Intel’s Medfield chip limited to the entry-level smartphone market, report claims

March 21, 2012
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Announced back in January at CES 2012 Las Vegas, the Medfield chip represents Intel’s latest attempt to enter the smartphone processor market, one currently dominated by Qualcomm and Nvidia (both using ARM architectures for their designs). Although Intel has high hopes that, starting with the second quarter of this year, major manufacturers will choose to implement the Medfield chip in their upcoming flagship superphones, a recent report from Digitimes claims that the Intel Atom Z2460 CPU will be more popular in the entry-level market instead, one significantly less profitable than the high-end sector.

We’ve previously reported about the Medfield chip proving its performance in a couple of benchmarks. However, the biggest concern of many experts is the chip’s power consumption (which directly affects the battery life), an area where Intel’s previous smartphone processor prototypes have had severe issues. Apparently, this issue was acknowledged by Intel as being present with the Medfield chip as well, according to a statement made by Mike Bell, Intel’s Ultra Mobility Group general manager, in an interview with the BBC: “Battery life on this platform is not the best in the mobile market, but it is by far not the worst”.

intel medfield chip

ZTE, Orange, and others to deliver Medfield-powered smartphones

The interesting bit of info in the Digitimes rumor is that ZTE is supposedly expected to release (before the end of 2012) Intel Medfield-based smartphones that will go on sale for about $160, a very competitive price, given Medfield’s decent preliminary benchmark scores.

Also according to the report, European carrier Orange is partnering up with Foxconn (a major Intel partner) to provide smartphones for the “mass market”. We already know that Orange is prepping up the Medfield-based Santa Clara, so we can’t be sure if the report is talking about a wide global presence of the Santa Clara or if more Orange smartphones based on the Intel chip are planned to be launched by the end of the year.

Following up, industry sources quoted by Digitimes mention that other major OEMs are reluctant in choosing the Medfield chip as the processor for their next top-end smartphones. If so, I’m sure their hesitations have a lot to do with the predicted low battery life. On Intel’s upside, however, nothing is set in stone, and, if the Orange Santa Clara (most likely the first smartphone to ever launch with a Intel Medfield processor) will be a success, I’m sure more vendors will start considering the chip, at least for their mid-end devices.

On a personal note, I’m very curious to see how the Motorola Medfield-based device will perform. Motorola is definitely the top OEM on the list of early Medfield adopters and it’s in the best position to come up with what can be considered a top-end Medfield-based smartphone.

What do you think? Will the Medfield reach top-end smartphones, or will it be limited to the entry-level markets? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

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