This year's Mobile World Congress will be remembered as the year 64-bit ARM chips became commonplace, thanks in large part to the availability of ARM's 64-bit Cortex A53 and A57 cores. The first company to make an official announcement this year is MediaTek, a small-but-growing chipmaker whose designs usually show up in mid-end phones and tablets outside of the US.
MediaTek's new MT6732 includes a 1.5GHz quad-core CPU based on the lower-end Cortex A53 architecture, and like all 64-bit ARM chips, it supports the more efficient ARMv8 instruction set (arguably an even more important feature than the 64-bit-ness, though less marketing-friendly). It's paired with a Mali-T760 GPU from ARM, which supports modern graphics APIs like OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.2. Dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and 150Mbps down/50Mbps up LTE support are also included. Most of MediaTek's chips are aimed at "super mid-market" phones priced between $80 and $400, and the company claims the MT6732 is aimed right at the center of that price range.
It's worth noting that Cortex A53 is expected to have lower CPU performance than the 32-bit Cortex A17 architecture that powers the MediaTek MT6595 that the company announced earlier this month. According to MediaTek, it was a matter of timing—the A53 was ready to go, so MediaTek decided to use it even though some higher-end parts would still be 32-bit ARMv7 parts.
"Technology moves in cycles, and it just turns out the timing of the 6732. The ARM 64-bit A53 was ready to be commercialized, so this chip intersected with that," Mohit Bhushan, MediaTek's VP and General Manager for US Corporate Marketing, told Ars. "One thing is for sure, that all follow-on designs from there will most likely be 64-bit ... [The higher-end Cortex A57] is also going to be part of our designs in the future."
MediaTek told us that it shipped about 220 million chipsets for phones in 2013, and about 20 million for tablets. It hopes to increase these numbers to 300 million and 40 million for phones and tablets, respectively. The bulk of these sales come from markets outside the US, where there are fewer carrier subsidies to mask the true price of a $600 or $700 high-end phone. MediaTek hopes that as the US carriers begin to edge away from the subsidy model in favor of programs like Verizon's Edge, AT&T's Next, and T-Mobile's Jump, more US customers will begin looking for thriftier options.
MediaTek is also making a handful of smaller announcements this morning. First up is the MT3188, a wireless charging chip that will be offered both with MediaTek SoCs and chips from other vendors. The chip is designed to be universally compatible with a variety of inductive and resonant wireless charging standards, including the Wireless Power Consortium's Qi, the competing PMA standard from the Power Matters Alliance, and the "Rezence" resonant charging standard from the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP). That chip is sampling now and will be available in devices in Q3 of 2014.
Next up is the MT6630, a standalone wireless chip that offers dual-band, single-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, ANT+, GPS, and FM radio connectivity. The chip can be paired with SoC and LTE hardware from other OEMs, and it is designed to communicate without interfering with LTE communications. It is also sampling now, and device availability is scheduled for the second half of 2014.
The MT6732 is scheduled to sample in September, and ship in devices in early 2015.