Mobile devices get Qualcomm's quad-core chip with integrated modem

Devices makers will show off tablets, smartphones with Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon chip featuring an integrated modem

The first mobile devices with Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon chip featuring an integrated modem will be shown off later this month, the company said on Monday.

Device makers will show tablets and smartphones with the new Snapdragon S4 chip at Qualcomm's QRD Summit in Shenzhen, China, which will be held on Jan 23. The QRD refers to the Qualcomm Reference Design program, under which the company offers chips, tools and device reference designs for carriers and hardware makers to test and ready products.

The devices will likely run on the Snapdragon S4 Play chip, which was announced by Qualcomm in late September. The quad-core S4 Play chip, also called MSM8625Q, is targeted at low-end smartphones and tablets, and supports CDMA and UMTS protocols, but does not include 4G capabilities.

Qualcomm declined to comment on which companies will show products. However, devices based on the S4 Play are expected to appear in the first quarter this year.

There is a growing interest in low-cost Android smartphones, which are expected to grow in shipments, especially in China, research firm IDC said in December. The challenging economy has driven up interest in low-cost smartphones, and IDC has projected overall smartphone shipments to reach 717.5 million [M] in 2012, growing 45.1 percent from 2011.

This will be Qualcomm's first quad-core chip with an integrated modem to be shown in devices. Qualcomm already offers dual-core Snapdragon S4 chips with integrated modems. An example is the MSM8960, which is used in Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S III. The company also offers a quad-core Snapdragon S4 chip, but without an integrated modem.

Chip makers like MediaTek and Nvidia are also in the process of integrating application processors and modems in chips. Companies like Texas Instruments have argued against combining quad-core processors and chips, saying the combination could affect the battery life and take up a lot of space in mobile devices.

The MSM8625Q supports 720p video playback and integrates Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The applications processor is based on the Cortex-A5 design, which is an older ARM processor. Qualcomm licenses processor designs and architecture from ARM.

At the International CES show in early January, Qualcomm announced new dual-core and quad-core Snapdragon 800 and 600 chips with integrated LTE capabilities for high-end mobile devices. The chips are faster, more power efficient and offer better graphics than existing Snapdragon processors, Qualcomm said. The new chips will start appearing in devices by the middle of this year.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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