At Mobile World Congress, Microsoft announced the Windows Phone “refresh” that allowed low-end Windows Phone to use lower-end chipsets with less RAM. There wasn’t much discussion of the high-end of the market. However, Microsoft is still working on the high-end, but the company just isn’t talking about it yet.
According to The Verge, Microsoft is currently testing the next version of Windows Phone on Sprint. That version would be Windows Phone 8, also known as Apollo. The report says that Microsoft is testing the new Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chipset on Sprint’s network with LTE.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 is the same 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU that will be in the US version of the HTC One X. It’s a dual-core CPU that has tested much better than competing dual-core chips inside the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Motorola Droid 4. From the way the chip has been described, it seems to be the fastest chip available that works with LTE.
If Microsoft is testing Windows Phone 8 with the Snapdragon S4, it would mean that Microsoft will finally be able to support two cores in Windows Phone. Currently, Windows Phone 7.5 only supports single-core CPUs. It seems limiting on paper, but in practice, Microsoft is able to get Windows Phone to run just as fast, if not faster than Android and iOS in many use cases.
Qualcomm didn’t comment directly on the rumor, but did state that it has a “strong” relationship with Microsoft. The chip maker was impressed with what Microsoft has been able to do with Snapdragon chips in phones.
Without commenting, Qualcomm’s Rob Chandhok did say that “there’s no structural problem” in using the S4 in Windows Phone, which sounds promising.
As for testing the phones on Sprint, Sprint hasn’t seen a new Windows Phone since the HTC Arrive last year. That was before Mango came out. Microsoft could just be testing to make sure Apollo works on a CDMA network with LTE.
Since launch, AT&T has been the carrier that’s gotten the most Windows Phones and the one that seems to have the best relationship with Microsoft. That could change, but it seems unlikely.
Currently Windows Phone 8 Apollo is said to be scheduled for a late 2012 release. In addition to dual-core support, it could also bring more screen resolution options and NFC support. Microsoft hasn’t formally announced anything about the update, but that could just be because the company has been focused on Windows 8.
Between Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and the rumored “Durango” next-generation game console Microsoft has a lot of new products in the pipeline, so it’s not surprising that it’s focusing on one at a time.