The A5 chip inside Apple’s iPhone 4S has two ARM Cortex A9 processors and a PowerVR 5 series GPU. MediaTek’s new chip, the MT6577, is built the exact same way. According to the company’s press release, their chip will enable handset vendors to build “premium” $199 Android smartphones. The MT6577 also has a built in 3G modem, support for dual band 802.11n WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and good old fashioned FM radio. Now for the important question, when will it hit the market? MediaTek says that we should start seeing devices powered by the MT6577 on store shelves as early as Q3 2012. That’s anytime between July and September.
Never heard of MediaTek? That’s OK, most folks haven’t. They’re big in China, but they’ve had little success outside that country for reasons we don’t quite understand. Think of MediaTek like Qualcomm or NVIDIA or Texas Instruments. None of them actually make chips per say, they simply design them and then let companies like TSMC do the grunt work, the fabrication.
So while you shouldn’t expect to see the $349 Galaxy Nexus come down to $199 this year, that would be downright insanity, you can expect to see companies like Lenovo and Alcatel (TCL) launch affordable handsets that don’t suck in their home markets. Stuart Robinson, Director of Handset Component Technologies at Strategy Analytics, says:
“Dual-core processors account for over 20% of current smartphone processor shipments, with these devices being mostly in the premium segment and addressed by standalone application processors. MediaTek’s new MT6577, with integrated dual-core processors and 3G/HSPA modem is well suited to bringing similar user experiences to the fast-growing mid and entry smartphone segment which is forecast to grow from under 200 Mu in 2012 to over 500 Mu in 2016.”
We honestly can’t wait to see $200 smartphones that have the same specifications as today’s high end devices. Right now $200 gets you the Samsung Galaxy Mini II, which has a single core 800 MHz processor and a 480 x 320 pixel 3.3 inch screen. That spec sheet is only going to get better with time. If you think about it, it wasn’t that long ago when the cheapest smartphone was well over $350, so we’re most definitely on the right track.