The choice in processor has often determined the success level of new Android smartphones and tablets in recent years, so it’s fairly big news to learn that Google may actually switch from Nvidia to Qualcomm for the second-generation Nexus 7 by Asus. According to Michael McConnell, Pacific Crest analyst, Google has specifically selected Qualcomm’s APQ8064 Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor. That’s the same System-on-a-Chip (SoC) found in the HTC Droid DNA, LG Optimus G, Google Nexus 4 and Sony Xperia Z, though we hope it will be overclocked from 1.5GHz to 1.7GHz like on the LG Optimus G Pro and ZTE Grand S.
Initially, the news is surprising for two reasons – A) the original Nexus 7 has been a huge success with the Tegra 3 chip and Nvidia promises six times the graphics processing power with Tegra 4; B) the next-generation Snapdragon 800, which we saw demoed on a reference tablet at the International CES last month, is due to arrive in Q2 2013. However, once you factor in the reasons behind the decision, which include lower costs, better integration with 3G/4G/LTE technology, and timing, as well as availability of components, then it all starts to make sense. At a price-point of $200, Google can’t maximize every core feature. Also, availability of the Snapdragon 800 will likely mirror Google’s plans for the Nexus 7 launch, so it could just be a case of bad timing in regards to picking the S4 Pro over the 800. On a similar note, the impressive Tegra 4 processor isn’t expected to arrive until much later this year, so the chance of it making it into the new Nexus 7 probably wasn’t even feasible in the first place.
The Snapdragon S4 Pro is reputable and performs well in current-generation devices, so we expect the 2nd generation Nexus 7 to be another success for Google overall. Still, the Nexus 7 version 2.0 won’t be out until the summer, so some consumers might just wait a bit longer for a device with either Snapdragon 800 or Tegra 4. Unfortunately for Nvidia, being excluded as a partner for the updated Nexus means the company could also lose out on $200 to $250 million in revenue.
Look for Google to announce the upgraded Nexus 7 with Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie at Google I/O 2013 in May.