Motorola's first Intel-powered handset launches in UK

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Media captionThe BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones takes a look at the Razr i with Motorola's Mark Notton

Google's Motorola unit has released its first Intel-powered smartphone.

The Razr i is based on a mid-range model sold in the US that features an ARM-based Snapdragon processor.

Motorola said the change of chip meant improved camera performance. However, it has also meant Google's Chrome browser is not installed on the device.

Intel recently cut its sales forecasts citing weaker demand. Although it dominates PC chip sales it is a niche player in the smart device sector.

Image caption The handset is Motorola's first to feature an Intel processor

Its existing smartphone partners - ZTE, Lenovo, Lava, and Gigabyte - are all relatively minor smartphone forces in Western markets.

So, Intel's tie-up with Google - which also makes the Android system - is widely seen as its most significant effort to crack the market to date.

The handset will be offered in the UK, France, Germany and Latin America.

It has a 4.3in (10.9cm) display making it bigger than Apple's iPhone 5, but smaller than Samsung's top-selling Galaxy S3 and HTC's One X.

Chrome compromise

The Motorola device features a new Intel Atom chip which runs at 2 gigahertz - an improvement on the 1.6GHz model included in an Orange-branded model launched in the UK in May.

Intel said the chipset also included a new image signal processor that had been specifically optimised to work with Motorola's technology.

"You can be ready to take a picture in less than one second, which is about twice as fast as other products on the market," Eric Reid, general manager of Intel mobile and communications group, told the BBC.

"A lot of times you want to take multiple pictures - and you can take up to 10 pictures in a second, which is faster than many DSLRs (digital single lens reflex) cameras on the market today."

However, the inclusion of Intel's technology has meant that Google has not been able to offer Chrome as the default web browser, as it does with the handset's US counterpart, the Droid Razr M.

"Chrome is not ready for pre-loading on this device," acknowledged Jim Wicks, senior vice president of consumer experience design at Motorola.

Image caption Intel's current Atom processors use a single CPU core

"We don't want to do that unless we have complete chipset optimisation at that level."

He added that users would be able to download the software from the Google Play store as an option. The firm markets the software as having "hardware-accelerated page rendering" on ARM-based chips.

Battery life

Intel opted to use a single-core CPU (central processing unit) design for its latest chip, bucking an industry trend for dual or quad-core models.

Multiple cores allow handsets to maximise battery life by only using all of the cores when they are carrying out processor-intensive tasks, but switching some of them off at other times to save energy.

Intel said it had instead used a technique it called hyper-threading which allowed its single core to carry out two tasks in parallel. It said this allowed it to complete calculations more quickly, and thus shut down the processor down faster.

"Not all cores are created equal," said Mr Reid.

"It's really about what the architecture can do and how you do it in the most efficient fashion.

"We found with the Atom processor we can deliver performance on our processor that actually beats many of the dual core processors on the market today."

Motorola said it had also included its own Smart Actions software to help the device achieve about a 20-hour lifespan between charges. The utility is not offered to other Android device makers.

Image caption Motorola's top-end Razr Maxx uses a dual-core CPU made by Qualcomm

The software studies how each owner uses their handset and then suggests times it can automatically switch off functions such as bluetooth connectivity and GPS location functionality.

"You might get up to 15% to 20% more battery life out of our devices as a result," Mr Wicks said.

Mid-range mobiles

One industry watcher said it was noteworthy that Intel had deliberately decided not to target its chip at Motorola's top-end handsets.

"It may look strange that a computing company like Intel would position itself with a mid-range device," said Malik Saadi - principal analyst at Informa Telecom.

"But there is less competition in that segment, and many of the other device at that price point are lower performance, so it will get noticed.

"Intel is trying to enter the mobile market in a modest way... We expect it will launch a more expensive multi-core processor in 2013, although we don't know the partner."

Mr Wicks confirmed that Motorola planned to offer further Intel-based handsets over the coming years, but would not discuss whether they would also be restricted to markets outside the US.

Mr Reid added that Intel planned to announce further tie-ups with manufacturers before the end of 2012.

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