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Intel Announces More Phone Customers, Plans for Speedier Chips

Intel, which is looking to crack the phone market, announced a few new partners on Monday, as well as plans to speed up its chips.

France Telecom’s Orange unit and Indian cellphone maker Lava International both plan to sell devices based on the reference phone design Intel created. China’s ZTE will also use Intel chips as part of a multiyear partnership, with its first Intel-based device slated to ship in the second half of this year.

“This is the first step,” ZTE Executive VP He Shiyou said at an Intel press event in Barcelona.

The Orange phone will go on sale first in France and the U.K. this summer.

At January’s Consumer Electronics Show, Intel announced that Motorola and Lenovo would use its processors. Intel had promised it would have more to say in Barcelona.

The announcements with Orange and Lava, in particular, show that Intel is having some success with its strategy of not only offering chips, but also a ready-to-go phone design that customers can use to get quickly into the Android smartphone business.

The company also offered up a look at where it is headed on the chip side.

“It wouldn’t be an Intel presentation if we didn’t show a road map,” Intel CEO Paul Otellini quipped at the briefing with reporters.

Intel said its Z2460, formerly code-named “Medfield,” will run at up to 2GHz. Meanwhile, the company announced a successor chip, which will sample in the second half of the year and ship in products next year. That chip, the Z2580, is designed to double Medfield’s performance. The company also announced plans for a lower-end chip aimed at “value” smartphones that can sell for less than $150 unsubsidized.

Otellini promised that his company will bring its legacy of performance, but won’t sacrifice on battery life, promising 14 days of standby time.

“We take battery life seriously,” he said.

Intel has also inked a deal with Visa to ensure that its phones are ready for mobile commerce, and Visa has certified Intel’s reference design as working with its payWave effort.

Intel faces steep competition in the mobile chip business from current leaders Nvidia, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, in addition to others looking to crack the market, such as Broadcom. The company has been trying to get into the business for some time, but last year began showing a slim Android design it said would, at long last, get it into the game.

Asked what might prompt more bigger-name cellphone makers to adopt Intel chips, Otellini said that the initial products from some of these smaller partners should “light a fire” under the likes of Samsung.

“We have ambitions to not be a minor player here,” he said.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus