Jan 10 AT 4:38 PM Taylor Wimberly 26 Comments

Qualcomm demos dual-core Snapdragon, products “coming soon”

Qualcomm is not a consumer-facing company, but they are starting to slowly change that strategy as this past week they hosted a bloggers roundtable at CES to show off their upcoming dual-core Snapdragon processors. I was so eager to attend that I actually skipped Verizon’s LTE event, but unfortunately I did not find what I was looking for – a reason to get excited about the next generation of Snapdragon processors.

The presentation started with a demonstration of the dual-core Snapdragon MSM8660 development platform. We saw some 3D games, multi-party video chat with ooVoo, and steroscopic 3D movies displayed over HDMI. The demos were cool, but I saw the same types of technology on display when I visited with NVIDIA and Texas Instruments to talk about their dual-core offerings.

What followed next was a lengthy Q&A session where I attempted to drill Qualcomm for the info that the Android community is looking for. I have the whole thing on tape, but here is a summary of what happened.

Q: When will dual-core Snapdragon products be in stores?
A: We can’t comment on our partners’ launch schedules, but we are very happy with the state the products are in. When the products come out, they will be very compelling.

Q: Does Qualcomm have a strategy to highlight premium content designed for dual-core Snapdragon products? Similar to NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone?
A: We allow the operators to differentiate their devices. The most important customers for us are the phone makers and the operators, not the end-user who buys the phone.

Q: When will the dual-core MSM8660 dev kit go on sale?
A: We are targeting end of Q1 to go commercial. Probably by April I guess we will have it. We are providing it to some of our partners right now.

Q: Can you talk about performance comparisons with other dual-core CPUs.
A: We are very happy with our performance compared to Tegra 2 and we will let you guys make the comparisons and judgments for yourselves.

Q: From the point of view of an average consumer, what are the reasons to pass on Tegra 2 and wait for Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon? Why is your dual-core processor better?
A: We built our processor from scratch which gives us a power and performance advantage.


Keep in mind this is only a snapshot in time, but at CES 2011 I found no reasons for anyone to pass over the first wave of Tegra 2 phones and wait for Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragons. Each companies’ dual-core CPU might have small advantages in different areas, but overall the end-user will get the same experience from the first generation of dual-core Android phones.

Qualcomm showed me some cool tech demos, but NVIDIA showed me the exciting products we will be able to purchase soon (including the Atrix 4G, Droid Bionic, XOOM, and many more). NVIDIA has the advantage of being first to market with actual dual-core devices you can buy and they will have the best premium content at launch (available through Tegra Zone).

At the end of the day, you buy the best phone available that meets your needs. NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 processor wowed me in a way that no other did and that’s the reason I’m excited about buying the Atrix 4G. I’m certain that Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon will be inside some awesome Android devices, but don’t expect them to arrive in stores until Q2 at the earliest.

Hopefully we will see some product announcements featuring the dual-core Snapdragons at next month’s Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona.

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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  • http://Website Andrew

    One cool thing about these chips: HTC will drop phones with them..

    Too bad the atrix looks so amazing (locked boot loader sucks).. And I need an 850 band phone .so that’s where my cash is going.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Yeah I didn’t hear them say that, but I think it’s safe to assume that HTC will produce the first Android phone with a dual-core Snapdragon CPU. I would hope they announce devices at MWC and that we see them in stores by May-June.

      • http://Website Richard


  • http://Website dsim91

    I have a Droid X at the moment so I’m just a little reluctant to go moto again, I will wait to see how these phones pan out after release because I’m not down for another encrypted bootloader.

    • masterpfa

      What problems are you experiencing with Motorola, anything I need to be aware of?

      • http://Website M0nk

        With a locked “secured” (encripted) boot loader you cannot install (or compile from AOSP) an Android version different from the vendor version (at least the boot partition), so you depend on phone maker will to provide updates or leaked software versions… In short you own the hardware but cant install your own software.

  • http://Website Gee

    Is the stated chip based on the current gen Cortex A8 or next gen Coretx A9 like the Tegra 2?

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Qualcomm licensed the Cortex-A9 design from ARM and then built their own core.

      • http://Website Gee

        Thanks, I did not know that. I looked it up and it seems that the Scorpion is more like a modified Cortex A8. It’s spoken as multimedia improvement over the A8 but I wonder how it stacks up to the new Cortex A9.

      • mattcoz

        Scorpion is the A8 based chip that’s in current Snapdragons.

        8260/8660: 2 Scorpion cores, Adreno 220
        8960: 2 A9 cores, Adreno 300

        • http://Website JohnB

          This is correct. Although MSM8660 is a dual-core design, unlike Tegra 2 and OMAP4 processors, it still uses Cortex A8 design, hence it naturally has to deal with approx. 25% performance deficiency over Cortex A9 competitors. No one knows how competitive Adreno 220 will be, but if it doubles Adreno 205 performance, it should offer similar performance to the Hummingbird’s. You can read all you want about MSM8x60 processors here: http://bit.ly/gCXHTO

          MSM8960 will be more interesting though, which is Cortex A9 based, but it is much further away, timeline-wise. Hopefully this one will out-compete other Cortex A9 based processors. Again, much more info about MSM8960 can be found here: http://bit.ly/aFSS1D

      • http://Website metafor

        ARM licenses don’t quite work like that. The Cortex cores are pretty much set as far as RTL. An architectural license allows one to design an ARM compatible core. There are of course, more similarities between Scorpion and the A8 than with A9 (other than the floating point unit).

        I would classify it as “A8-class” with the exception, again, of FP performance. Of course, it also appears to be designed for higher clockspeeds than the A8 judging by both the OC results as well as the frequencies at certain process nodes (1GHz at 65nm for instance, most A8′s had to go to 45nm to get to 1GHz).

  • http://Website J240

    Personally, I am very happy with the 2nd Gen Snapdragon in my MT4G. I can only imagine how dual cores can improve upon an already snappy processor. This will be enough to hold me over till about summer anyways. Until then, I excitedly wait to see what else HTC dreams up!

  • masterpfa

    In theary all good, but with no hard figures we’ll just have to play the waiting game for Qualcomm whereas Tegra is here, tangible and available soon. Time will ultimately tell

  • Killa

    You said you’re exited about buying the Atrix 4G. Does that mean you’re switching to AT&T or simply getting a line with them and still staying with T-Mobile?

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Switching to AT&T for a change.

  • http://Website Richard

    The wait is fine for me the end of quarter one is perfect… But I know for a fact that HTC has bee testing there dualcore snap dragon for a while now…. ENTER HTC EVO 2 4G WHICH WILL BE ANNOUNCED AT MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS IN FEBRUARY OR CTIA IN MARCH…. RIGHT ON COURSE LIKE LAST YEAR…. THE HTC EVO RULES ANDROID AND AGAIN WILL BE THE BEST SMARTPHONE DEVICE IN 2011 TRUST THAT

  • http://Website B

    Wow, the answer to the second question might as well be spit in my face. The only reason I would consider waiting for a dual core snapdragon is because I prefer HTC phones over all else, but they showed me absolutely nothing at CES. The Atrix, however, is a total monster. I seriously wish I could have that phone right now, but I’m on T-Mobile, who also gave me nothing at the show, other than the G Slate. Guess I don’t have much choice but to wait.

    • Killa

      I feel ya man. That’s why I’m hoping the LG Optimus 2X makes it to T-Mobile and soon.

    • http://Website metafor

      I agree. That seemed to be a completely irresponsible answer at the *consumer* electronics show. It makes sense for them to answer that way seeing as Qualcomm has never been in the public light; they’ve been the quiet company behind everything inside a phone.

      But if they want to break into this high-end computing market, they’ll need to get better at actually *showing* their chips and products rather than just relying on OEM’s to advertise.

      nVidia and Intel are pro’s at this and it works. Pentium 4′s sold a heap-load even if it was technically inferior to its competition.

  • http://Website shaundizzle

    Im with you. I’m going straight for the atrix. Hopefully I can pull enough money to buy it off contract. Or it would be even better if you guys held a contest and chose me as the winner!

    I plan on watching the atrix closely and can’t wait til its in my hands.

  • http://boozehoundmobile.com teleknEsis

    LG Optimus 2x is likely going to be my next phone if it appears with T-Mobile’s bands. Been with the N1 for a full year and my g-tablet has made me a big fan of Tegra2 so I’m getting the itch for a Tegra2 phone. If it was HSPA+ it wouldn’t even be a second thought. Chances of a T2 HSPA+ phone in the next couple months are probably slim to none….

  • http://Website Paul Ponyboy Atreides

    HTC didn’t really show anything at CES but I bet they will make it rain in the spring! Ebay will be flooded with all the CES goodies in a few months tops. I’m talking phones, but some of those tablets look really awesome. I like the chip,battery, and docking ability of the Atrix but I can wait for those to come to a different device. I must vote with my dollars and I loathe Motoblur.

  • http://www.adamtabletnews.com Jakob

    Looks like Qualcomm missed a good event to compete with the Tegra2, but hopefully by releasing later they will have some advantages over it. Nothing against the Tegra2, just want to see competition push the technology further :)

  • Scotter

    AT&T – no way
    Locked bootloader – no way
    Motoblur – no way

  • http://Website Mike_is_Mike

    This is GREAT news!!!! This means Verizon will have one of these badboys in THEIR phones by 2Q —– 2031!! :-D