Intel-Based MegaFon Mint Smartphone Hits Russian Market

The deal with Russian telco MegaFon is the latest step by Intel in its efforts to become a larger player in the fast-growing smartphone space.

Intel has found another small overseas smartphone vendor to sell devices powered by the chip maker's low-power Atom platform.

MegaFon, a Russian telecommunications services provider, is selling the MegaFon Mint in that country starting Aug. 22. The MegaFon Mint is based on Intel's Smartphone Reference Design, which includes the chip maker's Atom Z2460 Medfield processor. The Medfield chip includes Intel's Hyper-Threading technology and its Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) XMM 6260 connectivity platform.

The device, which runs Google's Android mobile operating system, will be available to MegaFon customers in retail stores and online starting at about $550, according to the two companies.

"We consider the MegaFon Mint a real technology breakthrough. It is a highly attractive device, and I'm sure end customers will value it," Mikhail Dubin, MegaFon vice president, said in a statement.

The MegaFon Mint is the latest step by Intel in its efforts to become a player in the booming mobile device market, which currently is dominated by chips designed by ARM Holdings and made by the likes of Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Samsung Electronics.

ARM's low-power chips can be found in more than 90 percent of smartphones, and Intel officials are looking to give device makers and end users an alternative with its Medfield Atom processor. Intel is aiming to push beyond its traditional PC and server markets into new areas, including smartphones and tablets.

"Intel doesn't go into markets to be a small player," Intel chief financial officer Stacy Smith said in an interview in April with Reuters. "It's a billion-unit market, so there's huge opportunity for us."

There are several Intel-based smartphones that have hit the market, including the XOLO X900 from Lava International for the India market and Orange's "San Diego" device for the U.K., both of which relied on Intel's smartphone reference design. Lenovo also has unveiled the K800, while Motorola also has a deal with Intel to build smartphones powered by the Atom chip. Other Intel-based smartphones are on the way, according to Intel executives.

The deal with MegaFon is an important one for Intel, according to Christopher McGuire, general manager of reference devices for Intel's Mobile and Communications Group.

"Our engagement with MegaFon is a step forward in accelerating the adoption of Intel architecture across new mobile market segments and geographies," McGuire said in a statement. "We look forward to our continued collaboration with MegaFon and to bringing consumers in Russia new device experiences enabled by Intel technology."

According to the two companies, the MegaFon Mint is housed in a black casing and features a 4.03-inch high-resolution LCD touch-screen, an 8-megapixel camera that includes a burst capability to take 10 pictures in a second, and up to five hours of battery life while browsing on a 3G network, 45 hours of audio playback and eight hours of talk time.

It's powered by Intel's 1.6GHz Atom chip, and includes 400MHz graphics clock and support for full 1080p high-definition video.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini told The Wall Street Journal in April that he "would be disappointed if we're not a major player [in the smartphone market] in a few years." However, ARM executives have been dismissive of Intel's efforts, saying that while the giant chip maker will gain some traction, its business model is not designed for the mobile market. ARM's business revolves around designing the chip, then licensing the design to other vendors, who add their own technologies before selling them to device makers. That model leads to faster innovation and a wider reach than what Intel can offer, Jeff Chu, director of client computing at ARM, told eWEEK in June.