Marvell chips to drive “$99 smartphone”

Marvell claims its new low-cost processor will drive the cost of smartphones down to only $99.

Although most customers pay relatively small sums for smartphones up front, handset prices are subsidised by lengthy contracts with the mobile networks. The actual cost of smartphones is often in excess of £400.

Marvell says its Pantheon 910 and 920 processors, due to be officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress next week, will drive the total cost of smartphones below $100.

“Marvell’s mission is that the next billion connected devices will not be a PC, but a smartphone,” Shyam Krishnamurthy, head of cellular applications at Marvell, told PC Pro. “In emerging markets, the only computer people will have is a smartphone.”

We can do smartphones for $100. Right now, we believe those prices can be hit at high volumes

“We can do smartphones for $100,” Krishnamurthy added. “Right now, we believe those prices can be hit at high volumes.”

Marvell is a licensee of British chip designer ARM, but it claims it has the upper hand on many of ARM’s other mobile partners. “We licence the instruction set from ARM – we have done for ten years,” Krishnamurthy said.

“But we have the tech know-how to implement our own processor cores. We can implement an architecture that’s purpose built for specific applications, and we can use technology that ARM has not implemented.”

“Marvell is a complete platform provider,” he said, adding that the company also produces components such as the modem and RF interfaces. “We are able to provide the benefits to bring the costs down.”

The Pantheon 910 will be available in Western markets, while the 920 will be restricted to China. The 800MHz processors are capable of playing 720p video and support Android and Windows Mobile, among other mobile operating systems.

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