Intel has made just a little progress in getting into mobile devices. But it is determined to make the strategic jump from PC chips to mobile processors. Today, the world’s biggest chip maker is launching a fast dual-core Atom mobile processor for mainstream smartphones and Android tablets.
The move shows that Intel still wants to break into mobile devices despite the advantages of ARM (and licensees such as Qualcomm) and its low-power technology that suits devices that require long battery lives and stellar performance. Smartphones are a strategic market since they are expected to ship 500 million units a year by 2015.
Intel said the new chips will enable a new generation of faster and power-efficient smartphones and tablets. That means the devices will give consumers smooth web browsing, glitch-free high-definition movies, and a zippy Android app experience.
The new Intel Atom Processor-based Z25xx platform (formerly code-named Clover Trail +) has double the computing power of last year’s model and three times the graphics capabilities. It enables devices — smartphones or Android tablets — with competitive battery lives. Intel made the announcement at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain.
The chip has one of the smallest and lowest-power multimode-multiband LTE wireless solutions, Intel said. It is shipping single-mode LTE now and multimode devices will ship later in the first half of the year.
Previously announced customers for the Intel Atom Z2420 processor include Acer, Lave, and Safaricom. New smartphone customer Etisalat in Egypt is adopting the chip, and so is Asus, which is expected to use the new Atom chip in a 7-inch phone-like Android tablet, dubbed a “phablet.”
Intel said more original device manufacturers will adopt the company’s next-generation Atom chip, code-named Bay Trail, for launch during the holidays of 2013. Those ODMs include Compal, ECS, Pegatron, Quanta and Wistron.
“Today’s announcements build on Intel’s growing device portfolio across a range of mobile market segments,” said Hermann Eul, Intel vice president and co-general manager of Intel’s mobile and communications group. “In less than a year’s time we have worked closely with customers to bring 10 Intel-based smartphones to market in more than 20 countries, and have also delivered an industry-leading low-power Atom SoC tablet solution running Windows 8, and shipping with more than 10 customers today.
He added, “Looking forward, we will build upon this foundation and work closely with our ecosystem partners, across operating systems, to deliver the best mobile products and experiences for consumers with Intel Inside.”
The new Atom processors are built with Intel’s 32-nanometer manufacturing process and are available in speeds of 2.0 gigahertz (Z2580), 1.6 gigahertz (Z2560), and 1.2 gigahertz (Z2520). The graphics technology built into the device should enable fast-action 3D games running at 30 frames per second, Intel said.
The Intel chips will square off against rival technology from Qualcomm, Nvidia, Samsung, Marvell and a bunch of other chip makers.
Later this year, Intel will move to 22-nanometer manufacturing, which yields chips that are faster, cheaper, and more power efficient than 32-nanometer manufacturing can. The new Atom chip using 22-nanometer manufacturing is code-named Merrifield, and it will have a brand new microarchitecture as well.
Intel said that the new Atom has support for two cameras, with the main camera sensor able to capture 16-megapixel images. It can also do panorama captures at 15 frames per second for 8-megapixel photos.
Intel is working with partners to build identity protection into the chip. Its partners include including Feitian, Garanti Bank, MasterCard, McAfee, SecureKey Technologies, Symantec, Vasco Data Security International, Visa.
Intel’s latest LTE solution is the Intel XMM 7160.
“ With Intel shipping the XMM 7160 LTE solutions to customers now, this gives them a real shot at picking at Qualcomm’s discrete LTE franchise, particularly with Apple,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “Intel’s current Medfield-based Atom processors are shipping in 10 phones that are selling in 20 countries.”