Smartphones using quad-core processors may not have made a splash at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but the devices will be coming in a few months, Nvidia said at the show.
Fujitsu was the only big company to preview a smartphone with a quad-core Tegra 3 quad-core processor from Nvidia.
CES is not an ideal launching pad for phones as it is more focused on tablets and computers, said Mike Rayfield, general manager of the mobile business unit at Nvidia.
But many quad-core smartphone models are in the works, and some product announcements could come as early as the telecom-focused Mobile World Congress 2012 trade show in Barcelona next month, Rayfield said. The smartphones will carry Nvidia's Tegra 3 chip, which has a quad-core ARM processor and is already being used in tablets from Asustek and Lenovo.
"This is the year of quad-core," Rayfield said. Nvidia has more phone design wins based on Tegra 3 than it had on its older dual-core Tegra 2.
Many smartphones today carry dual-core processors which deliver adequate performance and battery life, said David Kanter, analyst at Real World Technologies. Quad-core chips are a better bet for tablets, and it's hard to get them into the low-power form factors such as smartphones, unless the device needs the high performance.
But tablets such as Asus' Eee Pad Transformer Prime with quad-core chips have shown impressive battery life matching that of dual-core tablets. Quad-core chips deliver decent battery life when running at peak performance, but the story changes when the chip operates in power-saving mode in smartphones, as performance goes down significantly, according to Kanter.
The power spent by the quad-core chip in low-power mode could be too overwhelming for a smartphone and hurt battery life, he said.
Nevertheless, quad-core smartphones will ultimately appear by the end of the year, Kanter said, adding that Nvidia is currently the only company focused on making such smartphone chips.