Tablets may have defined the geeky gestalt of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, but the show will also be undoubtedly viewed as the coming-out party for smartphones and a tablet with dual-core processors.
Motorola's Atrix 4G handset, Droid Bionic smartphone and Motorola Xoom tablet will all run Nvidia Tegra 2 chips, which feature two 1GHz processors on a single die.
Consider that just 15 months ago the original Motorola Droid launched with a then-standard 550MHz chip. Two months after that, the Google Nexus One debuted with a 1GHz chip, which became the new industry standard for Android smartphones.
Motorola is pushing the envelope again. eWEEK tested the processing speeds of the Atrix 4G, which is rolling out from AT&T in the first quarter, and the Droid Bionic, which Verizon Wireless will offer in the second quarter.
The test was done side-by-side with the 1GHz-powered Motorola Droid X. Though the Droid X is no data-piping slouch, eWEEK noticed a marked drop in latency from the Droid X to the new devices.
In our opinion, the arrival of dual-core will date the 1GHz phones.
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney was less impressed, noting that dual-core is a foregone conclusion just as quad core will be some day.
"I don't consider it the revolution that many seem to think it is," Dulaney said. "It's happened on the PC side, and it was logical to think that all processors would implement at least dual-core."
He also said he would surprised if the iPhone 5 next summer didn't come fueled by dual-core.
Independent analyst Jack Gold agreed that Apple will employ dual-core on its next-generation phone. He also said he wouldn't be surprised to see a quad-core ARM chip in the next 12 to 18 months, including from Apple.
"But of course, the mobile OSes would have to catch up and be able to utilize on all those cores to make it attractive to deploy them," Gold told eWEEK, adding that Android still really doesn't work on multicore/multithread.
Now it remains to be seen what kind of pricing these speedier phones will get. Generally, a faster processor will yield a price bump.
Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha would only say at CES that the new phones will come with "competitive" pricing. That usually means the devices will be priced to sell but comparable to others in the market.
But Motorola is the first to mass-market dual-core smartphones, so it can set the pricing.
The question is: Will Motorola price these new phones at the high-end smartphone average of $199 with contract, or dip into the more risqu??Â« pool $200-plus phones, such as the $249 Samsung Epic 4G?
Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told Reuters that instead of a more pricey device, he expects a premium for data service.
We'll have to wait another month or two before Motorola and its carrier partners unveil the costs for these new dual-core smartphones and data plans.