Unless you are involved in some area of the technology industry, chances are you’ve never heard of a system on a chip (SoC).  Nonetheless, it is a critical component that allows your beloved smartphone to function. It is considered to be the equivalent of what the brain is to the human body.  If you want to learn more about this particular component of your smartphone and what it actually does, then this article is for you!

 

What is the SoC?

 

If you are familiar with a motherboard on a PC, the SoC is somewhat of a miniature version of a PC motherboard.  It generally consists of a central processing unit (CPU), a graphics processing unit (GPU) and the random access memory (RAM).  On a PC, all of these components usually exist as separate entities. However, on a smartphone’s SoC these components are all rolled into one integrated circuit.  In addition to the hardware components, the software components are also included in this consolidation of parts. As a matter of fact, putting both the hardware and software on the SoC is what allows it to reduce its power consumption and increases its overall performance.  As you can imagine, making it possible for all of these different elements to coexist in such a confined area is quite a daunting task. This is where the ARM Architecture comes into play.

 

ARM Architecture

 

First of all, what does ARM stand for?  We have two of them attached to us, but that isn’t the definition we are looking for is it?  ARM stands for Advanced RISC Machines. Ok, so now you’re probably wondering what RISC stands for too, right?  RISC stands for reduced instruction set computer. Together this means that devices with ARM architecture have processors using the RISC-based design. ARM technology runs with a limited instruction set that smaller processors can handle, whereas larger computers use processors that are designed to handle complex sets of instructions.  By reducing the complexity of the instructions that need to be handled by the processor, this allows the ARM processor to complete a lot of simple tasks at a higher frequency, while using less energy. It basically increases the efficiency of the processor by eliminating unnecessary instructions, as well as transistors, allowing for a simple circuit to be created.  This blueprint is then licensed out to other companies for their own use.

 

Major Manufacturers

 

Qualcomm is the major company that utilizes the ARM architecture. They produce processors for a majority of the more popular Android devices on the market.  Their main processor that they advertise is branded under the name Snapdragon, with different versions and varying performance of each. Samsung and Apple are among the other companies that manufacture their own SoC based on the ARM design.  After licensing the prototype, they build their own custom processors on top of the existing blueprint. Some companies even use the archetype as is, choosing not to make any changes.

 

The Future of SoC’s

 

The SoC technology is expanding and evolving with the increase and popularity of smartphones and tablets.  However, this technology isn’t limited to just consumer electronics. This technology can be applied in a variety of different fields, especially the medical industry.  It is speculated that SoCs can be used as implants for the blind and deaf, giving them the ability to see and hear. It can also be applied to microscopic robots that prevent harmful diseases from entering the human body.  So as you can see, this is just the beginning of a potentially revolutionary technology!

 

Small and simple, yet complex!

 

Yes the system on a chip is small and simple, when compared to its full-grown counterpart found in most modern laptops and PCs.  However, it is still intricate and equally complex. Hopefully, this article gave you some insight on what the SoC technology is, how it works, and the different companies involved in its commercial production.  

 

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