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Dual-core to boost smartphone multimedia

Added core can deliver better multimedia experience to consumers while enterprise users will benefit from boosted apps and video quality on their smartphones, say industry players.

With the arrival of dual-core smartphones, consumers can expect better multimedia experience while enterprise users stand to benefit from boosted productivity apps and video quality, say industry players.

At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, phonemakers Motorola and LG announced that they will be launching dual-core smartphones this year. Motorola plans to launch two handsets--Atrix and Droid Bionic--while LG is releasing the Optimus 2X. Reports noted that other device manufacturers will likely follow suit.

In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, T.Y. Lau, senior analyst at Canalys, highlighted that as dual-core mobile devices are not yet out in the mass market, most of the benefits of dual-core smartphones are based on what is advertised by the manufacturers. LG launched its first dual-core Optimus 2X early this week, but only in its homeland South Korea, she noted.

According to Lau, mobile manufacturers are touting better multimedia capabilities in dual-core smartphones. Video and audio quality will improve on such handsets, she said, adding that the function will be important for consumers when high-definition (HD) content is available. Consumers will also be able to enjoy smoother gameplay for console-styled games or even 3D games, she noted.

Patrick Fong, product manager of mobile communications at LG Electronics, concurred. In an e-mail, Fong said the Optimus 2X allows users to view and record videos in full HD 1080p as well as play graphically intensive games.

Canalys' Lau noted that the boosted multimedia capabilities might be able to push the growth of video in the enterprise. Networking company Cisco Systems, she said, has been pushing the concept of "video as the next voice" and dual-core smartphones may be able to make that vision a reality.

Aside from multimedia applications, Lau noted that dual-core can bring other benefits such as faster Web browsing experience, a more responsive touchscreen, and improved multitasking. Enterprise users can also benefit from better enterprise applications such as customer relations management or business intelligence tools, said Lau.

Contrary to belief that a smartphone needs more energy to power two cores, Lau said power consumption for dual-core phones is reduced. She explained that processing workload can be shared between the two cores while a single core chip might be overloaded.

According to Qualcomm's president for Southeast Asia and the Pacific John Stefanac, the company's dual-CPU cores are asynchronous or able to operate at independent voltages and frequencies. This enables "finer power control and optimal performance at low power", he explained in an e-mail interview.

Qualcomm was slated to release Snapdragon, its dual-core chip for smartphones, last year but has since indicated the launch will take place this year.

Two not for mainstream, yet
Stefanac told ZDNet Asia dual-core smartphones will be targeted initially at the high-end segment.

LG, said Fong, is labeling the Optimus 2X as a "super smartphone" and will be geared toward early adopter power users. The phone will be available in Singapore at the end of the first quarter, he added.

A Motorola spokesperson was unable to indicate in his e-mail reply when the Motorola Atrix will be available in Asia. The Droid Bionic is exclusive to Verizon Wireless in the United States.

Asked if developing apps for dual-core smartphones will be more challenging, Qualcomm's Stefanac noted that it should be similar to single core phones. LG's Fong agreed, adding that developers will not have to worry about the performance of graphic-rich applications on the Optimus 2X.

"We are certain that the 2X presents for developers the opportunity to put new software in the market where previously there simply just wasn't enough processing grunt to run these programs credibly," said Fong.