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MediaTek lays groundwork for cheaper Android 4.0 smartphones

The first phones based on MediaTek's new platform will arrive during the first quarter

Semiconductor company MediaTek has launched a package of components that will be used by vendors to build mid-range and entry-level smartphones based on Android 4.0, the company said on Monday.

The MT6575 platform includes a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processer running Android 4.0, an HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) modem and a graphics processor.

Last year, the Cortex-A9 powered many high-end smartphones, and now the arrival of Cortex-A series in lower cost, mainstream mobile devices will deliver a significant uplift in performance to more users, according to ARM. Dual-core versions of the A9 are used the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Nexus.

Mid-range smartphones based MT6575 will have 960- by 540-pixel screens and 8-megapixel cameras that can shoot movies at 720p, MediaTek said in a statement. That compares to current crop of Android-based high-end smartphones, which have 1280-by-720 pixels screens and can shoot video at 1080p.

The mobile operators want to increase the usage of data and smartphones among their pre-paid users, and to achieve that they need phones with better performance than what's offered by today's low-end and mid-range phones, according to Shaun Collins, CEO at market research company CCS Insight.

The MT6575 also allows phone vendors to build smartphones with two SIM cards, a feature that is getting increasingly important in emerging markets. The cards are hot-swappable, which means they can be switched without turning off the phone.

The first smartphones based on the new platform will become available in the first quarter of 2012, according to MediaTek. The company doesn't get into the specifics of what the phones will cost, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Chinese vendors were to launch "reasonably sophisticated smartphones" at below $150 before subsidies this year, according to Collins.

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