Each iPhone Apple launches is faster than its predecessor thanks to both hardware and software innovations. The same goes for high-end Android devices, though in most comparison tests it’s always the latest iPhone that comes out on top. At the same time, mobile operating systems become more sophisticated every year, requiring software optimizations as well as faster chips, memory and storage so that advanced apps don’t hinder performance.

IBM might hold the key to making the iPhone even faster in the future, in addition to other mobile devices and computers, thanks to innovation surrounding optical storage that might revolutionize the industry.

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IBM Research came up with a way to adapt phase-change memory (PCM) to modern computing use. PCM might one day replace both flash storage and RAM, offering users even faster access to data.

PCM memory or crystal-based storage has been used in optical drives for years, but PCM was too expensive for other use cases until now. The technology uses current to write and read data from amorphous glass materials, and IBM found a way to do it reliably, regardless of ambient temperature.

As Engadget points out, PCM memory is currently faster than flash and it costs as much as RAM thanks to its low density. “Reaching 3 bits per cell is a significant milestone because at this density the cost of PCM will be significantly less than DRAM and closer to flash,” IBM Research’s Dr. Haris Pozidis said.

PCM memory can read data in less than 1 microsecond, compared to 70 microseconds for flash.  As a result, PCM could be used in the future to store a phone’s entire operating system, the researchers say, “enabling the phone to launch in a few seconds.”

There are many other applications that could benefit from PCM memory, including iPhones and other smartphones, but also online services and artificial intelligence projects like IBM’s Watson.

More details about this new memory breakthrough are available in the video below.

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