India-based handset vendor Lava International will launch the world's first Android smartphone with an Intel microprocessor on Monday. With a $421 street price in India, the new XOLO X900 is powered by Intel's Atom Z2460 chip featuring hyperthreading technology as well as support for 3g HSPA+ connectivity.
Though the XOLO X900 will initially ship with Android 2.3 aboard, Lava plans to upgrade handset buyers to Android 4.0 later this year. However, the new smartphone will doubtlessly be pricey for many customers in the world's second-most populous nation.
So far Lava is being careful to position XOLO as a highly differentiated player in the nation's fast-growing smartphone segment. "Independent benchmarks clearly point to the fact that when it comes to speed and performance, XOLO X900 is the gold standard," said co-founder and Director Vishal Sehgal.
For Intel the aim is to gain a toehold in the burgeoning Android smartphone market, which accounted for 50.9 percent of all unit shipments during the fourth quarter of last year, according to Gartner . Still, the firm's analysts expect global smartphone growth in 2012 "to slow to around 39 percent" year over year -- down from 47.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, said Annette Zimmermann, a principal research analyst at Gartner.
More Atom-Powered Devices Coming
Rival chips from Qualcomm, Nvidia and other vendors who base their processors on multi-core offerings from ARM have been able to dominate the smartphone chip race to date because of the ultra-low power consumption of their devices in comparison with Intel chips based on its venerable x86 architecture. The new Atom Z2460 chip being dropped into Lava's new smartphone is the first Intel processor to reduce the power consumption performance gap.
Other product designers have recently become receptive to running Intel inside their mobile device offerings. Lenovo, Motorola Mobility, Orange and ZTE all expect to launch smartphones and tablets powered by Intel's new mobile Atom chip going forward.
Intel is slated to begin sampling a new Atom Z2580 chip this year that doubles performance overall in comparison with the company's current Z2460 processor. Additionally, Intel expects to launch a new Z2000 Atom chip for deployment in lower-priced smartphone designs that only require a 1-GHz processor.
Chip Process Advancements
Intel's current mobile Atom chip lineup is based on 32-nanometer process technology, whereas Intel will be moving to next generation 14 nm process technology in 2014. So we asked IHS iSuppli Senior Principal Analyst Francis Sideco whether Intel's next-generation process technology would give the chipmaker an edge over its ARM-based chip rivals.
While process technology certainly helps, with these types of chips it "is only one factor of many for optimizing mobile device power consumption performance, Sideco said.
"Other factors include -- but are not limited to -- use of peripheral cores and hardware accelerators on board the system-on-chip (SoC), dexterity of the software level control of the multi-core throttling, and system-level design of the memory subsystem and interaction of the chip with that subsystem," Sideco said.
Meanwhile, Lava's XOLO X900 will begin shipping later this month with Intel's current 1.6-GHz Atom chip under the hood, together with support for HDMI and NFC connectivity. The new smartphone will also have a 4.03-inch high-resolution touchscreen, two cameras including an 8-megapixel unit capable of snapping up to 10 pictures in under a second as well as HD video playback.
IDC expects smartphone unit shipments in India's domestic market to grow 78 percent year-over-year to 19.1 million units in 2012. Among other things, the anticipated high growth rate will be driven by the roll out of 3G services in new markets throughout the country this year.