Last year NVIDIA purchased a company called that specialized in cellular modems called Icera. Why? So they could sell their smartphone chips with built-in connectivity. That combination of CPU, GPU, and 3G/4G is what made Qualcomm as successful as they are today. But back to NVIDIA, they’ve been telling everyone that they’ll have a Tegra 3 out on the market with one of Icera’s modems sitting alongside it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. During the company’s fiscal Q1 2013 financial results, NVIDIA said:
“Looking forward, you’ll see Tegra 3 LTE phones with partners’ baseband processors in the second half of this year and then next year with our own LTE baseband processors as well.”
Why is this important? Look at the HTC One X. In Europe and Asia it ships with the NVIDIA Tegra 3, but in America, one of the world’s largest markets for smartphones, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 inside because it can connect to AT&T’s 4G LTE network whereas the Tegra can’t. Now yes, combining a Tegra 3 with “partners’ baseband processors” sounds good on paper, but handset vendors don’t want to deal with sourcing components from multiple vendors. And let’s not forget that by the time the second half of 2012 rolls around, Qualcomm will have their quad core Snapdragon S4 out on the market. If their dual core S4 is already beating NVIDIA in most benchmarks, we can only imagine what a quad core version can achieve.
Will NVIDIA ever catch up to Qualcomm? That depends on how fast NVIDIA can get a chip out onto the market with an ARM Cortex A15 processor onboard. The Krait core that Qualcomm is using in the S4 is faster than the A9 core that NVIDIA is currently using in Tegra, but slower than the A15 core that will be in the flagships of 2013.
Watch this space.