LG, HTC Android Smartphones Go Quad-Core at MWC

Quad-core Android smartphones from LG, Huawei and HTC were all the rage at Mobile World Congress the last two days. Power management on these handsets is going to be a challenge, said IHS iSuppli.

While several mobile technology themes came out of Mobile World Congress this week, one that will stick in every mobile watcher's mind is that the show was a coming-out party for quad-core smartphones.

LG, HTC and Huawei all showed off quad-core Android handsets at the event in Barcelona, Spain. Quad-core phones will provide faster performance and superior graphics capabilities, compared with today's phones with dual-core CPUs, said Daniel Gleeson, a research analyst for IHS iSuppli. They will also suck down power at a prodigious clip.

First out of the gate at MWC was the LG Optimus 4X HD, which is powered by a 1.5GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. This quad-core phone runs Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system and boasts a high-definition 4.7-inch screen with a resolution of 1,280 by 720. LG said the device will start shipping in the second quarter of 2012.

"This will make the smartphone a more compelling consumer experience€”in LG's words delivering 'PC-like performance,'" Gleeson said in a research note. "It also will increase the disruption that high-end smartphones will cause to adjacent products, such as handheld games consoles. But unlike Sony, Apple and Microsoft, LG lacks a strong games content portfolio that would help LG to differentiate its premium smartphones."

Huawei meanwhile unveiled the latest in its popular Ascend Android line, the quad-core 1.2GHz/1.5GHz processor-powered Ascend D, which pairs Huawei's power-management system with a 2,150mAh battery, to save energy.

Preserving power is a primary concern to users of quad-core handsets, particularly close industry watchers who saw dual-core phones churn through power rapidly on 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks such as those from Verizon Wireless.

To address the power-supply challenge, Huawei also introduced the Ascend D quad XL, which comes with a 2,500mAh battery for up to two to three days of normal usage. The device sports the same specs as the Ascend D quad, though the Ascend D quad XL is only 10.9mm thin. The devices should be available in September.

Not to be outdone, HTC introduced its One X smartphone a "multimedia livewire," or entertainment super phone. Launching in April, the handset will feature Nvidia's Tegra 3 quad-core chip in Europe in addition to the Beats Audio sound system and Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).

Finally, it wouldn't be MWC without talk of the next Samsung Galaxy S lineup, the S III. Though not available for show and tell at MWC, Boy Genius Report said the device would sport Samsung's 1.5GHz quad-core Exynos processor and possess a 4.8-inch full high-definition 1,080p resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio display.

Speaking of ultra-big, crisp displays, Gleeson also noted that HD video or high-end gaming graphics performance is realistic only as an option for downloaded content.

The reason, of course, is that streaming HD video requires the carrier to provide content at a constant rate that challenges today's 3G networks and results in a battery drain if used in 4G LTE networks.