Nov 04 AT 5:59 PM Taylor Wimberly 28 Comments

Rumor: First 28nm Snapdragon S4 devices to arrive by February


Most consumers could care less which processor is inside their phone, but to the early adopters it’s often seen as the most important hardware specification of any upcoming device. When we survey the first half of 2012, the two most compelling parts will be NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4. Both promise improved performance, faster graphics and longer battery life, so nerds will be faced with a tough choice when it comes time to buy their next gadget.

We originally expected Tegra 3 tablets in August and smartphones by Christmas, but that schedule kept sliding. We’re still waiting for the first devices to go on sale. Earlier this year it didn’t look like Qualcomm would have an answer till Q3 2012, so it appeared that NVIDIA would have close to a full year’s supremacy with their next-generation mobile processor.

Fast forward to today, and that first-mover advantage is nearly gone. According to the latest tip we received, we might actually see Snapdragon S4-powered smartphones before we see Tegra 3 smartphones.

The Rumor

The ASUS Padfone, which has long been rumored as one of the first Tegra 3 smartphones, will actually be one of the first devices with Qualcomm’s new 28nm Snapdragon S4.

The Source

This tip came from an industry insider with direct knowledge of the product. They have provided accurate information in the past and I believe them to be trustworthy.

One Android Insider’s take on the rumor

I recently traveled to Qualcomm’s headquarters and received some hands-on time with their Snapdragon S4 mobile development platform. We were told that partners would launch their products in the first half of 2012, but even I was skeptical. Qualcomm had been boasting that their Snapdragon S4 sampled ahead of time, but the jump from 45nm to 28nm process technology was a very big one. I thought consumer devices would arrive at the end of any time frame we were given.

ASUS originally said they would ship the Padfone by Christmas, which is the same window NVIDIA gave us for Tegra 3 smartphones to appear. Later we learned that the first Tegra 3 smartphones slipped to Q1 2012, so it was no surprise that the Padfone was also moved to a February launch.

To find out that the Padfone is actually going to be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 is a huge surprise. I don’t know if NVIDIA won the design and then lost it (similar to the Droid Bionic), but this is a bad sign about the possible timing of the first Tegra 3 phones.

If ASUS expects to launch the Padfone around February, then I’m sure we’ll see dozens of other Snapdragon S4 devices around that time. That could mean high-end Android devices at CES 2012 will be dominated by Qualcomm, whereas NVIDIA outshined everyone at CES 2011 (with the Xoom, Atrix, Bionic, etc.).

The first 28nm Snapdragon S4 processor will only be dual-core, but Qualcomm expects their new Krait core to be faster and use less power than NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3. Every company always tells us that their technology and strategy is the best, so it’s going to be interesting to see which claims hold up and who comes out on top early next year.

NVIDIA should win the hearts and wallets of the mobile gamers with their Tegra 3 platform, but Qualcomm is going to rack up a ton of design wins with their fully integrated LTE multimode modem. If the Snapdragon S4 is ready to go and devices launch by February, then Qualcomm might just dominate the Android landscape in 2012.

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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  • Jeff

    Does S4 = MSM8960 with built-in LTE? Based on Wikipedia (which we all know to be trustworthy), that’s the ideal chip to launch the S4 series with.

  • SliestDragon

    Very excited to see this processor in action against Tegra 3. And Krait! I cannot wait to see that! This processor war is getting exciting! :D

    Already mobile processors are more powerful than my laptop, I can’t wait until they pass my gaming rig one day. :p

  • R.S

    February huh? So probably around the same time as the Nexus? Maybe sooner at the rate Samsung/Google is going. :-D

    • SliestDragon

      February will most likely be when T-Mobile gets its’ butt into gear and finally gets the Galaxy Nexus with my luck. Verizon though will get it this month… :/

    • Rick

      Hahahahaha yea dude..for real..I hate when they announce a phone and they doont give yoou a date, a price, etc…but yea I’m on Tmobile by the time we get the going too be old school

    • e36bmer

      Yep, I am boycotting the Nexus. I had planned to but it, but because of these tactics, I’m going to hold off and look for another phone.

  • Richard Yarrell

    Qualcomm vs Nividia the perfect war. I see another great summer ahead in 2012 that will be filled with great HTC products. Do I hear EVO BRAND 2012.

    • CTown

      +1 to that… considering that we’re way overdue for an HTC gPhone! What happened to the high-end Android phones with keyboards?

      • SliestDragon

        As awesome as physical keyboards are, not many people want them anymore. They would much rather have a thin phone with a good touchscreen than a keyboard on it. I know tons of people who have a keyboard on their phone and still use Swype instead.

        I would plan on less and less smart phones, especially high end smart phones, to come with physical keyboards…

      • Postal Jim

        Majority rules, unfortunately for you who like physical keyboards. Low demand = poor (if any) selection options.

  • Greg

    “Could care less?” I thought you were better than that, Taylor…

  • Nathan

    I want to see these two processor fight it out =)

  • Jeff d

    Just got the gs2 but gonna give it to the wife once the nexus comes out but damn Tegra 3 and the S4 three so tempting not to mention Samsung which should have something up there sleeves its gonna be such a difficult decision choosing one. I’m going crazy so many choices coming soon

    • kazahani

      Punctuation, son!

  • PatricF

    What frequencies does the S4′s LTE chip support?

  • Ser

    I don’t trust qualcomm anymore. From day 1 they had underperforming SoC (talking about GPU too) in market. Remember htc tytn, diamond, hero, etc. That’s one reason I’ve ditched HTC (beside poor support and cheap build quality)

    • SydneyBlue120d
      • regular

        Anandtech review is quite biased. The first Krait chips will be released in the same period as the first Cortex A15-based design, yet there are not included in the performance comparison.

        The 4 cores of the Tegra3 are useless for a smartphone, and will have autonomy issues on other mobile appliances (tablets,etc). But it will have good success in the set top box appliances, and maybe in the automobile industry.

        In comparison, Krait will bring a performance boost over Scorpion, but not enough to compete with Cortex A15. Qualcomm is quite lucky they have signed this exclusive deal with HTC. But I heard HTC was looking for a second CPU provider to power their smartphones. Maybe TI? I doubt it will be Samsung.

        • SydneyBlue120d

          What A15 SOC are you talking about that will be released in H1 2012? As stated in the article all A15 designs are H2 timeframe. How can you be so secure that A15 will beat the S4? BTW I tend to agree, but remember that A15 are all H2, by that time Qualcomm can go with faster clock to compete with OMAP and other A15 bad boys :)
          HTC owns a small part of Qualcomm, this ensure they get access to the latest and greatest qualcomm tech. The rumor is HTC want to go multichip, as all the other players in the industry do (eg. Motorola, Samsung, LG…)

  • chris

    Maybe now htc will have a little better battery life finally.

  • Nathan

    Out of all the SoC qualcomm is the least powerful (well most of the time any ways)

  • DJ Erkoff


  • dan

    0 noes not Snapdragon. Only used a lot of the more popular older devices from the HTC Desire to the Evo. Nonono. Everyone should be Galaxy Exynos. ONlyez!

  • triangle

    Looking forward to this new chip. Smaller chips with more battery life is exactly what we need in smartphones. It may not be the most powerful in graphics processing, but I think it will be enough to please the vast majority of users. Hopefully, it will result in significant battery life improvements.

  • Team?

    What we need is GOOD software and better battery technology. Dual core isn’t even necessary on phones ,and now they want to push Quad. Well good marketing strat to attract tards and tech whores.

  • pritams

    Keeping my fingers crossed…