Intel packs more punch into cell phones

Intel Corp. announced last month a second generation of Flash memory that could double the present memory capacity while more than halving the amount of energy consumed in cell phones.

The StrataFlash Wireless Memory architecture achieves a number of milestones. By putting twice the data in the same space on the silicon, Intel is able to get two bits in the physical space that it used to take for one.

By reducing the voltage to 1.8 volts, the chip giant was able to meet handset industry component standards with its StrataFlash Wireless Memory architecture, found up until now only in larger handheld devices. Idle power consumption was reduced by 65 per cent and the run current by 35 per cent over previous Intel flash designs.

In addition, the StrataFlash has a burst performance rate of 85 nanoseconds and subsequent access speed of 14 nanoseconds, according to Steve Cunial, the product marketing manager at Intel in Santa Clara, Calif.

The older generation of Flash for cell phones from Intel had a performance rating of 110 nanoseconds.

In addition to the higher performance at the standard energy output, Intel is using a stacking technology that allows them to offer more memory in less space, ideal for smaller handsets with limited room for expansion, said Cunial.

The memory chips also have a flexible partition which will allow handset manufacturers the ability to design a cell phone that can read a memory partition while writing to another partition at the same time. This flexibility will result in giving a user the ability to download, read and send e-mail on a handset while simultaneously talking on the phone, provided the user has a headset.

The stacked memory architecture will up the memory capacity of cell phones to 125MB. However, it will require some redesign on the part of manufacturers to incorporate.

“It’s not a big deal to change the circuit board for this. Mostly a matter of changing the pin outs,” said Tom Starnes, Gartner Inc. analyst for embedded microprocessors in Austin, Tex.

Intel is also working on its next generation X-Scale processor, Manitoba, now shipping in samples, that combines stacked memory along with the microprocessor.

“Adding the logic of a microprocessor and stacking flash on top is a big plus,” said Starnes.