UC San Diego researchers have struck upon a novel idea that could make Android phones 11 times more efficient than they are currently: a custom-tailored processor that is optimized to run the most widely used apps on a given phone. Their GreenDroid chip might not only lead to better battery life in Android smartphones, but could help circumvent a fundamental problem in chip design that would otherwise soon become a major problem for chip efficiency in mobile devices.
Their design is pretty simple: take the main core of a phone’s processor and surround it with 120 smaller cores. Using a software the UCSD team designed, they figure the computational demands of the most popular apps on Android OS--things like email, maps, the camera, Pandora, etc.--and each core’s circuitry is tailored to mimic the code of the specific app it will be running.These app-specific chips can run up to 10,000 times more efficiently than a single general purpose chip doing all the same jobs. Call it specialization; its a microcosmic industrial revolution for the Android OS that divides and conquers the labor to make everything run more efficiently.