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Cell phones may get low-power chip

The new chip, smaller than a dime, could pave the way for more-compact mobile phones with digital imaging capabilities.

A new camera chip that's smaller than a dime could pave the way for more-compact mobile phones with digital imaging capabilities.

Developed by mobile imaging solutions developer TransChip, the TC5600, which measures 5 millimeters across, is based on a power-saving, single-chip design, said Avi Strum, president and chief operating officer of Israel-headquartered TransChip.

"Current imaging technologies often require multichip solutions in order to capture an image, process the colors and compress the image to a size suitable for transmission over wireless networks, but we have developed a single-chip camera solution to accomplish this," Strum said in an interview at the CommunicAsia conference in Singapore.

According to Strum, the TC5600 consumes one-third of the electrical power of a traditional camera chip in a cell phone. This would result in phones with increased battery life.

Each unit would cost handset makers between $10 and $15 to incorporate into a mobile phone, he said.

The chip supports image resolutions of up 376-by-296-pixels, and also offers video capture at a rate of up to 15 frames per second.

TransChip is currently in discussions with handset makers in Taiwan, Korea and China to integrate the imaging chip, Strum said, but declined to reveal their identities.

In the pipeline is a camera chip with an integrated MPEG-4-encoder, which will allow for video telephony over General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) networks. This device is expected to be ready in two years.

Aloysius Choong reported from Singapore.