File this under more is better – Qualcomm has just announced new ARM chips with more bits and more cores than ever before. The Snapdragon 610 and 615 are the chip maker's new 64-bit mobile processors, and the 615 packs eight CPU cores. Despite the big headlining features, these aren't intended to be flagship chips.
Qualcomm is in the habit of making custom CPUs for its ARM chips – those are the Krait cores you hear so much about. The company has used ARM's Cortex reference designs in a few chips previously, like the Snapdragon 400. These new chips are the same story. They use ARM cores instead of updated Krait CPUs, but they're based on ARM's next-generation ARMv8 instruction set (thus, 64-bit). Both the 610 and 615 will run ARM Cortex-A53 cores, so it's just the number and layout of the cores that's different.
Cortex-A53 is going to be the 64-bit equivalent of ARM's current Cortex-A7. That's the "little" half of ARM's big.LITTLE design, but A7 is also used as a standalone CPU in various mid-range processors. It's the same story with the Snapdragon 610 and 615 – Qualcomm is just using the A53 instead of pairing it with the A57 in big.LITTLE. However, the octa-core 615 will have its eight cores divided into two CPU islands a bit like big.LITTLE, with one tuned for speed and the other for efficiency. Qualcomm will also include its customary LTE modem in these chips.
The 610/615 also have a new GPU on-board called the Adreno 405 (probably a scaled back version of the 420 set to debut in the Snapdragon 805). This is a much bigger update for the Snapdragon 610 and 615 than the new 64-bit CPUs. The Adreno 405 is a real step up for mid-range designs. It is expected to have support for DirectX 11.2, OpenGL ES 3.0, hardware tessellation, and OpenCL for GPGPU.
These chips will probably be overshadowed by some future revision of the Krait CPU based on ARMv8, but we've got a while to wait. The Snapdragon 610 and 615 won't even be out until late 2014.