For its latest smartphone, Motorola has taken the bold step of eschewing ARM-designed processors in favour of a partnership with Intel. Guy Daniels reports.
Motorola has launched yet another Razr-branded handset this week, but this time it has chosen to partner with Intel for the smartphone’s processor. Unlike its recent Razr devices – at last count four so far this year – this is one is specifically for Europe and Latin America.
The Razr i is a near identically variant of the Droid Razr M, launched last week in the US exclusively on Verizon. It looks the same, uses the same build materials, has the same core features (including NFC), but there are two big differences. First, the Intel Atom 2GHz processor replaces the Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual-core chip, and secondly, there’s no 4G.
According to James Soames, Director of European Marketing Operations for Motorola Mobility, who spoke to TelecomTV at the launch event in London yesterday:
“45 per cent of the UK population has yet to make the jump to smartphones. Many people still feel that smartphones are overly complex. So this is an ideal entry level smartphone. 4G will take to roll out, and we will embrace it, but this is specifically a 3G phone.”
Despite not benefiting from 4G speeds (obviously not an issue yet in the UK market), speed is very much front and centre of Motorola’s new smartphone strategy. It’s focusing on processor speed and improving the user experience, together with improvements in power management. At 2GH, Intel’s single-core Medfield chipset (the Atom Z2480) is certainly fast. The demonstration units on display at the launch event powered through heavy application use with ease.
Of course, the device also has a pretty decent camera. As with Intel’s first foray into the new smartphone era earlier this year with the Orange-branded San Diego, Intel’s Atom processor enables very fast electronic shutter speeds.
It can take 10 images per second with its 8MP camera, as well as being able to power up and be ready to take a photo in less than a second.
It’s true that Intel has been losing out to ARM in the smartphone market. Despite having launched its mobile-friendly and low-voltage Atom processor chip a couple of years ago, it’s been slow to catch on with handset makers. Chip makers such as Qualcomm, Nvidia, TI and Samsung have all licensed ARM’s mobile architecture.
Intel’s first breakthrough came at the beginning of this year when mobile operator Orange selected it for its new own-brand device, the low-cost San Diego. Intel has since improved on that chip and now has two big handset makers as partners – not only Motorola with the Razr i, but also ZTE with its latest Grand X model, the IN. Erik Reid, General Manager of Intel’s Mobile and Communications Group, said:
“Intel’s goal is to provide compelling technology options that translate into great user benefits and experiences. Razr i is a great proof-point in the collaboration and we’re thrilled to be working with Motorola to bring this edge-to-edge experience enhanced with Intel Inside to people around the world.”
As expected, given Motorola’s new ownership by Google, the phone runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and is upgradeable over the air to 4.1 Jelly Bean. The usual raft of Google services are accessible, including the NFC-enabled Android Beam technology, but as of yet no support for the Chrome browser – a problem caused by the Intel chip, apparently, although this will surely be fixed prior to commercial launch. But this does raise the question of just how many third-party applications are optimised for the Atom chip? Not many, most likely.
Like its US counterpart, the Razr i has an “aircraft-grade aluminium” bezel, Corning’s Gorilla glass, and DuPont’s Kevlar for the back case (bullet-proof phone? We suggest you don’t try and prove this yourself). Plus splash-guard coating even extends to the internal electrical boards.
The Motorola RAZR i will be available in October in select European and Latin American markets including the UK, France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Pricing is not yet known, so it’s difficult to make a direct comparison with rival devices. However, according to Motorola’s James Soames it is being positioned as a “mid-tier” device. Incidentally, the two-year contract price for the similar Razr M in the US is $99.
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