Smartphones packing four ARM Cortex A9 processors have been out on the market for a little over half a year. We thought that the next step in performance would come from devices that feature two ARM Cortex A15 processors. The Nexus 10 has just such a chip inside. According to a report on the China Times, ZTE has other plans. They’re going to launch an octo-core smartphone in 2013 called the “Apache”. Here’s where things get interesting: The chip with these eight cores isn’t going to be made by Qualcomm, NVIDIA, or Samsung. Instead it’s going to be made by MediaTek and it’s allegedly called the MT6599.

Little is known about this chip because it’s yet to be announced, but we do know something about a chip that’s slightly less powerful, the MT6588. The MT6588 is a quad core chip, but unlike the Tegra 3 or the Exynos 4 Quad, it uses ARM’s weaker Cortex A7 core instead of the Cortex A9. On paper, four ARM Cortex A7 processors should deliver roughly the same performance as two Cortex A9 processors. Why bother making a quad core A7 chip then? Sadly it comes down to marketing.

So will the “Apache” be a killer device? Probably not. We have a strong feeling that it’s going to pack two clusters of four ARM Cortex A7 processors. That would make the chip easy to manufacture. We just don’t think MediaTek of all companies has the resources to out engineer a company like Samsung or Qualcomm. That’s an extremely hard pill to swallow.

When will we know more about this magic phone? Knowing how much America hates China right now, we’re probably going to have to wait until Mobile World Congress in February. That being said, we’d be pleasantly surprised if something turned up at CES in January.

  • TheFirstUniverseKing

    Octo-core in general is pointless when so much harder improvement can be made to quad-core chips. Compare the quad core chip in the Note II versus the dual core chip in the Nexus 10. I’m getting the Note II and I know I’ll be more than happy with it, but even the dual-core ARM Cortex A15 chip in the Nexus 10 blows away the Note II’s chip.

    • mjolnirxz

      not necessarily. look at intel’s i5 vs i7: as a gamer myself, i choose the i5 because i get 0 benefits from the 12 threads i7 provides. but noobs will still buy i7 because ZOMG ITS BETTAR. however i7 does shine immensely when you apply it to cad work, video renderings, other professional works. it largely depends on the software. not saying it is relevant for android right now, but in the future. unlike a PC, you cant just upgrade the CPU. so why not have the best hardware now and let the software catch up for future-proofing?

  • abir

    I disagree with the column,the performance of the Mediatek MT6589(they renamed it, but still look it up) is similar to that of Tegra 3, if you can buy HTC oneX then whats bad about buying a phone that offers similar performance for 100$-150$ less?

  • flamencoguy

    Bad assumption. Sometimes it only takes one smart engineer to out engineer larger companies. We have seen that many times throughout history.
    David vs Goliath? Microsoft vs IBM 25 years ago.

  • arghya

    why octo core? connect two quad cores back-to-back on the two sides of the same motherboard! i dont understand why they dont get an idea of stacking multiple motherboard in a device!

    • john

      You can…but if you were a decent human being, you wouldn’t ask anyone to code for such thing. Multiple cores, parallel processing, these things are only 10% hardware effort, 90% is figuring out how to write programs that will use the hardware efficiently. x86 is a mess- a lovable mess- but sill a mess. The complexity of x86 would make parallel processing unbearably difficult.

  • arghya

    android should die as soon as possible! windows xp runs great on 1GB ram and a celeron 900mhz processor. still you can load loads of softwares. android is google’s pet. it started out as an open source and now its proprietary. they are the biggest android gamers out here.

  • arghya

    these guys are not engineers. they are “reverse engineers”. you may find pictures of i7 and i5 processors with their silicon exposed. nice chemical treatment they did to melt away all the metal and ceramic. so they can even do that for nvidia and samsung. what’s the problem? afterall we were looted for 300yrs!

  • arghya

    i think in business its more of class they are concerned than performance. a simple msm or brcm based phones can be smartphones. but they wont allow you to own a smartphone for lesser price. a phablet costs $200 whereas if a tablet is designed with allwinner A10 and a msm chipset to handle the phone features, then it may be available for $100. a simple pc modem uses a msm or brcm chipset. So simple modem can function as a fm radio, gps reciever, wifi, bluetooth, But all these features are unlocked. simple! they dont want you to use it that way.

  • john

    Well, it is not all about marketing.

    Essentially, greater number of processing threads and lower clock speed results is same performance as the fewer core CPU with greater clock speed. However, the power consumption is drastically smaller.

    The problem with this though is that this kind of parallel programming is very hard to do. The fact that ARMs is not quite designed for vast parallel execution programming doesn’t help. This kind of thing would be feasible in a situation where the platform is specifically designed for parallel execution and that each “cores” are very primitive and simple to the point of being basic FLUs.