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Nvidia Kai platform to usher in low-cost quad core smartphones this year

July 5, 2012

After the announcement of the Nexus 7, which is an almost-no-compromise tablet that sells for only $200, a lot of people have been wondering why we can’t buy powerful smartphones that are just as affordable as the Nexus 7. The answer is not an easy one, as a smartphone contains more components than the Nexus 7, some of them being quite expensive, like the 3G and 4G modems, the higher PPI displays, much better cameras, and so on.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t see some smartphones that would at least come close to the pricing of the Nexus 7, while offering a similar superior quality. Nvidia is reportedly working with certain Chinese manufacturers to achieve just that. The potential partners list may include ZTE, Huawei and others, although neither company has been confirmed at this time to work with Nvidia on Kai-based smartphones. But Nvidia is apparently planning to launch such devices by the end of the year, according to a Chinese website.

ZTE has already shown a Tegra 3-powered smartphone at MWC this year called the Era, which features a 4.3-inch qHD display, a 7.8mm chassis, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and Android 4.0. The pricing was not announced at the time, but it was clear the device was one of ZTE’s high-end models. Since then, we haven’t heard more details about it, so perhaps ZTE is trying to rebuild the phone, just like Asus overhauled their MeMo tablet with Google’s help. The two companies managed to transform it into a higher quality tablet, not to mention a cheaper one, in just four months.

If Nvidia already had a plan for transitioning Kai to smartphones as well, then it’s possible they convinced its Chinese partners to do it. In my opinion, Nvidia is trying to get as much market share in the chip market to become a more relevant chip maker and then leverage that increased influence in the market.

Since the Tegra 3 chip had a very short window of opportunity to be the best one on the market at the high-end side of the spectrum, Nvidia will simply try to dominate the market for mid-range and low-end tablets and smartphones with their Kai platform. As for Tegra 4, there’s quite a while to go until it will make its appearance – the company hasn’t even shown it yet, and it takes Nvidia about a year to move from demo to shipping the next-gen chip.