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Qualcomm Touts Smartphone Battery Life, Not 4 Cores

Mobile World Congress will showcase new advances in LTE 4G power efficiency, not smartphones with quad-core SnapDragon processors, says Qualcomm exec.

Mobile World Congress attendees hoping to see the first smartphones with quad-core SnapDragon processors on board had better brace for disappointment. There won't be any, said Qualcomm VP of product management Raj Talluri, unless you count the concepts touted by phone vendors and chip suppliers.

Instead, said Talluri, it has something more important on deck: LTE 4G smartphones that won't wreck the battery by mid-day.

Qualcomm is prepared to talk up its 8960 chipset, a SnapDragon processor for smartphones and tablets that has an LTE baseband built into the application processor. Integrating the baseband and processor let Qualcomm make key advances in power efficiency. The chip is also among the first to ship with Qualcomm's 28-nanometer process, which contributes significant power savings of its own accord.

"All of the LTE devices out there today use separate modems and use separate radios," Talluri said in an interview with GigaOM. "With integrated LTE we'll see significant improvements in power efficiency."

[ It will take another six months for many popular devices to get Android 4.0. Read more at Motorola's Messy Ice Cream Sandwich Speaks Volumes On Android. ]

Though the MDM8960 processor was announced months ago, Mobile World Congress will see the first devices launch with the combo unit built in.

LTE 4G smartphones have notoriously crummy battery life. The first wave of LTE smartphones that hit Verizon's network last year could barely make it through half a day before croaking. Half a day does a mobile professional no good. Some of the more recently released devices, such as the Galaxy Nexus and RAZR MAXX, have made improvements in longevity, but the bulk of 4G phones still offer iffy battery life.

Adding four cores to an LTE 4G phone only makes things worse, right? Well, that depends.

Qualcomm thinks it has the right recipe for success. Its quad-core chip designs avoid the pitfall of running all four cores at the same time. Instead, Qualcomm offers the ability to partially activate the cores individually as needed for applications. Talluri told GigaOM that this incremental control over the processor clock speed leads to huge gains in power efficiency.

Qualcomm doesn't expect smartphones with quad-core SnapDragon processors to ship until late in 2012.

Just because Qualcomm isn't showing off any four-core phones doesn't mean MWC attendees will be left completely forlorn. Nvidia's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has promised that we'll see four-core phones--based on the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor--and that they'll ship by the end of the quarter. The first such device is expected to come from HTC.

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 25-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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