Broadcom readying chip for low-cost Android smartphones

The first smartphones based on the processor will arrive in the first quarter of 2011

Broadcom is working on a dual-core processor that will allow smartphone makers to build Android-based handsets with integrated Wi-Fi hotspots, the company said on Tuesday. It's billing the chip as aimed at mass-market phones with a low price point.

The Broadcom BCM2157, which is based on a dual-core ARM processor running at 500MHz, is now shipping to "early access customers", according to the chip maker. The first smartphones using the processor are expected to be launched next quarter, likely to coincide with the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona in February.

Broadcom said in a statement that smartphones based on the new processor will be affordable, but it did not offer details on its component pricing.

Besides integrated Wi-Fi hotspots, smartphones based on the processor can be equipped with multi-touch screens, 5-megapixel cameras and HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) at 7.2M bps (bits per second).

Smartphones based on the processor will also be able to use two SIM (subscriber identity module) cards, which combined with a lower price will help convince phone buyers in developing countries to pick up smartphones. Using two SIM cards is also growing in popularity in some parts of Europe, according to Francisco Jeronimo, research manager at IDC.

The availability of lower-cost smartphones has already helped increase Android's popularity, according to Jeronimo. In general, the trend towards even cheaper smartphones will continue in 2011, and Android-based products will play an important role in helping bring down prices even further, Jeronimo said.

Broadcom is demonstrating the processor at its Analyst Day conference on Tuesday in Irvine, California.

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