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Intel’s Merrifield Could Be a Huge Smartphone Game Changer in 2014

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At the Computex show, chip-maker Intel had shown off designs for its latest chipsets for high-end computing as well as for more power conservative smartphones. Merrifield, which is an Atom processor based around a 22 nm design, is one such chip that Intel was showing off, and the silicon could have a huge impact in the smartphone market in 2014.

Merrifield is for phones what Silvermont is doing for tablets in the Atom space for Intel.

Designed to compete against ARM Holdings’ designs, which have dominated the mobile market due to Intel’s slow embrace for smartphone and tablet silicons, Merrifield will offer competitive features, especially when paired with Intel’s new 4G LTE modem that offers global compatibility with all LTE bands used around the world.

The 22 nm architecture for the chip will mean that Merrifield should be able to deliver powerful performance while at the same time being conservative on battery life. Intel’s also promising that Merrifield will also incorporate a sensor support hub.

The company’s press release says that Intel showed for the first time a “smartphone reference design platform based on “Merrifield,” Intel’s next-generation 22nm Intel Atom SoC for smartphones that will deliver increased performance and battery life. The platform includes an integrated sensor hub for personalized services, as well as capabilities for data, device and privacy protection.”

This means that a phone with multiple sensors running all at the same time could still be power efficient. Motorola is hinting that it is working on such a phone on its Moto X design that would record and process sensor readings, turning every Motorola X Phone into its own embedded sensor network. Gyroscopes, accelerometer, temperature, speed, altitude, and other such readings would always be available. Motorola Mobility, under direction from Google’s Dennis Woodside, revealed recently at the All Things D D11 conference that it had gained the sensor and battery life experience from working on the now discontinued Motorola MOTO ACTV sports watch, and it will be incorporating those lessons into a phone with a sensor hub.

Google had hinted that sensor networks will be part of the future at its Google I/O 2013 conference.

And while Motorola will be applying its own personal experience, other phone-makers who adopt Intel’s Merrifield Atom architecture could also deliver to customers a similar experience with long battery life and the ability for their device to always collect information.

This could help consumers in the long term, especially on Android. The Google Now search mechanism that records your every move to help anticipate your search and deliver relevant information without you even needing to ask for it could be greatly improved with additional contextual information that your phone feeds to it. Google Now could detect, through always-on sensors, that you’re driving and shut off texting services, for example.

Samsung is already embedding sensors such as a barometer, humidity sensor, and thermometer on its flagship Galaxy S4 phone. The smartphone-maker is now using Intel on its Galaxy Tab 3 slate and it’s rumored that Samsung may bring Intel on a variant of the Galaxy S4 with an Atom processor. This could open the doors for new experiences and for more information to be collected, recorded, processed, and analyzed.

And while Merrifield is now announced, devices won’t ship until 2014. CES 2014 could set the stage for a huge game changer in the mobile industry where Intel may be regaining its hold on the silicon market in mobile.

Tech enthusiast in Silicon Valley enjoying the possibilities of ubiquitous connectivity, information sharing, and collaboration enabled by mobile broadband. You can contact Chuong on Twitter @chuongvision or search +chuongvision on Google+.

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