There is no better platform to compare mobile processor power than Android. Thanks to the linux kernel, manufactures have ported the android os to a variety of hardware and it the OS has shined on all of them.
In the early days most devices (including my beloved G1) featured the same Qualcomm 528 Mhz ARM11 processor. The performance was wow at that point of time, that until Motorola developed the Droid. With a 550 Mhz OMAP 3430 processor bloew everything else out of the water. It was clear, the more processing power, you supply the google OS, the experience changed dramatically.
HTC Evo (and SE Xperia) brought in the 1 Ghz revolution to android, and boy did it sell. Since then almost all manufactures have incorported some form of 1Ghz processors in their mobile devices. These processors also power the legandary Nexus One, which is now the official google developer handset (replaced the htc G1)
A true geek knows it not all about processors, there’s more to speed than just processing power. The GPU and the memory interface play a big part.
Although all of the high performance mobile processors are based on the Cortex A8 ARM processor, manufactures have tweaked it as per their needs and market demands. The Qualcomm Snapdragon was the first chipset to bring 1 GHz speeds to Android, but it has the slowest GPU of the three. The 65nm Cortex A8 processor is mostly bundled with the Adreno GPU. The Evo was the first phone to use this on Android.
Since then Samsung and Texas Instruments have stepped up and brought more powerful 1 Ghz processors with smaller power footprint(45nm) and better GPU bundle. Texas Instuments has built a 1 GHz ARM Cortex A8 + PowerVR SGX530 GPU + 430 MHz C64x+ DSP + ISP (Image Signal Processor). These processors power the new motorola droid’s (Droid 2 and Droid X) and boy they are snappy.
Samsung, which is soon becomming the powerhouse of mobile processor development (even powers the Apple Iphone), has one-upped Texas Instuments in building a 1 GHz 45nm Cortex-A8 with PowerVR SGX540 to power its Hummingbird line of processors. These processors now power the Galaxy S series of samsung phones and is currently considered the fastest mobile devices till date. Some experts have noticed a poor I/O performance for the rom’s that come in galaxy S series(with the SD card actually performing better), but a fix is already available and the problem is expected to be fixed when samsung pushes Android 2.2 to its devices.
While the hardware manufactures have been pushing the mobile artitecture to its limits, google has been improving its software. Android 2.2 shows a huge performance boost as compared to its predesseors, The benchmarks shows a 3x cpu performance boost when using Nexus One with Android 2.2 as compared to 2.1.As the Hummingbirds and OMAP are get ready to run android 2.2 in the next couple of months, the world avaits with bated breath.
The future will see processor speeds stepping up, respecting Moores law. Dual cores for mobiles have already been manufactured by Texas Instruments and Samsung. By November we should have a 1.3 GHz mobile processor on our hands and by next year dual cores and Nvidia Chipsets will be powering our mobiles.