faster than their 32-bit counterparts – always a plus!

RAM

One interesting benefit of 32-bit vs. 64-bit for Android phones is that 64-bit processors increase the amount of RAM that can be practically used in a device. The size of a 32-bit register means that software is restricted to using 4GB of memory at an absolute best. This means that if we install more than 4GB of RAM in a phone with a 32-bit processor, the extra RAM can’t be used by software and “goes to waste” as a result.

There are ways we can circumvent this limit; however, by simply installing a 64-bit processor, the size of its register allows us to use up to 16 exabytes (17 billion GB) of RAM in a device. Of course, it’ll be a long time (if ever!) before we use that much RAM, which means we can have more than 4GB  of RAM in our phones. More RAM means more space to put apps in memory which means multitasking between apps gets a lot smoother.

Apps

One thing that won’t always speed up when moving to 64-bit are the apps and the operating system installed on the phone. The problem here is that the developers may have coded these for 32-bit systems, so they didn’t take advantage of the extra hardware a 64-bit phone has to offer. After all, if the developer was aiming for a 32-bit phone, why would they bother trying to use hardware that isn’t there? However, if the operating system or app was coded with 64-bit in mind, there will be notable differences in speed compared to 32-bit variants.

If you want to check if your own device is 32- or 64-bit, you can do so easily with AnTuTu Benchmark. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, press the Info button on the bottom right and check under the CPU category for the Type field. It will tell you what type your phone’s processor is.

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Unlike something like disk space, the topic of 32-bit vs 64-bit for Android phones isn’t really self-explanatory. Hopefully you’ll now know what the specification is, what it means for smartphones, and even if your own phone is 64-bit or not.

Did you make the jump to 64-bit phones? If so, did you notice a difference in performance, or did it feel the same as before? Let us know in the comments.