Quick look: The LG GW990 and Intel's role in 'superphones'

Intel official sees smartphones as the PCs of Intel's fame

The upcoming LG Electronics GW990 smartphone looks, and feels, like it could be a real hit when it finally gets to the market in the second half of the year.

I got to use the device briefly at International CES in Las Vegas, following a thorough demonstration of the device by Pankaj Kedia, Intel 's director of global programs for smartphones. Although exact specs haven't been released yet, it looks to be about 6 inches long and 2.5 inches wide, making it longer than any smartphone I've seen or used before.

As smartphones go, it felt heavy to me, but Kedia didn't offer the actual weight. The capacitative touchscreen was instantly responsive to my touches and movements, certainly matching the ability of the popular Apple iPhone.

Notably, the GW990 will run on the second-generation Atom-based Moorestown processor. Kedia said Moorestown will help support 720p high-definition video in 3D on the phone's 4.8-inch diagonal screen. (It's not quite five inches as some reports have indicated.)

The resolution is 1024 pixels by 480 pixels, with an aspect ratio of 2.13 to 1, which gave a striking image when I played a video clip from the movie Avatar . Kedia showed how the phone, when used in landscape mode, can be a suitable movie player.

With a quick adjustment, he also showed how the phone could run the movie in a square image covering a third of the screen; the next third showed an e-mail box; and next to that on the screen was a display showing a phone call in progress.

Even though the GW990 seems good at multi-tasking, Kedia said Intel has not released the clock speed on the Moorestown processor. His reluctance to talk about chip speed left me wondering whether it's below 1GHz, the speed offered by the Snapdragon processor in the new Nexus One.

The reason the 1GHz number is important is because Google has described that speed -- and related features -- in the Nexus One as a "superphone" threshold. The Superphone term is really more of a general categorization for next-generation smartphones that some analysts have used , not anything Google invented.

When I asked Kedia if he wants to build superphones at Intel, especially given the company's desktop computing origins, he said this: "We like the 'super' part, but not necessary the 'phone' part," he said. "We are going to be about the super part, but are not a phone company."

Although Intel is not known as much for being a smartphone chip supplier as for supplying laptop and desktop chips, Kedia agreed that Intel's future is very much aligned with "pocketable" devices.

"The smartphone is the new PC," he said. "The most powerful PC (functions) today will be in the smartphone three to five years down the road."

Fast processors that require low power will help drive a variety of cutting-edge apps in small devices, Kedia said, including augmented reality. For example, he said it's easy to imagine that a smartphone connected to the Internet could be used as an instant translator, so that a person could hold the phone up to a sign in a rare foreign language, shoot a photo and get a quick translation on the display in the shape of the sign.

Intel's view of small devices that are powerful will depend partly on creative minds that have not been constrained by legacy technology. "Who knows what's coming? It's the 15-year-olds that have the best ideas," he said. "The technology is the easy part, but the hard part is imagining what are the kinds of things I want to do?"

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , send e-mail to mhamblen@computerworld.com or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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