Droid Bionic cancelled: Tegra 2 and LTE don't mix well (yet)

Despite wowing the press at CES in January, Motorola's Droid Bionic is on life support at best - with rumors suggesting the dual-core (Tegra 2) 4G LTE phone has been cancelled outright.

NVIDIA's Tegra 2 chipset is not the killer piece of silicon it initially appeared to be. Tablets using it lag well behind the iPad 2, but each successive release (particularly the LG G Slate and the ASUS Transformer) are getting stronger reviews than the mixed reception for the Motorola Xoom. That said, many believe current software and OS code is leaving unused cycles on the table, unlike Apple's heavily optimized A5 in the iPad 2. Smartphones using the same chip were promised at CES, but strong indications have emerged this morning that at least one of the phones (Motorola's Droid Bionic) has been cancelled.

On paper, the Bionic was impressive, featuring the 1Ghz Tegra 2 system-on-chip, a 4.3" display (running at qHD resolution), and connecting to Verizon's lauded 4G LTE data network. Though other Tegra 2 phones have made it out of the door (such as the Atrix 4G), apparently NVIDIA's hardware does not play well with the baseband radio chips that handle voice, 3G and 4G signals on Verizon's network. The HSPA+ technology used by AT&T and T-Mobile is not an issue, but the first-generation LTE chips for Verizon's network are known for their power consumption - and power use in a small device entails heat. Apparently, in the case of the Bionic's smartphone hardware, the combined heat from the Tegra 2 and the LTE chip was too much and Motorola has given up on the project after too many delays.

HULIQ must stress that this has not been confirmed by Motorola or Verizon, though Verizon sales representatives contacted by HULIQ said that they believed the rumors were true.

Considering it is mid-2011, and problems launching dual-core phones are being seen, this might put Samsung's roadmap for 2 GHz dual-core phones by 2012 in jeopardy. That said, problems appear specific to the Tegra 2 system-on-chip, as other chip manufacturers like Qualcomm and Texas Instruments continue to push dual-core chips at OEMs. Moreover, given that phones such as the HTC Sensation 4G and Samsung Galaxy S II appear set to launch with 1.2 GHz dual-core chips (not from NVIDIA), Motorola may have scuttled the Bionic because delays had kept it from arriving to market in time to be competitive.

Verizon representatives contacted by HULIQ continue to push the HTC Thunderbolt as their flagship smartphone, which delivers a snappy experience despite "only" having a single-core chip on board. Motorola apparently has a replacement already in the works, known as the Targa right now. The overall industrial design is similar, though rumors suggest it will have a impressive 13 MP main camera. It is said to have a dual-core chip, but considering the issues with the Tegra 2 powering the Bionic, it is unlikely Motorola will cancel one phone only to release another using the same chip - it will likely have the same Qualcomm or TI hardware underpinning competitors' releases.

Update 2:10 PM: Motorola Mobility's (MMI) stock price appears unaffected by the news, though an official announcement from the company may change matters.

Update 3:40 PM: According to the Wall Street Journal this is a delay - and only a delay. Motorola is now expecting to ship the phone mid-year, possibly not until Q3 2011, because they want to package "certain enhancements" into the phone based on "feedback at CES". MMI shares closed up slightly today, but impact - if any - of the announcement may not be felt until tomorrow, since WSJ was the first major news organization to report on the story and just did that before the close of the market.

Comments

Submitted by Andrew (not verified) on
I have spoken to a number of people inside Verizon Wireless corporate, some of whom were waiting for this phone, and it has been cancelled. It may be released at a later date, but with many changes and a new name. Very disappointing considering the Charge is the Bionic's overpriced and slower replacement...

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