ZTE rumored to announce its own ARM based processor next month

by: Gary SimsAugust 13, 2013

ZTE Logo aa 600pxIn the good old days things were simple, chip makers made processors and OEMs made products. Simple. But today everything is complicated. Samsung, Apple and Huawei all make handsets and they also design the processors running in those handsets. Many of the big Android names have gone vertical. Now ZTE is rumored to have done the same and is set to announce a new processor with 4G support at next month’s PT/Expo Comm China 2013.

The benefits for ZTE in designing its own processor, rather than buying from companies like Qualcomm and MediaTek, include reduced costs and high levels of integration. Apple even go as far as to add new instructions to its processor to improve the speed of certain custom operations. ZTE could do the same if it intends to only use the processor in its own products (to avoid compatibility issues).

Little is known about the upcoming processor other than its support for 4G LTE. It is very likely to be an ARM based processor but which core architecture it will use (Cortex-A7. A15 or even A12) isn’t known, nor is there any clues about the number of cores it can support.

ZTE is currently in competition against Huawei and LG to become the third largest smartphone maker in the world. There is a less than one percent difference between these three in terms of market position. Earlier this year Huawei announced it is working on its own processor, now thought to be called the K3V3. Huawei’s processor is believed to be an eight-core processor but it isn’t clear if it will use ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture. Since ZTE is in direct competition with Huawei it will be interesting to see if ZTE is looking to use its processor in high-end phones or try to increase its share in the mid to low-end market.

  • Jean-Claude

    So 8-Core processors will be standard of 2014? Really now?

  • kpkp

    A12 is not coming anytime soon, do not create crazy expectations…

  • kascollet

    You really need to learn about mobile SoCs, ARM’s licensing, and the whole ARM world. Unless you do, such articles will keep on being totally pointless.

    • OK, I’ll take the bait… tell me what I should learn?

      • kascollet

        – Samsung, Mediatek and Huawei don’t design their processor. Only ARM, Qualcomm and Apple have this capability for the moment
        – Apple SoCs don’t feature specific instructions (full ARM v7 ISA compatibility)
        – there is no non-big.LITTLE 8 core processor
        – Apple doesn’t make their processor (Samsung is the founder) but they design it…

        And so on. You confuse many different notions.

        Just read Anandtech, they recently published a series of articles about all this.

        • >> Samsung, Mediatek and Huawei don’t design their processor. Only ARM, Qualcomm and Apple have this capability for the moment

          Ah, now I see your confusion. If by design you only mean those that have the ability to alter the core architecture then yes ARM, Apple and Qualcomm can do this, but recently Samsung started working on its own core design, please read http://www.androidauthority.com/samsung-to-start-using-custom-arm-cores-250032/ to stay current with recent developments.

          However the term ‘design’ also includes those who take ARM’s IP and built SoCs around it. As I am sure you know a SoC is not just a CPU and these chip designers bring together the other components like GPU, 3G and/or 4G modems, memory management etc. These other components of the SoC don’t necessarily come from ARM and so companies like MediaTek design new SoC silicon to meet their needs.

          >> Apple SoCs don’t feature specific instructions (full ARM v7 ISA compatibility)

          As you know the A6 uses the ARM v7s instruction set and Apple’s processors are the only ones which support it. A v7s binary using v7s specific instructions won’t run on a ‘standard’ ARM v7 core.

          >> there is no non-big.LITTLE 8 core processor

          True, but MediaTek is working on an eight-core processor which it is calling a “True Octa-Core”. There is no mention of big.LITTLE in its position paper. Please see http://www.androidauthority.com/mediatek-announces-worlds-first-true-octa-core-249520/ for more information.

          • kascollet

            Ok, that’s better.
            Except armv7s instruction set is just the standard support for VFP4 extensions, included in every Cortex A5, A7, A12 or A15. Basically, every ARM core newer than Cortex A9 support VFP4 extensions like Apple’s Swift core. Nothing Apple-specific of proprietary.

          • Sorry I am a bit confused, what does “Ok, that’s better” mean? As far as I can see you called my article “totally pointless” saying I needed to learn about the “whole ARM world” but yet the problems which you mentioned in your later comment aren’t problems at all and my reply plus links to other articles show that. I haven’t changed the article at all.

            Could it not be said that your harsh comments about my article being pointless and that I don’t know anything about SoCs, ARM etc was actually unjustified?

          • kascollet

            Better means you’re obviously know more than the article suggested, but still are not precise and objective enough (and you didn’t answer about the armv7s ISA BTW, let alone correct the misleading article).