NVIDIA Announces First Tegra 4i LTE Smartphone Design Win At MWC

It's been a year since Nvidia took the wraps off Tegra 4i, its first smartphone design with an integrated software modem, quad-core Cortex-A9 processor, and a slightly smaller version of the Tegra 4 mobile GPU used in devices like Nvidia's Shield. At the time, Nvidia promised that we'd see devices out by the end of the year. Today, the company is finally announcing its first partner for the new phone -- the European telecom Wiko.

Wiko is a relative newcomer to the French telecommunications market but passed the million-customer mark last year, with plans to double that by the end of 2014. It's a subsidiary of Chinese telecom Tinno, and the partnership with Nvidia may be one of the company's first experiments with parts made by a supplier other than MediaTek. It's hard to suss this out; Wiko doesn't have much of a presence in the English-speaking universe and Google Translate only takes you so far. (Nvidia's most recent blog post on the topic claims two million users for Wiko, but French sources state that the company had one million customers in 2013 but hoped to sell two million phones through the end of last year. One of the hallmarks of Wiko's business model is that it sellls dirt-cheap phones with dual SIM cards, allowing users to use multiple providers.

Nonetheless, this launch could be significant news for both the telecom provider and Nvidia itself. The new phone, dubbed the Wiko Wax, is a 4.7-inch model with a 720p display, an 8 megapixel rear camera, and LTE/HSPA+ support. The Wiko Wax is expected to be available by April "throughout Europe," though that seems to mostly mean France. Articles that reference Wiko paint the company as an aggressive up-and-comer disrupting the French telecom market, so it's possible that this win will put Nvidia in a position to win some users for its latest budget platform.

The lengthy delays, however, could hurt the Tegra 4i hard. The Cortex-A9r4 cores inside the chip should still compete fairly well against other parts, but 64-bit Android, upcoming Cortex-A57 and A53 parts, and even Nvidia's own Project Denver are likely to steal much of Tegra 4i's thunder. We're glad to see that Nvidia has ironed out its issues and is shipping the device, but it may be hard for Team Green to find much market traction for the product at this point.

Nvidia will also be demonstrating the new Tegra Note 7 LTE this week. Specs on this device are identical to the current Tegra Note, but the new device will offer Nvidia's own Icera LTE modem. Nvidia made some impressive claims for Icera when it bought the company's technology; we'll soon be able to test if those benefits have arrived in the tablet space.