Smartphones with quad-core chips and 4G LTE coming soon

Quad-core processors have not yet been combined with 4G LTE in smartphones, but that could change soon.

Nvidia on Thursday said a quad-core Tegra 3 chip and a third-party LTE modem will be used in the Fujitsu Arrows X LTE phone, which will come to Japan in “summer.” A company spokesperson could not provide a specific date, and further details of the smartphone were not immediately available.

Nvidia’s own Icera 410 LTE modem was also approved for use on the AT&T wireless network in the U.S., paving the way for smartphones with quad-core chips and LTE modems.

Nvidia and Qualcomm are the only companies that offer a package of quad-core processors and LTE modems for smartphones, but the technologies have not yet been paired. For example, HTC’s One X smartphone is offered with a quad-core processor in the non-LTE variant, but with a dual-core processor in the LTE variant. ZTE offers the Ascend D Quad smartphone with a quad-core processor, but the handset does not support LTE.

Who needs a Quad-Core mobile device for work?

LTE will offer fast download speeds and quicker access to websites, and quad-core chips speed up smartphone performance. But there have been troubles matching the two technologies together, with one of the issues being smartphone battery life, said Jim McGregor, an industry analyst.

“When you add more cores, you should be able to do things faster and shut down cores. That’s theoretically,” McGregor said. “But the minute 4G kicks in, it’s the same old theory: You run something faster, you’re going to run out of power.”

Some of those issues could be resolved as chip circuitry gets smaller and LTE modems are integrated in processors over the coming years, McGregor said.

Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon chips integrate 3G/4G inside the chip, and the company has said its quad-core chips will be used in LTE phones in the future. Nvidia’s Icera 410 LTE modem isn’t integrated, and a company spokesman said the part is best suited for tablets and clamshell devices. Nvidia’s integrated Tegra processor with a CPU and modem is coming in 2013, and that chip will go into devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Smartphone chip supplier Texas Instruments has opted not to provide quad-core chips for smartphones because of cost and heat concerns.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam’s e-mail address is [email protected]

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