New Spreadtrum chip with 1 GHz ARM Cortex A5 processor expected to land in $100 Android smartphones

Spreadtrum is a Chinese company you’ve likely never heard of, yet they’re responsible for 50% of all the TD-SCDMA devices sold by China Mobile, which by the way has over 600 million subscribers. In other words, they’re big, just not well known outside of their home country. So what do they actually do? They’re quite similar to Qualcomm and NVIDIA in that they design chips, but they don’t actually make them; in industry lingo they’re a “fabless” company. Earlier this week Spreadtrum announced two new chips, the SC8810 and the SC6820. The difference between the two is that the latter does EDGE and has WiFi connectivity while the former only does TD-SCDMA. What makes these chips special however is that retail devices using them are expected to cost just $100. For that amount of cash they’ll be packing a 1 GHz ARM Cortex A5 processor and a Mali GPU that can support a screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels.

How powerful is an ARM Cortex A5? On a clock per clock basis it’s slightly slower than the ARM Cortex A8, the chip that powered the first generation Samsung Galaxy S, the iPhone 3GS, and the iPhone 4, but what makes the A5 unique is that it’s supposed to be stupid cheap and ultra power efficient. Again, we’re looking at a $100 price point for a smartphone that two years ago was considered to be the cream of the crop and sold for $600. Most of you guys aren’t going to buy a device at that price point or performance level, but for individuals in emerging economies such a device represents a massive leap over the feature phone they’re likely currently using.

Expect to hear a lot of announcements over the coming months about new chips aimed specifically at delivering a high performance Android experience at prices that everyone can afford. We seriously think that within half a decade dumb phones will simply cease to exist.

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