Probably the most underrated announcement Apple made on Tuesday was its move to 64-bit architecture for the iPhone 5S. It's an industry first, and one with major repercussions both for your phone and for the future of Apple. Here's why it matters.
A more thorough technical explanation of 64-bit architecture follows below, but in terms of actual, noticeable differences the A7 processor will bring to the iPhone 5S, the list is surprisingly short. It will help speed up the intensive image processing necessitated by those fancy new camera features. It'll enable games with better graphics and larger worlds. And it'll make CPU-intensive operations—like, say, scanning your fingerprint to unlock your phone—happen without any noticeable lag.
That's what's in it for you right now. But 64-bit is part of a longer game Apple, and every other hardware manufacturer, has been playing for some time. Not only does it allow for more RAM in mobile devices (32-bit maxes out at 4GB, which is more than anyone needs now but we'll get there soon enough), it clears a path for Apple to release a MacBook Air, or some sort of laptop-tablet convertible, on a super-efficient mobile processor. Conversely, it clears the path to put OS X on a mobile device. In short: It positions Apple perfectly for the coming convergence of desktop and mobile.
Again, Apple's not the only company doing this; ARM will be bringing 64-bit architecture to its friends at Samsung, Acer, Lenovo, and so on in short order. Any major product shifts resulting from 64-bit also aren't likely to happen any time soon; as always happens, this is just one of several pieces (hello, batteries) that need to come into place for an idealized hybrid device to come to fruition.
So we're a long way off from seeing the full benefits of 64-bit mobile guts. That's fine. That just means we have plenty of time to get caught up on what it means, exactly, compliments of White Noise contributor dccorona below.