LG Develops ARM-Based SoC for Smartphones

The device maker introduces the eight-core Nuclun processor in its new G3 Screen smartphone, which also supports LTE-A Cat 6 networking.

LG chips

LG Electronics is jumping into the crowded market of vendors building ARM-based chips for smartphones.

Officials with the mobile device company on Oct. 24 unveiled Nuclun, an eight-core processor that will first appear this week in the G3 Screen, a smartphone aimed at the Korean market. The chip comes with LTE-A Category 6 networking capabilities and leverages ARM's big.Little architecture, which is designed to give the device greater flexibility in how it runs applications.

LG joins other mobile devices makers—such as Apple—that also produce ARM-based systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) for their products. Nuclun, pronounced NOO-klun, will help LG differentiate its offerings in the highly competitive mobile device space, with includes such players as Apple, Samsung, Acer and Lenovo, according to company executives.

"Nuclun opens up a new chapter in LG's history of innovation in the mobile industry," Jong-seok Park, president and CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Co., said in a statement. "With this in-house solution, we will be able to achieve better vertical integration and further diversify our product strategy against stronger competition. Nuclun will give us greater flexibility in our mobile strategy going forward."

Speculation about LG partnering with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. to produce smartphone chips began surfacing in the spring.

LG is the world's fifth-largest smartphone vendor, behind Samsung, Apple, Huawei and Lenovo, according to IDC analysts. In the first quarter, LG shipped 12.3 million smartphones, and the analysts the company was able to keep an array of Chinese vendors at bay by focusing on LTE-powered smartphones. The G3 Screen falls in that category.

IDC analysts expect the smartphone market to continue to grow, with more than 1.25 billion units shipping worldwide this year, a 23.8 percent increase over 2013. By 2018, that number will hit 1.8 billion, they said in August.

LG's eight-core chip includes four high-performance processor cores and four smaller cores. ARM in 2011 introduced its big.Little architecture, which is designed to address the sometimes conflicting user demands for more performance and longer battery life by pairing low-power cores with higher performing cores. In this case, Nuclun uses four 1.5GHz ARM Cortex-A15 cores for higher performance workloads and four 1.2GHz Cortex-A7cores for less intensive applications.

The cores used can be adjusted depending on the demand from the applications, according to LG officials.

LG officials also are boasting about the chip's support for the next generation of 4G networks. The LTE-A Cat 6 capabilities support top download speeds of up to 225 Mb/s, and also are compatible with current LTE networks, they said.

The G3 Screen smartphone itself, which runs Google's Android 4.4 KitKat mobile operating system, includes much of the capabilities found in the current G3 device, such as its design language, camera and UX features. It offers a 5.9-inch Full HD IPS display, a high-fidelity one watt speaker and download speeds that are three times that of regular 4G LTE networks, officials said.