NVIDIA, with the Tegra 3, was the first company to ship a quad core chip that ended up in a smartphone; the HTC One X to be specific. Just a few weeks later, Samsung shipped the quad core Exynos powered Galaxy S III. Both of those phones make use of four ARM Cortex A9 cores. MediaTek is a Taiwanese company that also makes chips, though the chips they produce typically don’t end up in devices sold outside of Asia. Their quad core chip, the MT6589, was supposed to launch in January. According to DigiTimes, that launch has been moved to this because companies want to make sure they have phones out in time for the Chinese New Year (February 10, 2013).

Now what makes the MT6589 special is that it uses ARM’s Cortex A7, not A9. What does that mean in terms of performance? The Cortex A9 delivers 2.50 DMIPS per MHz per core, so a 1.4 GHz quad core Exynos should give you about 14000 DMIPS. The ARM Cortex A7 on the other hand, that delivers 1.9 DMIPS per MHz per core, which means the MT6589 will give you 10640 DMIPS assuming the same clock speed. If you want a deeper understanding of the differences between the A9 and the A7, be sure to read this AnandTech article.

Geeky numbers aside, what does this all mean in the real world? Not all quad core phones are created equal. You’re going to see some new phones from Motorola, Sony, and LG come out in Q1 2013 that say they have four cores, and that wouldn’t be a lie, but they’re not going to be anywhere near as fast as today’s quad core mosters from HTC and Samsung.

We have to mention that we have yet to use a device powered by the MT6589, so for all we know it might actually provide consumers an awesome user experience. We’ll find out soon enough, Mobile World Congress is less than 100 days away!