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.