Intel is looking to ramp up the introduction of Atom-powered smartphones to the market, with the latest in the form of Acer's Liquid C1 smartphone, which was unveiled today.
Southeast Asia will be early beneficiaries of the chipmaker's efforts to advance its smartphone plans, given that Thailand has been designated as the launch market for the Liquid C1. A senior Intel executive added he will be "disappointed" if it takes three months for the handset to make its way into many of the region's other markets.
Speaking to ZDNet on Thursday, Uday Marty, Intel's managing director for Southeast Asia, acknowledged there have been "ups and downs" since the company revealed its smartphone road map. That said, the chipmaker had made "very solid progress" in 2012 and this was demonstrated with the launch of the first Intel-powered smartphone--the Xolo X900--in India by local phone maker Lava International in April 2012, Marty noted.
Today, with its Liquid C1 smartphone--which is powered by Intel's Atom Z240 processor, codenamed "Lexington"--for the Thai market, Acer's announcement marks the ninth smartphone powered by Intel in nine months, he said, adding this showed the company's commitment to the smartphone platform.
Acer's Liquid C1 smartphone comes with a 4.3-inch screen with a 2,000mAH battery that touts 9 hours of 3G talk time and an advanced graphics engine with an 8-megapixel camera boasting a burst mode to capture clearer images even with movement. Besides the Atom Z240 processor, which has been optimized for the Android 4.0 operating system (OS), Intel also provided the XMM 6265 modem for HSPA+ connectivity, Marty said.
Other smartphones with Intel processors include Lenovo's upcoming K900, Motorola Mobility's Razr i, and Safaricom's Yolo, which was launched in Kenya last Friday.
The Atom Z240 processor was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month, and is targeted at the "value smartphone" market. According to Intel, the new processor brings high performance for quick Web browsing, rich multimedia, and an Android applications experience. Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel's mobile and communications group, said the low-power Atom platform enabled it to address new market segments and broaden its expanding portfolio smartphone offerings.
Making inroads in Southeast Asia
Marty said both Intel and Acer chose Thailand to launch the Liquid C1 smartphone because it is a key market with a young mobile user audience. Some 67 million people live in the country, which has an average population age of 34 years, and IDC had predicted 6 million smartphones will be sold in 2012 alone, he noted.
The government also recently concluded its 3G spectrum auction, with operators Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (Dtac), and True Move bidding successfully for a license. This is expected to spur operators to promote 3G smartphones to consumers, he added.
He revealed that several other Southeast Asian markets will get their hands on the Acer smartphone in the "very near future," but was unable to reveal details on the markets and actual launch dates. "I will be very disappointed if [launches in these markets] do not take place in [the next] three months," he said.
Consumers looking out for Intel-based 4G handsets will have to wait a while longer, though. Marty said the "LTE gate" is why markets such as Singapore, which are moving toward 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks, are not seeing any Intel smartphones, given that its processors do not support the latest wireless technology.
He did say Intel has completed validation and will have multiple variants of LTE in the market this year, beginning with single-mode data and followed by multimode data and voice. "We have started silicon shipments for our single-mode data module and will ramp the solution in volume into first-quarter 2013, followed by shipments of multimode data and voice later this year."
CEO Paul Otellini said in an earlier analyst call that while Intel is making progress with LTE modems, it does not expect to have an integrated LTE modem and application processor until 2014, reported tech news site EE Times. Otellini said the first mobile phones with Intel-supplied LTE capability were expected to launch early in 2014 during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show.