The Status of Windows Phone

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 31, 2016 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: BUILD, build 2016, microsoft, windows 10, windows phone

If you watched the opening keynote of Microsoft's Build conference, then you probably didn't see much Windows Phone (unless you were looking at your own). The Verge talked to Terry Myerson about this, and Microsoft confirmed that they are leading with non-Windows, 4-inch devices, and they want to “generate developer interest” on those platforms for this year.

PC World interpreted this conversation to say that Windows Phone is put on hold.

microsoft-2016-win10devices.jpg

That might be a little hasty, though. Microsoft is still building Windows 10 for Mobile. In fact, since Microsoft updated “Windows OneCore” and jumped build to 14xxx-level build numbers with Windows 10 build 14251, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 PC are kept in lockstep. As far as I know, that is still the plan, and Windows Insiders should continue to receive these on compatible devices.

That said, Microsoft has basically admitted that Windows Phone would just be a distraction for developers this year. At the very least, they don't believe that the platform will be ready for them until next year's Build conference, which means that consumers will probably be even further down than that because there would be no applications for them. Yes, Windows Phone could be slowly shimmying out of the spotlight, but it could also be delayed until they make a good impression, and have the PC, Xbox, Hololens, and other ecosystems secure to lift it up.

Source: The Verge

Microsoft Surface Book, taking the prize for most expensive laptop and running with it

Subject: Mobile | March 23, 2016 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: surface, surface book, tablet, Skylake, notebook, microsoft, Intel

The Register is not exaggerating in the quote below, the new Microsoft Surface Book ranges from $1500-$3200 depending on the model you chose, passing even the overpriced Chromebook Pixel by quite a sum of money.  For that price you get a 3200x2000 (267ppi) 13.5" display on a tablet which weighs 3.34lbs (1.5kg), the detachable keyboard with an optional Nvidia GPU and an extra battery as well as a Surface pen.  If you want the dock which adds more connectivity options, well that is another $200 and seeing as how there is only two USB3.0 ports, a single MiniDP and an SD card reader on the keyboard you are likely to want it. 

Certainly The Register liked the looks, design and power of this ultrabook but with the competition, up to and including Apple, offering similar products at half the price it is a hard sell in the end.  Ryan expressed a similar opinion when he reveiwed the Surface Book.

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"Sumptuous and slightly absurd, Microsoft's Surface Book is the most expensive laptop you can get, short of ordering a 24-carat custom gold plated jobbie."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

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Source: The Register

The new Razer Blade gaming laptop is compatible with external GPUs

Subject: Mobile | March 15, 2016 - 03:12 PM |
Tagged: Razer Core, razer blade, gaming laptop

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The new version of Razer's Blade gaming notebook comes with a brand new feature, a USB-C port which is compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and allows the use of the Razer Core external graphics enclosure which you can see below.  This is the model that they were showing off at CES, which will allow you to use any GPU that will fit in the enclosure as opposed to the GTX 970M which is in the laptop.

Razer_Core.jpg

A quick rundown of the specifications are a quad-core Intel i7-6700HQ, 16GB of DDR4-2133, the aforementioned 6GB GTX 970M and a choice between a 256GB or 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD at a price of $2000 or $2200.  The integral touchscreen is a 14.0", 16:9 IGZO panel with a native resolution of 3200x1800 and LED backlighting.

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Click here to see the full PR and spec list.

Source: Razer

Huawei honor 5X; that other phone company

Subject: Mobile | March 11, 2016 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: Huawei, honor 5x

Huawei's new honor 5x is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 with 8 cores, 4 ARM Cortex A53 @ 1.5 GHz and another 4 ARM Cortex A53's @ 1.2 GHz. Qualcomm's Adreno 405 provides GPU power for the 5.5" 1090p IPS display.  As is common with many of their other phones the honor supports dual SIMs, one micro and nano. TechARP have put together a comprehensive review of the phone, covering the specifications as well usage and setup.  Check it out here.

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"The honor 5X is one of the most anticipated smartphones to come out of CES 2016. It offers a 5.5″ full HD display, and a second-generation rim-free fingerprint reader, powered by a Qualcomm octa-core processor underneath its metal alloy body at less than US$220. "

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

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Source: Tech ARP

Android N Preview Published and Pixel C for Devs Discounts

Subject: Mobile | March 9, 2016 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: pixel c, nexus 6p, nexus 6, nexus 5x, google, android n, Android

With basically zero warning, Google has released Android N previews for the Nexus 5X, the Nexus 6, the Nexus 6P, the Nexus 9, the Nexus Player, and the Pixel C. It can be installed by flashing the OS onto the device, or by joining the Android Beta Program. Personally, I'd recommend joining the program, because then updates are pushed over-the-air. Be sure to back up your personal data, too. Almost every method of installing or removing the preview build will intentionally wipe the device. (Technically, installing from the Android Beta Program shouldn't erase user data, but errors can occur, and, even then, the device will be wiped when you leave.)

google-2016-android-n-preview-hero.png

Aligning with this announcement is a discount on the Pixel C. It is only available to developers, and only within the US. Also, before I found out that Canadians were not eligible, I tried getting a code and the website seems to silently fail. It basically just refreshes and no email is sent, so Google might have pulled the plug once non-developers heard the news. Android Police believes that it only applies to the 64GB version, but Google's announcement wasn't clear on that. This would make the Pixel C available for $450 USD, which is quite cheap for a 10-inch, Tegra X1 device.

Android N will have a few user experience (UX) changes. The two most obvious ones are app splitscreen, which behaves like Windows 8's Windows Store app snapping, and “direct reply notifications,” which allows, for instance, replying to a chat message from the notification itself. Google has also moved to OpenJDK, as we mentioned during the holidays. This is an Oracle-approved, open-source implementation of Java that can be freely used.

Source: Google

Microsoft Ends Project Astoria, the Windows Phone "Bridge for Android" Apps

Subject: Mobile | February 26, 2016 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: windows phone, Project Astoria, microsoft, developers, build 2015, Android

A smartphone is nothing without a large selection of quality apps these days, and to that end it seemed Microsoft was going to follow the BlackBerry OS 10 method (injecting life into a platform barren of software by borrowing Android apps) when they announced the "Windows Bridge for Android" last year.

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

Blackberry accomplished this by adding the Amazon app store to OS 10, which gave BB users at least some of the apps an Android user has access to via Google Play. BlackBerry also provided devs tools to help them convert Android apps to run on the BB 10 OS platform, but the market share of BB OS 10 just isn’t high enough to justify many doing this.

Microsoft appeared to be headed in this direction when they introduced Project Astoria at last year’s Build conference, which was going to enable devs to bring Android apps over to the Windows mobile OS. Well, that’s over. In an update published yesterday by Kevin Gallo, Microsoft’s Director of Windows Developer Platform, this news was spun positively (of course).

“We also announced the Windows Bridge for Android (project “Astoria”) at Build last year, and some of you have asked about its status. We received a lot of feedback that having two Bridge technologies to bring code from mobile operating systems to Windows was unnecessary, and the choice between them could be confusing. We have carefully considered this feedback and decided that we would focus our efforts on the Windows Bridge for iOS and make it the single Bridge option for bringing mobile code to all Windows 10 devices, including Xbox and PCs. For those developers who spent time investigating the Android Bridge, we strongly encourage you to take a look at the iOS Bridge and Xamarin as great solutions.”

To editoralize here a bit, I will add that I own a Lumia smartphone, and in my experience Windows Phone is an innovative and extremely efficient mobile OS. However, the lack of quality apps (and the non-existent updates for those that do exist) is too great a barrier to use a Windows Phone as my primary device. It’s telling that BlackBerry's latest smartphone, the Priv, runs Android, as BlackBerry has effectively given up trying to compete with their own OS.

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BlackBerry Priv, which runs the Android 5 OS (image credit: BlackBerry)

Microsoft seems unwilling to do this, but they are a software company first and foremost and that's not surprising. But as a hardware company they have struggled with portable devices, as we saw with the ill-fated Kin smartphone, and of course the Zune music player. Android is the only realistic option if you want to compete with iOS on a smartphone, but Microsoft hasn't given up on the OS just yet. As much as I like the tiled interface, I think it's time to say goodbye to this iteration of Windows Mobile.

Source: Microsoft

Video Perspective: Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge Hands-on from MWC 2016

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2016 - 11:43 AM |
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, Samsung, galaxy, s7, s7 edge, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon 820

I got to spend some time with the brand new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones at MWC this week in Barcelona. Is this your next Android flagship phone?

Video Perspective: Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 Hands-on from MWC 2016

Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 25, 2016 - 11:42 AM |
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, Huawei, matebook, Intel, core m, Skylake, 2-in-1

Huawei is getting into the PC business with the MateBook 2-in-1, built in the same vein as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Can they make a splash with impressive hardware and Intel Core m processors?

MWC 16: Imagination Technologies Ray Tracing Accelerator

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 23, 2016 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: raytracing, ray tracing, PowerVR, mwc 16, MWC, Imagination Technologies

For the last couple of years, Imagination Technologies has been pushing hardware-accelerated ray tracing. One of the major problems in computer graphics is knowing what geometry and material corresponds to a specific pixel on the screen. Several methods exists, although typical GPUs crush a 3D scene into the virtual camera's 2D space and do a point-in-triangle test on it. Once they know where in the triangle the pixel is, if it is in the triangle, it can be colored by a pixel shader.

imagtech-2016-PowerVR-GR6500-GPU-PowerVR-Wizard-GPUs.png

Another method is casting light rays into the scene, and assigning a color based on the material that it lands on. This is ray tracing, and it has a few advantages. First, it is much easier to handle reflections, transparency, shadows, and other effects where information is required beyond what the affected geometry and its material provides. There are usually ways around this, without resorting to ray tracing, but they each have their own trade-offs. Second, it can be more efficient for certain data sets. Rasterization, since it's based around a “where in a triangle is this point” algorithm, needs geometry to be made up of polygons.

It also has the appeal of being what the real world sort-of does (assuming we don't need to model Gaussian beams). That doesn't necessarily mean anything, though.

At Mobile World Congress, Imagination Technologies once again showed off their ray tracing hardware, embodied in the PowerVR GR6500 GPU. This graphics processor has dedicated circuitry to calculate rays, and they use it in a couple of different ways. They presented several demos that modified Unity 5 to take advantage of their ray tracing hardware. One particularly interesting one was their quick, seven second video that added ray traced reflections atop an otherwise rasterized scene. It was a little too smooth, creating reflections that were too glossy, but that could probably be downplayed in the material ((Update: Feb 24th @ 5pm Car paint is actually that glossy. It's a different issue). Back when I was working on a GPU-accelerated software renderer, before Mantle, Vulkan, and DirectX 12, I was hoping to use OpenCL-based ray traced highlights on idle GPUs, if I didn't have any other purposes for it. Now though, those can be exposed to graphics APIs directly, so they might not be so idle.

The downside of dedicated ray tracing hardware is that, well, the die area could have been used for something else. Extra shaders, for compute, vertex, and material effects, might be more useful in the real world... or maybe not. Add in the fact that fixed-function circuitry already exists for rasterization, and it makes you balance gain for cost.

It could be cool, but it has its trade-offs, like anything else.

MWC 16: Qualcomm talks antenna improvements in Galaxy S7

Subject: Mobile | February 23, 2016 - 08:14 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon 820, Samsung, s7, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, galaxy

No one is more excited to see the Snapdragon 820 processor in the Galaxy S7 (in some regions) than Qualcomm and Qualcomm's investors. Missing the S6 design win completely was a big blow to the SD 810 but the move to FinFET technology and a new SoC design have put the SD 820 back in the driver's seat for flagship smartphones it seems. While talking with Qualcomm's Peter Carson, Senior Director of Marketing and Modems, I learned quite a bit about the X12 LTE modem integration with the Galaxy S7 as well. As it turns out, the application processor itself isn't the only thing that has impressed OEMs or that will benefit consumers. 

Modem marketers have a problem - quantifying the advantages of one LTE modem over another can be troublesome and complex. It's not as simple as X% faster or X% longer battery life, though those aspects of performance see improvement with better modem technology. And while of course the new announcement of Gigabit LTE is getting all the media attention at Mobile World Congress this week, there is a lot of excitement internally about the shipping implementation of the S7's modem.

antboost1.jpg

The Galaxy S7 encompasses the most advanced Qualcomm TruSignal antenna technology implementation to date, combining several features to add real-world benefits to the cellular performance of the device.

First, the S7 will feature the most advanced version of the antenna tuner including a closed loop feedback cycle that will tweak antenna properties in real time based on sensor data and current signal properties. If the proximity sensor is activated or you are rotating or moving the mobile device, the receiver can adjust antenna properties to improve signal reliability measurably.

The best examples fall on the cell edge, where dropped calls are common and low voice quality are found. You can improve the gain of the antenna, that is adversly affected by simply holding the device, for much better reliability and even data throughput. That means fewer dropped calls and network drops for users that have moderate service reliability. Voice quality will get better as well, as the error rates that cause data loss in low signal areas will be reduced. 

But even users that have a good signal can get benefits from the tech - gains of just 2-3 db will allow the modem and receiver to go into a lower power state, reducing 20% of the modem power draw. That won't equate to 20% total system battery life improvement but users that depend on their phones for extended use will see benefits from this integration.

Another TruSignal feature included in this modem implementation is smart transmit antenna switching. The simple explanation here is that the modem can swap which antennas are in receive and transmit modes in order to improve the transmit (upload) performance by as much as 10db! Based on properties of the antenna signal, position of the device and if you are in a heavy upload workload (posting some photos to Facebook, a video to YouTube), TruSignal allows the modem to change in real-time.

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These techniques are additive so Galaxy S7 owners will find that both the antenna tuner and antenna switching are going to move the cellular performance forward, though Qualcomm isn't saying if ALL implementation of Samsung's new flagship smartphone will implement the features. I would guess that we'll see this on the Snapdragon 820 + X12 powered models only, but I haven't learned yet which modem the Exynos-powered versions are using yet. Turns out the versions of the S7 that utilize the Samsung Exynos SoC are using a non-Qualcomm modem, so they will not support the features seen here.

Source: Qualcomm

MWC 2016: MediaTek Announces Helio P20 True Octa-Core SoC

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 22, 2016 - 11:11 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, octa-core, MWC 2016, MWC, mediatek, Mali-T880, LPDDR4X, Cortex-A53, big.little, arm

MediaTek might not be well-known in the United States, but the company has been working to expand from China, where it had a 40% market share as of June 2015, into the global market. While 2015 saw the introduction of the 8-core Helio P10 and the 10-core helio X20 SoCs, the company continues to expand their lineup, today announcing the Helio P20 SoC.

Helio_P20.jpg

There are a number of differences between the recent SoCs from MediaTek, beginning with the CPU core configuration. This new Helio P20 is a “True Octa-Core” design, but rather than a big.LITTLE configuration it’s using 8 identically-clocked ARM Cortex-A53 cores at 2.3 GHz. The previous Helio P10 used a similar CPU configuration, though clocks were limited to 2.0 GHz with that SoC. Conversely, the 10-core Helio X20 uses a tri-cluster configuration, with 2x ARM Cortex-A72 cores running at 2.5 GHz, along with a typical big.LITTLE arrangement (4x Cortex-A53 cores at 2.0 Ghz and 4x Cortex-A53 cores at 1.4 GHz).

Another change affecting MediaTek’s new SoC and he industry at large is the move to smaller process nodes. The Helio P10 was built on 28 nm HPM, and this new P20 moves to 16 nm FinFET. Just as with the Helio P10 and Helio X20 (a 20 nm part) this SoC is produced at TSMC using their 16FF+ (FinFET Plus) technology. This should provide up to “40% higher speed and 60% power saving” compared to the company’s previous 20 nm process found in the Helio X20, though of course real-world results will have to wait until handsets are available to test.

The Helio P20 also takes advantage of LPDDR4X, and is “the world’s first SoC to support low power double data rate random access memory” according to MediaTek. The company says this new memory provides “70 percent more bandwidth than the LPDDR3 and 50 percent power savings by lowering supply voltage to 0.6v”. Graphics are powered by ARM’s high-end Mali T880 GPU, clocked at an impressive 900 MHz. And all-important modem connectivity includes CAT6 LTE with 2x carrier aggregation for speeds of up to 300 Mbps down, 50 Mbps up. The Helio P20 also supports up to 4k/30 video decode with H.264/265 support, and the 12-bit dual camera ISP supports up to 24 MP sensors.

Specs from MediaTek:

  • Process: 16nm
  • Apps CPU: 8x Cortex-A53, up to 2.3GHz
  • Memory: Up to 2 x LPDDR4X 1600MHz (up to 6GB) + 1x LPDDR3 933Mhz (up to 4GB) + eMMC 5.1
  • Camera: Up to 24MP at 24FPS w/ZSD, 12bit Dual ISP, 3A HW engine, Bayer & Mono sensor support
  • Video Decode: Up to 4Kx2K 30fps H.264/265
  • Video Encode: Up to 4Kx2K 30fps H.264
  • Graphics: Mali T-880 MP2 900MHz
  • Display: FHD 1920x1080 60fps. 2x DSI for dual display
  • Modem: LTE FDD TDD R.11 Cat.6 with 2x20 CA. C2K SRLTE. L+W DSDS support
  • Connectivity: WiFiac/abgn (with MT6630). GPS/Glonass/Beidou/BT/FM.
  • Audio: 110db SNR & -95db THD

It’s interesting to see SoC makers experiment with less complex CPU designs after a generation of multi-cluster (big.LITTLE) SoCs, as even the current flagship Qualcomm SoC, the Snapdragon 820, has reverted to a straight quad-core design. The P20 is expected to be in shipping devices by the second half of 2016, and we will see how this configuration performs once some devices using this new P20 SoC are in the wild.

Full press release after the break:

Source: MediaTek

MWC 16: LG G5 Hands-on. Performance and Modularity

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 22, 2016 - 05:09 AM |
Tagged: video, snapdragon 820, snapdragon, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, LG, G5

The new LG G5 flagship smartphone offers a unique combination of form factor, performance and modularity that no previous smartphone design has had. But will you want to buy in?

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I had a feeling that the Snapdragon 820 SoC from Qualcomm would make an impression at Mobile World Congress this year and it appears the company has improved on the previous flagship processor quite a bit. Both Samsung and LG have implemented it into the 2016 models, including the new G5, offering up a combination of performance and power efficiency that is dramatically better than the 810 that was hindered by heat and process technology concerns.

Along with the new processor, the G5 includes 4GB of RAM, 32GB of on-board storage with micro SD expansion, a 2,800 mAh battery and Android 6.0 out of the box. The display is 5.3-in and uses LG IPS technology with a 2560x1440 resolution, resulting in an impressive 554 PPI. LG has updated the USB connection to Type-C, a move that Samsung brushed off as unnecessary at this time.

The phones design is pretty standard and will look very familiar to anyone that has handled a G4 or similar flagship smartphone in recent months. It was bigger in the hand than the iPhone 6s but considering the panel size differences, it was more compact than expected.

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Modularity is the truly unique addition to the G5 though. The battery is replaceable by sliding out a bottom portion of the phone, released with a tab on the left side. This allows LG to maintain the metal body construction but still offer flexibility for power users that are used to having extra batteries in their bag. This mechanism also means LG can offer add-on modules for the phone.

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The first two available will be the LG Cam Plus and the LG Hi-Fi Plus. The Cam Plus gives the phone a camera grip as well as dedicated buttons for the shutter, video recording and zoom. Including an extra 1,200 mAh of battery is a nice touch too. The Hi-Fi Plus module has a DAC and headphone amplifier enbeded in it and can also be used connected to a PC through the USB Type-C connection; a nice touch.

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I was overall pretty impressed with what LG had to offer with the G5. Whether or not the modular design gains any traction will have to be seen; I have concerns over the public's desire to carry around modules or affect the form factor of their phones so dramatically.

MWC 16: Epic Games Unveils ProtoStar Demo on Galaxy S7

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 21, 2016 - 05:14 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, epic games, unreal engine 4, vulkan, galaxy s7, MWC, mwc 16

Mobile World Congress starts with a big bang... ... ... :3

Okay, not really; it starts with the formation of a star, which happens on a continual basis across the universe. I won't let facts get in the way of a pun, though.

As for the demo, it is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and runs on a Samsung Galaxy S7 with the Vulkan API. The setting seems to be some sort of futuristic laboratory that combines objects until it builds up into a star. It is bright and vibrant, with many particles, full-scene anti-aliasing, reflections, and other visual effects. The exact resolution when running on the phone was never stated, but the YouTube video was running at 1080p30, and the on-stage demo looked fairly high resolution, too.

epicgames-2016-mwc-vulkan-protostar.jpg

Epic Games lists the features they added to mobile builds of Unreal Engine 4 for this demo:

  • Dynamic planar reflections
  • “Full” GPU particle support, which includes vector fields.
  • Temporal Anti-Alising, which blends neighboring frames to smooth jaggies in motion.
  • ASTC texture compression (created by ARM and AMD for OpenGL and OpenGL ES)
  • Full scene dynamic cascaded shadows
  • Chromatic aberration
  • Dynamic light refraction
  • Filmic tonemapping curve, which scales frames rendered in HDR to a presentable light range
  • Improved static reflections
  • High-quality depth of field
  • Vulkan API for thousands of onscreen, independent objects.

The company has not stated which version of Unreal Engine 4 will receive these updates. I doubt that it will land in 4.11, which is planned for March, but they tend to release a full dot-version every one to three months. They also have early previews for those who wish to try it early, some compiled leading up to launch, and others that need to be built from GitHub.

Source: Epic Games

MWC 2016: LG Announces the G5 Smartphone

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 820, smartphone, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, modular phone, LG G5, LG, ips, G5, Android

LG has officially unveiled their newest flagship Android handset, and in addition to high-end specs the G5 features a unique modular construction.

lg_g5.jpg

The LG G5

The G5 is powered by the new Snapdragon 820 SoC, and offers a 5.3-inch, 2560x1440 IPS display (making slightly smaller than the earlier G4, which was a 5.5-inch device with the same resolution). And while the G5 looks every bit a sleek Android flagship, there’s more going on here than the typical sealed handset. LG has implemented a modular design, where optional components can be added from a port on the bottom of the phone.

modules.jpg

The LG Cam Plus (left) and Hi-Fi Plus (right)

The first of two announced modules is the LG Cam Plus, which is a camera grip that also adds 1200 mAh to the battery capacity (for a total of 4000 mAh). The second is the LG Hi-Fi Plus, which adds a high-resolution DAC and headphone amp to the phone. The headphone amp is “tuned by B&O”, and the DAC supports up to 32-bit / 384 kHz. The Hi-Fi Plus can also be used as a standalone USB device.

lg-g5-infographic.png

(Image via Android Police)

One of the features that had leaked ahead of the announcement was an always-on display, leading to speculation about the use of an OLED panel. But this is LG we are talking about, and they have implemented a high-DPI (554) IPS display instead. So how does this always-on display feature avoid aggressively draining your battery? The post from ComputerBase offers this analysis:

“Instead, the company opted for an optimization of display drivers and power management in order to realize the permanent display of notifications, time, date and other information on the large main screen. The adjustments for example it is possible to limit the backlight to a part of the screen. According to LG, the activated always-on function consumes thanks to the optimizations per hour 0.8 percent of the battery charge.”

Specs via Android Central:

  • Display: 5.3-inch IPS quad-HD quantum display (2560x1440, 554 dpi)
  • Processor: Snapdragon 820
  • Storage: 32GB UFS ROM, microSD up to 2TB
  • RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
  • Rear camera: 16MP main, 8MP wide-angle (135 degrees)
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 2800 mAh removable
  • Modules: LG Cam Plus (camera grip with 1100 mAh), LG Hi-Fi Plus with B&O Play
  • Dimensions: 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm
  • Weight: 159 grams
  • Networks: LTE/3G/2G
  • Connectivity: Wifi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, USB Type C, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Colors: Silver/Titan/Gold/Pink
  • Operating system: Android 6.0.1

There were three additional accessories announced with the phone: The 360 VR (a VR headset) 360 CAM (for creating 360-degree movies and photos) and something called the Rolling Bot (a Wi-Fi connected sphere equipped with a camera, mic, and speaker).

Ryan had hands-on time with the G5 from LG's booth at MWC 2016:

No specific pricing or release date have been announced yet, but we should know more next month when LG is expected to provide more release details.

MWC 2016: Lenovo Announces YOGA 710 and 510 Laptops

Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: YOGA 710, YOGA 510, yoga, windows 10, notebook, MWC 2016, MWC, Lenovo, laptop, ips, convertible tablet, 2-in-1

Lenovo has announced a pair of new convertible laptop options with the YOGA 710 and YOGA 510, and each of these new models are available in two sizes.

YOGA 710 11.jpg

First we have the YOGA 710, which is available in both an 11-inch and a 14-inch version. The smaller 11-inch model is limited to an Intel Core m5 processor, while the 14-inch version offers a 6th-gen (Skylake) Intel Core i7 CPU. Here's a look at the available specs:

YOGA 710, 11-inch:

  • Screen: 11.6” FHD 1920x1080 IPS Touch; 300
  • CPU: Up to Intel 6th Gen Core M5 CPU
  • Memory: Up to 8GB LP-DDR3 
  • Storage: Up to 256GB SSD
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel
  • Audio: Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio certification
  • Battery: 40Whr; up to 8 hours
  • Webcam: 1MP Fixed Focus CMOS camera (720p)
  • Connectivity: 1x1 or 2x2 A/C WiFi + Bluetooth 4.1
  • Ports: 1x always-on USB 3.0, Micro-HDMI, audio combo jack
  • OS: Windows 10 Home

YOGA 710, 14-inch:

  • Screen: 14” FHD 1920x1080 IPS Touch; 300 nits
  • CPU: Up to Intel 6th Gen Core i7 CPU
  • Memory: Up to 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: Up to 256GB SSD
  • Graphics: Optional NVIDIA GFX GeForce 940MX
  • Audio: JBL Speakers with Dolby Audio certification
  • Battery: Up to 52.5Whr; up to 8.5 hours local HD video playback @200nits 
  • Webcam: 1MP Fixed Focus CMOS camera (720p)
  • Connectivity: 2x2 A/C WiFi + Bluetooth 4.1
  • Ports: 1x always-on USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.0, Micro-HDMI, SDXC Reader, Display Port (combo with HDMI), audio combo jack
  • OS: Windows 10 Home

Next we have the YOGA 510, which is available in both 14-inch and 15-inch versions, and promises up to 8.5 hours of battery life.

YOGA 510 14.jpg

Specs on these models include:

  • Screen: 14” & 15” FHD 1920x1080 IPS Touch; 250 nits
  • CPU: Up to Intel 6th Gen Core i7 CPU or Pentium
  • Memory: Up to 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: Up to 1TB HDD or up to 256GB SSD
  • Graphics: 14: Up to AMD Radeon R5 M430; 15: Up to AMD Radeon R7 M460 2GB
  • Audio: Stereo Speakers with Audio by Harmon Kardon
  • Keyboard: Optional Backlit keyboard
  • Battery: Up to 52.5 Whr; up to 8.5 hours local HD video playback @200nits
  • Webcam: 1MP Fixed Focus CMOS camera (720p)
  • Connectivity: 1x1 A/C WiFi + Bluetooth 4.1, GIGA LAN
  • Ports: 1x always-on USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, SDXC Card Reader, audio combo jack
  • OS: Windows 10 Home

These new YOGA models will be available in July, and pricing was announced as follows:

  • Yoga 710 11-inch $499; 14-inch $799
  • Yoga 510 14-inch $599; 15-inch $699
Source: Lenovo

MWC 2016: Lenovo MIIX 310 2-in-1 Convertible Tablet

Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: x5 Z8300, windows 10, tablet, MWC 2016, MWC, MIIX 310, Lenovo, ips, intel atom, convertible tablet, 2-in-1

The Lenovo ideapad MIIX 310 is a 2-in-1 that combines a 10.1-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard, and when you consider the specs Lenovo is pricing this very aggressively at $229 - including the keyboard.

MIIX 310_05_.jpg

“This 10-inch tablet is one of the most affordable devices that not only combines both tablet and PC in one, but unlike many of its rivals, comes with a detachable keyboard as standard. The ideapad MIIX 310 boasts an optional FHD display, making movie marathons that much more immersive.”

The $229 retail is a starting price, and the 1920x1080 IPS screen option will cost you more (just how much is not yet known). Beyond the display the MIIX 310 is powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8300, a quad-core processor that operates at up to 1.84 GHz. Memory is limited to 2 GB, with up to 128 GB of eMMC storage available.

MIIX 310_07_.jpg

Here’s a look at the specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Atom x5 Z8300 CPU
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel
  • Screen: 10.1” up to FHD (1920x1080) IPS, 300 nits
  • Cameras: 2MP front & 5MP rear camera
  • Battery: Up to 10 hours local video playback
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Storage: Up to 128GB eMMC
  • Audio: Stereo Speakers
  • Connectivity: 802.11 B/G/N + BT 4.0 4G
  • LTE Support: Optional
  • OS: Windows 10 Home

MIIX 310_08.jpg

As mentioned above, the ideapad MIIX 310 will start at $229, with availability set for June.

Source: Lenovo

MWC 2016: Lenovo Announces VIBE K5 and K5 Plus Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: VIBE K5 Plus, VIBE K5, Snapdragon 616, Snapdragon 415, smartphone, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, Lenovo, Android

Lenovo has announced a new pair of smartphones in their VIBE series, and these offer very impressive specs considering the asking price.

K5 Family.jpg

The VIBE K5 will retail for $129, with the K5 Plus slightly higher at $149. What does this get you? Both are 5-inch devices, with a modest 1280x720 resolution on the standard K5, or FHD 1920x1080 on the K5 Plus. The phones are both powered by Qualcomm SoCs, with a Snapdragon 415 in the K5 (quad-core 1.4 GHz), and the faster Snapdragon 616 (8-core 1.7 GHz) in the K5 Plus.

Here’s a look at the specifications for these phones:

  • Screen: 5.0” HD (1280x720) display (K5) or IPS Full HD (1920x1080) (K5 Plus)
  • Processor: Qualcomm snapdragon 415 octa-core (K5) or 616 octa-core processor (K5 Plus)
  • Storage: 2GB LP DDR3 RAM | 16GB eMCP built-in storage | up to 32GB microSD expandable storage support
  • Graphics: Adreno 405: up to 550MHz 3D graphics accelerator 

  • Camera: Rear: 13MP with 5-piece lens and FHD video recording, Front: 5MP fixed-focus with 4-piece lens
  • 
Connectivity: Dual SIM slots with 4G LTE connectivity + BT 4.1; WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot 

  • Battery: 2750mAh interchangeable battery 

  • Audio: 2 x speakers, 2 x mics, 3.5 mm audio jack, Dolby Atmos
  • Thickness: 8.2 mm (.32 in)
  • Weight: 142 g (5 oz)
  • OS: Android 5.1, Lollipop

K5_Silver.jpg

On paper these smartphones present a compelling value reminiscent of the ASUS Zenfone 2, with the K5 Plus easily the better bargain with a 1920x1080 IPS display and octa-core processor for $149. We’ll have to wait to pass judgment until the UI performance and camera have been tested, but these new VIBE K5 phones certainly looks like a promising option.

The VIBE K5 and K5 Plus will be available in March.

Source: Lenovo

MWC 2016: Qualcomm adds new partners to the Snapdragon Wear 2100 Platform

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon wear

Earlier this month, Qualcomm announced the creation of the Snapdragon Wear platform and the Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC, the very first in a new family of products built to address consumer wearables market. Even though the Snapdragon 400 series of processors had already found its way into a large majority (65% according to Qualcomm) of all of the currently shipping Android Wear watches, Qualcomm hopes that the improvements in the Snapdragon Wear 2100 will further the company's market share and improve on the experiences that users have with wearable products.

Snapdragon Wear 2100 offers several advantages over the Snapdragon 400 series of SoCs:

Utilizing Qualcomm Technologies’ expertise in connectivity and compute, the Snapdragon Wear platform consists of a full suite of silicon, software, support tools, and reference designs to allow mobile, fashion, and sports customers to bring a diverse range of full-featured wearables to customers quickly. Available in both tethered (Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi®) and connected (4G/LTE and 3G) versions, Snapdragon Wear 2100 innovates along four wearables core vectors:

  • Smaller Size – 30 percent smaller than the popular Snapdragon 400, Snapdragon Wear 2100 can help enable new, thinner, sleeker designs
     
  • Lower Power – 25 percent lower power than the Snapdragon 400 across both tethered and connected use cases, allowing for longer day of use battery life
     
  • Smarter Sensors – With an integrated, ultra-low power sensor hub, Snapdragon Wear 2100 enables richer algorithms with greater accuracy than the Snapdragon 400
     
  • Always Connected – Next-generation LTE modem with integrated GNSS, along with low power Wi-Fi and Bluetooth delivers an always connected experience

There is no direct mention of comparative performance though, something I am looking to get answered this week.

snapdragon-smartwatch_tranparent_background-500x500.jpg

This week's announcement from Qualcomm is the addition of three new partners for the Snapdragon Wear platform, on top of the launch partner LG. The new names might not be household brands but they will offer a strong growth segment for Qualcomm as more vendors enter the wearables markets through ODMs.

  • Borqs – A global leader in software and products for IoT providing customizable, differentiated and scalable Android-based smart connected devices and cloud service solutions, Borqs is offering connected (3G/4G) and tethered (Wi-Fi®/Bluetooth®) smartwatch and kid watch reference designs based on Snapdragon Wear 2100.
     
  • Compal – A global manufacturer of notebook PCs, smartphone, tablet and display products and smart wearable devices, Compal is delivering reference designs and device production based on Snapdragon Wear 2100 supporting both Android Wear and Android operating systems and targeting connected (3G/4G) and tethered (Wi-Fi/Bluetooth) use cases.
     
  • Infomark – An early innovator in the emerging kid watch segment, where the company has previously launched two generations of products (JooN1, JooN2) based on Qualcomm Technologies, Infomark is offering a reference design based on Snapdragon Wear 2100 targeting kid and elderly watch segments.

I should be getting hands-on with hardware built on the Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC from LG and these three new partners this week while at Mobile World Congress 2016, so stayed tuned for more coverage!

Source: Qualcomm

MWC 2016: Qualcomm Announces Vulkan API Support for Snapdragon 820, other SoCs

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, qualcomm, vulkan, snapdragon, snapdragon 820, adreno 530

As we prepare for the onslaught of new mobile devices and technologies being announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the low-level Vulkan API begins its campaign to take hold in the PC and mobile spaces, superceding the OpenGL standard that exists today in hopes of providing a more efficient use of compute resources across the industry.

Vulkan_500px_Mar15.jpg

Qualcomm announced official support for the Vulkan API on its Adreno 530 GPU and the Snapdragon 820 processor. Vulkan API support will be coming for upcoming other unannounced Adreno 5xx series GPUs and currently shipping Adreno 4xx GPUs, allowing us to wonder if Vulkan support will find its way into currently shipping handsets.

As Qualcomm points out in its press release on the news, the Vulkan API will bring some important and groundbreaking changes to the mobile space.

  • Explicit control over GPU operation, with minimized driver overhead for improved performance;
     
  • Multi-threading-friendly architecture to increase overall system performance;
     
  • Optimal API design that can be used in a wide variety of devices including mobile, desktop, consoles, and embedded platforms;
     
  • Use of Khronos’ new SPIR-V intermediate representation for shading language flexibility and more predictable implementation behavior;
     
  • Extensible layered architecture that enables innovative tools without impacting production performance while validating, debugging, and profiling;
     
  • Simple drivers for low-overhead efficiency and cross vendor portability.

Vulkan API support is being added to Qualcomm's development tools suite this week as well.

“We are pleased to have contributed to the definition of Khronos’ new Vulkan API. Qualcomm Technologies will be among the first to ship conformant Vulkan drivers, starting with Snapdragon 820’s embedded Adreno 530 GPU, and subsequently with our Adreno 4xx series GPUs. Vulkan enables the next generation of graphics performance by adding multi-threaded command buffer generation and explicit control of advanced graphics capabilities within Adreno GPUs,” said Micah Knapp, director of product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “In the coming days, we anticipate supporting Vulkan in the Snapdragon developer tools including Snapdragon Profiler and the Adreno SDK, to help application developers take advantage of this outstanding new API when creating graphics and compute applications for smartphones, tablets, VR HMDs and a variety of other types of devices that use Snapdragon processors.”

sd820_img_3.jpg

A quick look at the Khronos page listing companies with Vulkan conformant drivers shows Qualcomm on the short list, meaning it has provided the standards body with a driver that has passed its first level of certification. With its emphasis on efficiency, the Vulkan API and Qualcomm's early integration could be the most important place that the API ends up. In a technology field where battery life and performance must balance unlike anywhere else, getting this new implementation of graphics and compute could push mobile devices forward quickly.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm Announces X16 Modem Featuring Gigabit LTE

Subject: Mobile | February 12, 2016 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: X16 modem, qualcomm, mu-mimo, modem, LTE, Gigabit LTE, FinFET, Carrier Aggregation, 14nm

Qualcomm’s new X16 LTE Modem is the industry's first Gigabit LTE chipset to be announced, achieving speeds of up to 1 Gbps using 4x Carrier Aggregation. The X16 succeeds the recently announced X12 modem, improving on the X12's 3x Carrier Aggregation and moving from LTE CAT 12 to CAT 16 on the downlink, while retaining CAT 13 on the uplink.

qc_x16_image.png

"In order to make a Gigabit Class LTE modem a reality, Qualcomm added a suite of enhancements – built on a foundation of commercially-proven Carrier Aggregation technology. The Snapdragon X16 LTE modem employs sophisticated digital signal processing to pack more bits per transmission with 256-QAM, receives data on four antennas through 4x4 MIMO, and supports for up to 4x Carrier Aggregation — all of which come together to achieve unprecedented download speeds."

Gigabit speeds are only possible if multiple data streams are connected to the device simultaneously, and with the new X16 modem such aggregation is performed using LTE-U and LAA.

X16_slide.png

(Image via EE Times)

What does all of this mean? Aggregation is a term you'll see a lot as we progress into the next generation of cellular data technology, and with the X16 Qualcomm is emphasizing carrier over link aggregation. Essentially Carrier Aggregation works by combining the carrier LTE data signal (licensed, high transmit power) with a shorter-range, shared spectrum (unlicensed, low transmit power) LTE signal. When the signals are combined at the device (i.e. your smartphone), significantly better throughput is possible with this larger (aggregated) data ‘pipe’.

qc5.png

Qualcomm lists the four main options for unlicensed LTE deployment as follows:

  • LTE-U: Based on 3GPP Rel. 12, LTE-U targets early mobile operators deployments in USA, Korea and India, with coexistence tests defined by LTE-U forum
  • LAA: Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) targets deployments in Europe, Japan, & beyond.
  • LWA: Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, LWA (LTE - Wi-Fi link aggregation) targets deployments where the operators already has carrier Wi-Fi deployments.
  • MulteFire: Broadens the LTE ecosystem to new deployment opportunities by operating solely in unlicensed spectrum without a licensed anchor channel

The X16 is also Qualcomm’s first modem to be built on 14nm FinFet process, which Qualcomm says is highly scalable and will enable the company to evolve the modem product line “to address an even wider range of product, all the way down to power-efficient connectivity for IoT devices.”

Qualcomm has already begun sampling the X16, and expects the first commercial products in the second half of 2016.

Source: Qualcomm