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5/31/2012
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Intel Smartphones Slowly Spread To New Markets

Intel-based Xolo San Diego lands in the British Isles on June 6, while Lenovo LePhone K800 hits China today. Both run Google's Android platform.

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The lone Intel-based smartphone on the market has been available in India since April, but Orange is bringing it to the British Isles June 6 and to France later this summer. The U.K. version of this device, known in India as the Xolo X900, is being marketed as the San Diego across Europe.

The San Diego will be available for 200 pounds via Orange Pay As You Go, and requires customers to top up their account by 10 pounds. Orange customers will also be able to get it for free if they agree to a two-year contract at the rate of 15.50 pounds per month. The contract plan offers 50 minutes, 50 texts, and 100MB of mobile data per month.

The San Diego is based on Intel's Z2460 system-on-a-chip, which includes a 1.6-GHz Atom engine in addition to a 400-MHz graphics chip. Thanks to the Z2460's 32-nm process, it's power-efficient as well as zippy. The San Diego boasts a 4-inch LCD display, in addition to an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of built-in storage space, and HSPA+ 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and HDMI.

[ Will the Facebook phone prove to be ill-fated? Read more at Facebook Phone Faces Uphill Battle. ]

The San Diego will ship with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but Orange says Android 4.0 is coming soon. Orange and Intel say the San Diego can surf the Web for five hours and support eight hours of voice calls.

Today, Lenovo kicked off sales of the LePhone K800, which is also based on Intel's Z2640 SoC. First announced at the Consumer Electronics Show early this year, the K800 features a 4.5-inch display, 1.6GHz processor, an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 1 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of built-in storage space.

The LePhone K800 is selling for a price of 3,299 yuan (U.S. $520) without a contract. This high price has analysts concerned that it won't sell well in China.

These two device launches add to the X900's availability in India, giving Intel a footprint in India, China, and Europe. It's a start, but Intel has a long road ahead if it hopes to put the hurt on its competitors.

Qualcomm and other chip makers have a solid lead in the mobile space with their ARM-based chips, with sales in the hundreds of millions of devices. Their success resulted from good partnerships among platform providers (in this case, Google), handset makers, and carriers--not because of the silicon inside the devices.

Intel needs its other device partners, Motorola and ZTE, to design compelling handsets that carriers--especially those in the United States--will want to sell. Motorola has had a bumpy ride with Android sales in the last year, and ZTE is barely a blip in the U.S. market (though admittedly it is much larger in Asian markets).

Intel and Motorola were expected to unveil a new Atom-based Android smartphone months ago. The delay can probably be attributed to the extra time it took for Google's acquisition of Motorola to be approved by Chinese regulators. Intel needs to get its chips into as many handsets and onto as many retail shelves as possible.

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