Orange to release Intel-based Santa Clara smartphone

The phone will also have 4.0-inch screen and 8-megapixel camera

Mobile operator Orange has joined the companies backing Intel's move into smartphones, and will start to ship the Android-based "Santa Clara" during the summer.

Today, ARM-based processors totally dominate among smartphones and tablets, but Intel is putting a lot of resources on getting a chunk of this growing market.

More competition in the smartphone processor space is good for all involved, according to Yves Maitre, vice president for Devices at Orange Group.

"It's always good to have competition, because it gives consumers more choice. It also allows technology to improve faster, and at the end of the day when you have competition it also has an impact on pricing," said Maitre.

For all those reasons it made sense for Orange to consider working with Intel, and after further investigations the decision was made. That was 18 months ago.

The goal has been to provide the best phone possible at an affordable price. One of Orange's previous low-cost Android-based smartphones was the Boston, which arrived in 2010 and cost €20 (US$27) per month with a contract. Santa Clara's price will vary depending on the country, but the target is generally the same, according to Maitre.

In addition to an Intel Atom Z2460 processor at 1.6 GHz, the Santa Clara, which is a code name, has a 4.03-inch screen with a 1024 by 600 pixel resolution and 16GB of storage. There is also an 8-megapixel camera that will be able to take 10 images in one second, and shoot video at 1080p. A demo of the phone showed that there still some adjustments to make before that is possible.

There also some work to be done on validating features like HD Voice and NFC, which the Santa Clara will have, as well.

Gigabyte will manufacture the device, and has also helped implement the hardware.

If Intel wants to get inside smartphones, performance and battery life will be key, and the company won't disappoint, according to Maitre. The Santa Clara will outperform current smartphones, and offer performance on par with upcoming quad-core smartphones, he said.

To test smartphone performance Maitre likes to browse the Web, because doing that you can see a difference.

"As I am French I am a little tricky sometimes, and I have some websites that I know are not optimized from a design perspective," said Maitre.

The performance he got helped convince him that Orange had made the right choice when it decided to join forces with Intel, Maitre said.

The battery life has been a challenge, according to Maitre. However, battery performance isn't just the processor. You have to optimize the whole phone, on which Intel and Orange have been working hard, and the result will be on par with the competition, he said.

The Santa Clara will start shipping during the end of the second quarter or the beginning of the third quarter in the U.K. and France, according to Maitre, who would have loved to have the phone ready for the holiday shopping season, though that wasn't possible.

Previously, Lenovo has said it will start to ship the K800, which includes and Intel processor, in China during the second quarter, as well. While Motorola Mobility has said it will release a smartphone in the second half of this year. The vendor's deal with Intel also includes both phones and tablets.

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