In a move that would be akin to unveiling an automobile’s new engine in advance of an auto show, Samsung on Thursday introduced its new 1.4 GHz Exynos 4 Quad processor for smartphone and tablet devices.
While the company did not say which devices would first use the processor — which is based on the ARM Cortex A9 chip — it announced that it would power the “next Galaxy” device. That is expected to be the Samsung Galaxy S III, which could be unveiled next week.
The Exynos reportedly will deliver twice the power of its predecessors while requiring 20 percent less energy.
“The quad-core processor offers phenomenal multitasking abilities surpassing any single or dual application processor,” said Taehoon Kim, vice president of System LSI marketing, device solutions, Samsung Electronics.
“Since all the cores must share a single battery, the power management and efficiency in the limited battery capacity are indispensable for mobile computing devices,” he continued. “Given the diverse functionalities consumers are demanding from their mobile devices today, the Exynos 4 Quad meets those high-performance needs while keeping power consumption very low.”
A Samsung spokesperson was not immediately available to provide further details.
Competition Will Notice
It’s not clear what Samsung hoped to gain by unveiling the chip in advance of the handset’s introduction.
“This is the next generation of chips for Samsung,” said tech analyst Jeff Kagan, but it “is not an earthshaking new idea. It happens on a regular basis. Customers don’t really care about chips. They care about features and functionality. It’s like cars. Customers don’t understand the thingamagigs in the engine. Instead they love the brand.”
Still, even if consumers don’t take notice of the new Exynos processor, the industry certainly will.
“The chips inside the phones still matter to some people,” Billy Pidgeon, principal analyst at M2 Research, told TechNewsWorld. “And it certainly matters to Nvidia, IBM and, of course, Qualcomm. The chip wars are on. This is dead serious for the major makers in the market, and any gain by a competitor is a threat to their business.”
The timing of Samsung’s announcement also comes after Intel’s chips debuted in smartphones for the first time this week, with devices going on sale in India.
“The showdown between Intel’s and ARM-based chips is heating up,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “This could be the first salvo in a continuing battle for the hearts and minds of mobile phone makers and mobile phone consumers.”
It’s also likely Samsung has another competitor in its sites — namely, the iPhone.
“The obvious target is Apple, and Samsung is one of the few mobile phone manufacturers to tell Apple to bring it on,” King told TechNewsWorld.
Building a Brand
For years, Intel tried to remind consumers that there was an “Intel Inside” their computers. This could be what Samsung is trying to do in the mobile phone space.
“Samsung is a brand customers have learned to love,” Kagan added. “I don’t know if Samsung understands they don’t have to heavily promote the chips, but they do have to promote the features and functionality.”
When customers are in the market for another phone, they typically want more than they had with their last device.
This new chipset could help Samsung improve the customer experience, emphasized Kagan. “It will let customers use new features. It will let them love Samsung even more, and that’s what it’s all about: building the brand; creating loyalty.”
Functionality and Efficiency
It’s not likely many consumers will remember the Exynos chip by name, but they might be left with a lasting impression of what it can deliver.
“The new design will allow handsets to deliver a better multimedia experience, and it will allow greater multitasking so users can run multiple applications at the same time on their handset,” said King. “It is really an applications processor.”
The processor will be able to handle full 1080p video capture and playback, and even drive a WXGA 1366×768-pixel display. This will make the chip particularly well-suited for handling demanding applications, including 3D games and video editing — applications that have long been the domain of the desktop.
“The fact of the matter is that the smartphone is taking the place of the desktop for many of us when we’re out and about,” said Pidgeon. “That is a matter of convenience, but the bigger picture is that for some — especially in the emerging world — the PC isn’t ever going to be available the way it is in the Western world. For those people, the smartphone will take the place of the computer, and it is about efficiency and cost.”