Are Dual-Core Chips for Smartphones, Tablets or Both?

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An HTC smartphone with multiple cores is reportedly in the works, based on results found at a benchmark testing website. The speedy device is ironically named Glacier and meant for T-Mobile, says AlienBabelTech, which spied the results before the data was pulled. Regardless of which carrier is the first to gain a dual-core device, the future is clear: faster, more powerful processors are on the way for the next wave of handhelds.

If HTC is building a device with a dual-core processor, odds are good that the chip is a Snapdragon from Qualcomm (s qcom), as that’s the chip of choice for HTC’s high-end smartphones. And the timing of such a chip sounds about right too; Qualcomm announced the MSM8x60 line of 1.2 GHz dual-core chips back in June and said that samples of such processors were then available to device manufacturers. Those samples could apply to phones, but the capabilities of such processors opens the door to larger-screen devices, as Om noted after the announcement:

These new chips can handle HSPA+ speeds and include a GPU that has 3D/2D acceleration engines for Open GLES 2.0 and Open VG 1.1 acceleration, 1080p video encode/decode, a dedicated low-power audio engine, integrated low-power GPS and support for 24-bit WXGA 1280×800 resolution displays.

AlienBabelTech could be right in that the test results it found are for a T-Mobile super smartphone, but an HSPA+ compatible tablet running Android 2.2 (s goog) — or the next version of the platform, which should natively support higher resolutions — would certainly fit around such a processor as well. It’s worth noting that a sibling chip supports EVDO Rev. B for CDMA carriers too, which opens the doors for more tablets on the Verizon Wireless (s vz) or Sprint (s s) networks.

Indeed, while more speed in our smartphones is never looked upon as a bad thing — provided the market doesn’t simply chase speed in lieu of usability and other features — compelling competitors to Apple’s iPad slate would certainly benefit from the capabilities offered in Qualcomm’s third-generation Snapdragon, or the fourth-generation OMAP from Texas Instruments (s txn), for that matter. I’m not getting too hung up on if such a chip will power smartphones or tablets, because at some point, it will likely power both types of devices.

Related GigaOM Pro Research (subscription required): For Phones, the Future is Multiple Cores

8 Comments

TI-rrific

Great article, Kevin. Like Conrad, I totally agree with your comment that “more speed in our smartphones is never looked upon as a bad thing – provided the market doesn’t simply chase speed in lieu of usability and other features.” Regardless of device – smartphone, tablet, consumer electronics, others – our semiconductor world is responsible for creating chips that echo the delicate balance of extreme performance and low power. Battery life is a key foundation of usability, and we work hard to make sure higher processing speeds do not tax a mobile device’s “on time.” Dual-core chips with this optimal performance + power balance are indeed going to change the game in the near future. Of course, we have some great things in store with the OMAP 4 platform – we’ll keep you posted!

Wk24, check out the OMAP4 website to get some additional insight as to what can happen with the combination of high performance CPU in a well balance architecture with multimedia to spare.

Robert, OMAP product management director, TI

tom

faster and more powerful is a good thing. but something seems to be slipping away lately. i used to be the norm with consumers electronic devices that after the initial launch hype device prices would start to come down. i would really like to see a round of lower cost devices to bring tablets and smartphones more into the mainstream. how about working towards a goal of full featured android tablets for $250 with no contract or $100 smartphones unsubsidized for no contract prepaid users?

conradwai

My favorite line: “more speed in our smartphones is never looked upon as a bad thing – provided the market doesn’t simply chase speed in lieu of usability and other features”. Spot on. I just wrote a piece called “Moore’s Law is already dead” that argues something very similar — that processing power has taken a backseat to user experience, and “other features.”
http://somethingventured.me/2010/08/03/moore’s-law-is-already-dead/

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