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Qualcomm unveiled a new class of its Snapdragon mobile processors today in an effort to maintain leadership in chips for smartphones and tablets.

The company announced its Snapdragon S4 class of mobile processors and enhanced its Snapdragon S1 chips for entry-level platforms. The S4 processors are aimed at lowering design, engineering and inventory costs while bringing the latest performance in 3G and 4G connection speeds to mobile data users. The company made the announcement at its analyst meeting in New York.

San Diego-based Qualcomm is trying to address the whole mobile market, from basic smartphones to high-end smartphones and tablets. The S4 chips are optimized for software that includes multimedia, connectivity, camera, display, security, power management, browsing, and natural user interface features. The S4 is a quad-core (four computing brains on one chip) chip built with a 28 nanometer manufacturing process.

Snapdragon chips are already in 300 smartphones and are in about 350 more that are under development. The heart of the new chips is the Krait central processing unit (CPU), which is built from the ground up for mobile performance and power management.

The new S4 chips include the MSM8660A, MSM8260A, MSM8630, MSM8230, MSM8627, MSM8227, APQ8060A and APQ8030. Devices based on the S4 processors will appear in early 2012. The new models of the low-end S1 chip are the MSM7225A, MSM7625A, MSM7227A and MSM7627A. Those chips are aimed at 2G and 3G phones. Rivals include Texas Instruments, Marvell, Broadcom and Nvidia.

Snapdragon has more than 225 design wins with 30 different Android smartphone manufacturers.

Smartphones are expected to sell 4 billion units between 2011 and 2015, according to estimates from Gartner, Strategy Analytics and IDC. Emerging regions are expected to be 50 percent of sales by 2015.

Qualcomm shipped more than 483 million MSMs, or modem chips, during its fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

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