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Pocket Rocket

Happy New Year, tech fans! I bet you're wondering what exciting news has come out in the tech world over the New Year weekend. Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, not a vast amount; the geeks of the world are hopefully holding 48-hr end-of-year Call of Duty: Black Ops sessions to release any cool new stuff, right?

Here, though, is a story from December that we didn't have space for at the time, but which you should know about. 2010 was a pretty good year for smartphones, with lots of neat models coming out, but with the exception of the iPhone 4's wonderful screen, it didn't bring much of a leap forward in terms of specs. The Nexus One set the bar in January, with a 1GHz processor and 512Mb of RAM; the iPhone 4 and other notable Android handsets followed that pattern, and even the Nexus S, Google's new flagship released in December, shared that basic spec.

The reason for this spec stagnation? Not just laziness or stinginess on the part of manufacturers. Making smartphones is really a constant battle between adding power and preserving battery life, and up till now, there's been no processor of above 1GHz on offer that isn't too big and power-hungry for a mobile phone.

Until now... for the dual-core revolution, which helped PC speeds keep on increasing in the last decade without processors getting too big or hot. Dual-core processors have multiple chips which work in tamden, through software wizardry, to get stuff done. And 2011 is set to see the first dual-core smartphones. First up looks set to be LG's Optimus 2X. Officially the Optimus is another 1GHz smartphone, but with its dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor it should whizz along.

One cool use of the extra power is that the phone can output 1080p video through HDMI, which is geek-speak for 'you can plug it into your HD TV and watch video as good as Blu-Ray with it.' But there should be many more advantages which come clear in the next few weeks before the phone's release in Spring - and plenty more dual-core smartphones should be on the way. Happy new year, indeed...

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