With Merrifield chip and LTE, Intel looks ready to compete in smartphones

Just one day after news of its Atom chip powering Samsung’s Galaxy Tab¬†slate, Intel(s intc) is showing off its next-generation chip powering a smartphone. At the Computex show in Taiwan on Tuesday, the company highlighted its Merrifield architecture, which is designed to compete with the energy-efficient ARM(s armh) chips inside the vast majority of smartphones and tablets today. These announcements could be a big turning point for Intel, which has largely missed out on the fast-growing market for mobile devices.

Don’t rush out to your nearest smartphone vendor just yet, though. While Intel is touting the benefits of Merrifield, the silicon isn’t expected in devices until early next year. That tells me that January’s Consumer Electronics Show will be — if the chip delivers as promised — likely the first event where multiple phone vendors show off hardware with Intel inside.

According to Intel, the new¬†22nm chip for smartphones will boost both performance and battery life and includes integrated sensor support hub “for personalized services, as well as capabilities for data, device and privacy protection.”

T-Mobile Galaxy Tab 10.1Of course, in a phone connectivity is of equal importance and this is where Intel’s 2010 purchase of Infineon comes into play. There were no smartphone announcements related to LTE but Intel demonstrated connectivity for the Galaxy Tab 3 with its Intel XMM 7160, claiming it’s one of the “world’s smallest and lowest-power multimode-multiband LTE solutions and will support global LTE roaming.”

Although the ARM platform has continued to improve since the 2007 smartphone revolution, Intel — on paper, at least — seems to be catching up in earnest. Perfect examples are the Windows 8(s msft) tablets that use Intel’s Atom chip: They compete well, both in price and battery life, with the ARM-powered Windows RT slates. Now we have Intel silicon in a Galaxy Tab running Android(s goog) and next year, the potential for an array of smartphones.

It’s too early to say Intel is back when it comes to mobile, but it’s surely making every effort to stay in the game; something we couldn’t say just a few years ago.