Mobile

Marvell seeks to enable the iPhone-like $99 smartphone

Marvell is announcing today new chip designs that will enable fully functional, iPhone-like smart phones at mass market prices of $99 or less.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker is announcing Pantheon, a low-end chip set which also delivers all the functions necessary for a phone.

Chips for these low-cost phones, which either cost $99 or are subsidized for free with two-year contracts,  have to handle an array of radio functions and consume a small amount of power. To date, they haven’t been all that capable and that’s why feature phones are so boring. But now Marvell can pack enough multimedia, graphics, and video processing power into the chips to enable touchscreen cell phones, said Vivek Chhabra, general manager of Marvell’s mobile chips division.

“The market is ready for mass adoption of smart phones,” he said.

All of these efforts are aimed at bringing high-end cell phone capabilities to mass market prices, said Weili Dai, co-founder of Marvell, in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The idea is to help spread rich media devices into the hands of millions of first-time cell phone consumers around the world, she said.

The Marvell Pantheon chip set works with the TD-SCDMA protocol that has become popular in places such as China. The Pantheon chip set is available in samples right now. It has an 800-megahertz ARM dual-core processor that can handle 720p video playback (low-end high-definition imagery), projection of images onto a large wall, or graphics processing at  a rate of 20 million triangles per second.


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