Qualcomm aims to bring quad-core phones to the masses

The firm will ship samples of new Snapdragon processors by mid-2013 and include standards support for the Chinese market

Qualcomm is preparing two new quad-core processors for the mainstream smartphone market, with support for several Chinese standards.

The U.S. chipmaker said it will release the two new CPUs, designed for 3G networks, to its Snapdragon line next year, with samples for phone makers available by June. Qualcomm's MSM8226 and MSM8626 processors will support features that are now standard in higher-end smartphones such as 1080p high-definition video capture and playback and support for cameras with up to 13 megapixel resolution.

Quad-core processors are currently used in mainly top-end smartphones like Samsung's Galaxy S3. But as manufacturing costs come down, offerings like the new processors from Qualcomm will bring the speedier technology to budget models as well.

Qualcomm said the chips will be made using a 28-nanometer manufacturing process, and will support CDMA and HSPA standards used in China, where phones typically cost less than in the U.S. and Europe. The company said the chips are optimized for long battery life but can still deliver advanced graphics.

The latest chips add to Qualcomm's growing lineup of quad-core Snapdragon processors. In September, it announced two other such mobile CPUs at slightly lower specs, which it said will begin to appear in consumer devices next year.

Qualcomm's focus on mobile has helped it grow while other chipmakers struggle in a stagnant market. On Tuesday, research firm IHS iSuppli said the company's 27.2 revenue percent growth in semiconductor revenue this year will vault it to number three worldwide in terms of sales, behind Intel and Samsung, from ninth place just two years ago.

The overall chip market is on track to shrink 2.3 percent in 2012, as seven of the top ten manufacturers see their revenues fall.

Qualcomm is looking to use its cash reserves to expand into new components. The company has completed an agreement with Japanese display maker Sharp to jointly produce mobile screens based on technology it is developing through subsidiary Pixtronix. The deal will see Qualcomm invest as much as US$120 million in Sharp.

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Jay Alabaster

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