The smartphone you buy this fall is going to be way better than the one in your pocket now — and it might even be cheaper, too. ARM, the company behind the chip technology in virtually every smartphone and tablet today, is launching a new kind of processor that brings today’s high-end features to more affordable devices.
The new ARM Cortex-A17 design is kind of the 2014 version of the Cortex-A9 that’s in chips like Nvidia’s Tegra 3 (which powers devices such as the original Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface) and Apple’s A5 (which was in the iPhone 4S). ARM said the A17 is 60% more energy-efficient than the A9, meaning manufacturers who use it will be able to coax more features out of chips based on the A17 design.
First out of the gate is MediaTek, which is getting in on the ground floor with Cortex-A17. MediaTek chips power a large number of devices — roughly 250 million worldwide — but they have a relatively weak presence in the U.S., mainly because its business targets the low end. (If you bought a $50 Android phone someplace in India, chances are it has a MediaTek processor.)
MediaTek’s A17-based MT6595 processor could be the company’s first-class ticket to America. Far from a bare-bones piece of silicon, it’s a full system-on-a-chip (SoC) design with eight cores that includes compatibility with LTE networks (Release 9), something the company’s processors have been lacking until now.
The design includes high-end features such as the ability to handle 4K video, as well as support for 20-megapixel cameras and Quad HD phone displays. It’s also able to connect to wearables via Bluetooth Smart and ANT+.
With the new chip, manufacturers will be able to offer devices with all the features of a current high-end phone that costs just $200 — unsubsidized, according to MediaTek. With more U.S. carriers signaling that phone subsidies may be ending (T-Mobile already got rid of them), a sudden influx of cheap, high-quality smartphones would be welcome news for consumers.
ARM said its new A17 architecture will be powering the majority of mid-range smartphones by 2015, with new chip designs from Nvidia, Broadcom, Samsung and others. Smart TVs, which ARM expects will number 140 million by next year, will need those kinds of chips, too.
For MediaTek, the new wave of chips represents an opportunity to break into the U.S. market in a big way. The company said it intends to bring even more American-friendly chip designs — along with its well-established aggressive pricing — in the coming months, including ones that will be ready for the ultra-high-speed LTE-Advancednetworks. Watch your back, Qualcomm.
Source : Mashable