Intel breaks into LTE smartphones with an affordable phone-tablet hybrid made by Asus

The smartphone in your pocket is almost certainly running on an ARM-based chip, most likely made by Qualcomm (or Apple.) Although Intel’s mobile-focused Atom chips are now powering lots of tablets, the major hurdle to Intel-powered smartphones has been the lack of an Intel LTE modem.

That’s why the Asus PadFone X mini, announced on Wednesday, is a big deal for Intel. It’s not the first phone running on Intel silicon, and it’s not going to be the most powerful device with an Intel chip, but it is the first commercial smartphone with an Intel LTE modem.

That modem, XMM 7160, was first announced in late 2013 and has been included in several tablets to date, most notably, Samsung’s high-end Galaxy Tab S with LTE. The PadFone X mini won’t sport a fully integrated modem and processor, but an [company]Intel[/company] Atom processor will sit right alongside the modem on the phone.

Intel is still putting the finishing touches on a fully integrated system on a chip called SoFIA, which will be aimed at low-cost 3G handsets overseas, with an LTE version to follow.

The PadFone X mini is a low-end device for price-sensitive consumers and will be sold in conjunction with AT&T GoPhone prepaid plans.. It’s a 4.5-inch Android handset with a 854 x 480 screen powered by an Intel Atom Z2560 dual-core processor. It’s got a dinky 5MP rear camera, which will be a dealbreaker for many. Oh, and the phone can plug into a larger display and virtually become a seven-inch tablet with a 1280 x 800 resolution.

The PadFone X mini is a less expensive version of the Asus Padfone X — which is also a phone that can plug into a tablet screen, effectively giving you two devices in one. When I reviewed the Padfone X earlier this year, I found its transforming ability to be a bit gimmicky, but that was a $650 device. The PadFone X mini will cost only $200, and at that price, I could see the ability to turn into a tablet being a major draw for some people. unnamed