Feb 19 AT 9:00 AM Taylor Wimberly 9 Comments

Is NVIDIA’s Phoenix reference smartphone platform a good sign for the company?

nvidia-phoenix-630

Recent years have taught us that NVIDIA is a company that likes to brag about how many design wins their chips are racking up, but there was no mention of any OEM partners with today’s announcement of Tegra 4i — their first mobile processor with an integrated LTE modem.

Instead of actual consumer products, NVIDIA decided to introduce their own reference smartphone platform called Phoenix. The platform is a blueprint that phone makers can reference in designing and building future Tegra 4i smartphones to help get them to market quicker. NVIDIA hopes that Phoenix can drive down the costs of smartphones, just as their Kai platform helped lower the price of quad-core tablets.

Highlights of the Phoenix reference platform include the new Tegra 4i chip with integrated LTE modem, 5 inch 1080p display with DirectTouch and PRISM 2, 13 megapixel camera with computational photography, and a slim 8mm design.

The three premium features that NVIDIA is planning to bring to the mainstream are 1080p displays, LTE integration, and computational photography architecture. These are all features we would love to see in mainstream phones, but NVIDIA will need to deliver this platform at a low cost, and they are not talking numbers yet.

As we pointed out earlier, Tegra 4 had zero non-reference design wins announced at launch and now Tegra 4i continues that trend. Some critics see this as bad news for NVIDIA. Charlie Demerjian of SemiAccurate writes, “The chances of any significant device wins [for Tegra 4] are essentially zero.”

We don’t think the situation is that dire, but the absence of any volume OEMs from NVIDIA’s announcements is a change of pace. Either NVIDIA is testing out the “quietly brilliant” strategy of HTC, or there truly are a lack of Tegra 4 design wins to talk about at the moment.

Mobile World Congress is just around the corner, so I expect we will have a much clearer picture of Tegra 4′s fate and Phoenix’s price in the coming weeks.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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