Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 700 Mobile Platform, but without specification details

Subject: Mobile | February 27, 2018 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 700, snapdragon, qualcomm

During the Qualcomm keynote at Mobile World Congress today, company President Cristiano Amon announced the Snapdragon 700 family of mobile processors targeted at a tier, expectedly, between the flagship 800-series and the mid-range 600-series.

Snapdragon 700 Series_image1.jpg

Qualcomm was more than a little light on specifics of this new chipset, what technology it is going to differentiate with as it squeezes in the middle of the two opposing chip families, and what performance levels we should expect. What we do know is that Qualcomm wants to bridge the gap between the 600 and 800 SoC with additional “features and performance” for the 700-series. Qualcomm tells us that we should expect advances over the 600-series to include “on-device AI supported by the Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engine, and improvements to camera, device performance and power, supported by the heterogeneous compute power of premium features including the Qualcomm Spectra ISP, Qualcomm Kryo CPU, Qualcomm Hexagon Vector Processor and Qualcomm Adreno Visual Processing subsystem.”

Well, that…kind of covers most everything that makes up the feature set of the Snapdragon 845. What we are going to be looking for now as more information is revealed is what degree the advancements in those areas reach when compared to the already announced Snapdragon 600 parts.

Qualcomm does confirm in its press release that the 700-series of mobile platforms will utilize a Kryo CPU design, as opposed to a completely off-the-shelf Arm Cortex processor. In fact, Qualcomm states that it “will debut new architectures across the mobile platform, including Qualcomm Spectra ISP, Kryo CPU and Adreno Visual Processing subsystem,” leading me to believe we will see some slightly cut back, slightly slower version of what already exists in the Snapdragon 845 today.

qualcomm-snapdragon-mobile platform_feb 2018.jpg

This division makes sense if we assume Qualcomm is going to move this direction rather than having a significant gap in Snapdragon 600-series parts, as it it has done previously. The current lineup in the 600-family has a model that uses Kryo and another that uses standard Arm cores. Rebranding that higher end 600-series part as the 700-family makes it more relatable to the technology changes inside.

No specifics on the LTE modem that is integrated were given.

The primary target for this new chipset family is the Chinese smartphone market, where they demand flagship-level features but have less of an appetite to absorb flagship-level pricing. Qualcomm is probably going to use the 700-series to nearly match the performance and capabilities of the 800-series in those regions, choosing to earn additional market share (and revenue) over pushing for raw profits with customers that might choose to ignore the 800-series due to pricing.

Sampling of the Snapdragon 700 Series Mobile Platform will start sometime in the first half of this year, and hopefully we will learn more on the specifications of these products before summer.

Full press release after the break.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm signs major carriers and retailers for Always Connected PC launch

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2018 - 11:10 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, microsoft, always connected pc

With availability scheduled to begin next month, Qualcomm is prepping for its final push to prepare the market for what it believes is a revolutionary product category for the PC market. Just before the mobile media and analysts focus attention on Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, Qualcomm hopes it has completed the final step in the launch of its “Windows 10 on Snapdragon” line. Partners like Amazon, the Microsoft Stores, Verizon, and AT&T will provide the cellular LTE connections to maintain an always-connected state and the retail and online locations to purchase them.

By combining Windows 10 and the company’s Snapdragon mobile platform with efficiency and connectivity advantages other PC chip vendors can’t match, Qualcomm is hoping that its creation of this new sub-category of PC that focuses on being always connected through a smartphone-like cellular connection will pay dividends. Compared to Intel processors that target similar form factors of notebook PCs including 2-in-1s and detachable tablets, the Qualcomm chips differentiate by including the capability for LTE connectivity on every design, without having to pay an upgrade cost.


The ability for a Qualcomm-powered Windows 10 PC to have an “instant on” button to turn on the screen without a boot or wake-from-sleep process, again in the same way your smartphone works today, is another touted feature. Battery life is the other tent pole, with Qualcomm often citing disingenuous battery life estimates on Intel-powered systems but “beyond all day” battery life for its own.

Getting these Qualcomm-chip Windows notebooks into the market might seem like a trivial task but inserting a new totally new product category into retail and e-tail takes careful management. Qualcomm will have to educate consumers on how its platform is different and what advantages it can offer over other laptops. Retailers will have to undertake most of that education process, as the customer will need guidance to avoid costly returns and support calls.

The added complexity of a cellular connection will mean that some kind of registration process will have to occur before the PC is truly “always connected.” It will need to be added to a data plan on an existing carrier agreement (think adding a new phone to your cell account) or through a pre-paid arrangement.


A touchier subject surrounds the retail channel and how PCs are sold in today’s market. Despite the years of legal disputes and resolutions, most in the industry still view Intel as wielding incredible power in the retail and online e-tail sales channels. Through practices like rebates, education programs, and sales clerk discounts, it can be hard for a new player to battle the incumbent without a similar amount of marketing muscle and dollars behind them. Even AMD, with years of practice selling its own processors and systems, struggles at time to get the attention and retail shelf space its products deserve.

In the US market, Microsoft will be taking the helm at the retail channel, stocking and selling the three first Qualcomm Snapdragon Windows 10 PCs from HP, Lenovo, and ASUS. Though the quantity of Microsoft stores is limited, placement here is a big win for Qualcomm and its partners. The Microsoft Stores are generally considered the presentation point for the flagship Windows devices, indicating that Microsoft itself puts a lot of weight behind the category that Qualcomm is creating.

For the online markets, Amazon will be the primary location in the US for sales. In talks with Qualcomm executives, it appears that the online giant will be handling a lot of that education and cellular activation. While I am certain that Qualcomm would love to have had a nationwide brick-and-mortar retailer like Best Buy in the mix, the Minneapolis-based company did not buy in.

Qualcomm has other retailers lined up across the globe, including in Australia, Italy, France, and the UK. China will have sales through JD.com, one of the largest online retailers in the world with more than 266M active users. Qualcomm still has many regions to address with availability and wider distribution as the second wave of PCs comes to market in the holiday of 2018, but it believes it has a solid start under its belt.


Graphic Source: TechSpot

Operator support is just as crucial for Qualcomm’s new PC category as retail availability. If a consumer buys a device but isn’t offered service from a mobile telecommunications provider along with it, much of the appeal of the device is lost. Carriers in the UK, Italy, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and US (including all four major players Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile), will begin offering plans for the Windows 10 on Snapdragon PCs. Details of what the specific costs will be aren’t being shared and will vary for each carrier.

Affordability of these plans will be critical to the mass market success of the Always Connected PC. Consumers will not pay exorbitant amounts of money to add a device to their existing cell phone plan but providers may be hesitant to offer discounts for a platform that inherently will have potential for greater data consumption. Users on smartphones often get lower resolution video or web pages because of the smaller screen size. But these full capability PCs will likely stream full resolution content and could create additional strain on the networks.

Source: Qualcomm

The SDM845 Reference Platform and CPU Results

The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, officially announced on December 6 and known officially as the SDM845 (moving from the MSMxxxx nomenclature of previous iterations). At a recent media event we had a chance to go hands-on with a development platform device for a preview of this new Snapdragon's performance, the results of which we can now share. Will the Snapdragon 845 be Qualcomm's Android antidote to Apple's A11? Read on to find out!


The SDM845 QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Device

While this article will focus on CPU and GPU performance with a few known benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 is of course a full mobile platform which combines 8-core Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 graphics, Hexagon 685 DSP (which includes the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine), Spectra 280 image processor, X20 LTE modem, etc. The reference device was packaged like a typical 5.5-inch Android smartphone, which can only help to provide a real-world application of thermal management during benchmarking.

Qualcomm Reference Design Specifications:

  • Baseband Chipset: SDM845
  • Memory: 6 GB LPDDR4X (PoP)
  • Display: 5.5-inch 1440x2560
  • Camera:
    • Front: IMX320 12 MP Sensor
    • Rear: IMX386 12 MP Sensor
  • Audio:
    • No 3.5 mm headset jack (Analog over USB-C)
    • 4 Digital Microphones
  • Connector: USB 3.1 Type-C
    • DisplayPort over USB-C

At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, configured with 4x performance cores and 4x efficiency cores, and offering clock speeds of up to 2.8 GHz. In comparison the Snapdragon 835 had a similar 8x CPU configuration (Kryo 280) clocked up to 2.45 GHz. The SDM845 is produced on 10 nm LPP process technology, while the SD835 (MSM8998) was the first to be manufactured at 10 nm (LPE). It is not surprising that Qualcomm is getting higher clock speeds from this new chip at the same process node, and increases in efficiency (the new 10nm LPP FinFET process) should theoretically result in similar - or possibly even lower - power draw from these higher clocks.

Continue reading our performance preview of the new Snapdragon 845 mobile platform!!

Qualcomm 5G devices coming in 2019, leaving Apple behind

Subject: Mobile | February 8, 2018 - 11:01 AM |
Tagged: qualcomm, 5G, 5g nr, x50, snapdragon, apple, Samsung

This story originally appeared on ShroutResearch.com.

With significant pressure to show the value and growth opportunities for the company with a looming hostile takeover bid from Broadcom, mobile chip design house Qualcomm is hoping that its position in the market of next-generation cellular radio technology will be a foundation of its future. The company revealed today partnerships with 18 global OEMs that will be launching 5G-ready devices in 2019 and 18 worldwide cellular carriers will be completing tests of Qualcomm 5G radios in 2018.

5G is the follow up iteration to the current 4G cellular technology in the majority of the world’s smartphones. It will improve speed of connectivity, lower latency, and transform numerous markets from self-driving cars to industrial automation. And it can do all of this while lowering the load on carrier networks, giving all users a noticeable increase in performance and usability.


Qualcomm has been leaning on this 4G-to-5G transition as a portion of its long-term plan and strategy for many years. As a part of the company’s recent call to action for shareholders to resist the hostile takeover from Broadcom, the San Diego-based company believes that it has a 12-24 month lead over competing connectivity providers, namely Intel. This position will allow Qualcomm to capitalize on what many believe could be the most disruptive and market shifting wireless transition in history.

To maintain the leadership role, despite mass-market availability being limited to 2019 products, Qualcomm has announced partnerships with 18 different OEMs that will build those products using the Snapdragon X50 modem. This modem was the first announced to support the finalized specification of 5G radios. OEMs like LG, HTC, Sony, ASUS, and vivo are committed to using the X50 modem in devices ranging from next-generation smartphones to Windows-based PCs.

There has been talk that 5G products would not be available until 2020, but Qualcomm believes that 5G will have an impact on revenue a year earlier than that. This collection of phone and device providers puts Qualcomm well ahead of Intel in terms of integration and support in the market, something Qualcomm has believed would be the case but is only now finally confirmed. Commercialization of 5G and collaborations with the leading device manufacturers will push Intel further back in the race, with time running out for it to catch up.

Two big OEMs are missing from the list in Qualcomm’s announcement: Samsung and Apple. While it makes sense that Apple would not want to be included in the public statements from Qualcomm considering the continuing legal dispute between the two companies, there is a legitimate question as to whether Apple will be an early-adopter of 5G technology at all. It has shown in the past that it is more than willing to let others experiment and drive wireless technology shifts on the networks, with both the iPhone 3G and first iPhone with LTE (iPhone 5) lagging behind other smartphones by several quarters. If Apple choses to not integrate the Qualcomm modem, it will depend on Intel to provide a solution instead, and could miss out on 5G technology for all of 2019.

Not seeing Samsung as a part of this announcement from Qualcomm is more surprising, but likely an omission of politics than of technology. I recently wrote about the extension and expansion of the licensing agreement between Samsung and Qualcomm and it is unlikely that this contract would not have included the X50 modem for 5G. I expect the 2019 models of Samsung’s Galaxy devices to include the Qualcomm chip as well.

The second part to this story is that 18 different global cellular carriers, including Verizon and AT&T in the US, China Mobile, and SK Telecom, will be testing 5G with Qualcomm devices and infrastructure in 2018. These validation tests are used to demonstrate the capabilities of new wireless technology and finalize the implementation methods for the hardware in the field.

These two announcements put Qualcomm in the driver’s seat for 5G adoption and integration. 5G will offer consumers speeds 4-5x faster than today’s top offerings, lower latency for more responsive web browsing and new capabilities like streaming virtual reality. It will make Wi-Fi less necessary. The cellular carriers will take advantage of 5G for its ability to run more data through existing infrastructure, opening capacity for more users, devices, and upgradable services.

CES 2018: Lenovo Joins the Windows on ARM Rush with the 12-inch Miix 630 2-in-1 PC

Subject: Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: WOA, windows on arm, snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, Lenovo, laptop, convertible, CES 2017, arm, 2-in-1

Lenovo today unveiled the Miix 630, a 12-inch Windows 10 S device powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor. With the Miix 630, Lenovo joins HP, ASUS, and other manufacturers in the new Windows on ARM product category of ultraportable, always connected PCs and tablets.


The Miix 630 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with integrated Adreno 540 graphics. It features a 12.3-inch 1920x1280 touchscreen display which, when paired with the included Lenovo pen, offers up to 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity for drawing and writing. Other features include a 5MP front facing infrared camera with Windows Hello support, 13MP rear camera, detachable backlit keyboard with touchpad, and integrated LTE for the "always on" feature that distinguishes these devices from those with traditional mobile connectivity options.


Despite its "always on" capabilities, the Miix 630 joins other Windows on ARM devices in touting lengthy battery life, with negligible battery draw while in standby mode and actual usage time of 20 hours for tasks such as continuous video playback.

The Miix 630's complete specs:

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Graphics Adreno 540
Micrphones 2
Speakers 2 x 1 watt
Memory 4GB / 8GB
Storage 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
Battery 48 Whr
Display 12.3-inch
WUXGA+ (1920 x 1280)
Corning Glass Screen
Ports 1 x USB Type-C
1 x 3.5mm Audio In/Out
1 x SD Card
1 x Nano SIM Card
Connectivity 2x2 Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.1
LTE Cat11
Dimensions (D) 210mm x (W) 293mm x (H) 15.6mm
Weight 2.93 lbs (1.33 kg)


Complete pricing for the higher-end configurations is not yet available, but Lenovo states that the Miix 630's base configuration will start at $799. It's expected to launch in the second quarter of this year.


CES 2018: HP Unveils Intel-Based Version of the ENVY x2 Detachable 2-in-1 PC

Subject: Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 03:01 AM |
Tagged: windows on arm, snapdragon, qualcomm, Intel, hp, envy x2, CES 2018

Following up on its announcement last month of the Snapdragon-powered ENVY x2 12.3-inch detachable 2-in-1 PC, HP today is introducing an Intel-based model of the same device.


Featuring Intel's 7th generation Y-series processors, the Intel version of the ENVY x2 has the same ports and basic design as its ARM-based counterpart, but adds 1mm of thickness and advertises about 20 percent shorter battery life. The Intel model also ships with Windows 10 Home compared to Windows 10 S, although both are optionally upgradeable to Windows 10 Pro.

Another notable difference is a slight change to how the ENVY x2's detachable keyboard connects while in landscape typing mode. The keyboard on the Snapdragon-based ENVY x2 folds down at the top of its magnetic connection, providing a slightly angled typing surface, while the Intel version folds around the back of the device and lays flat.


Like other manufacturers of new Windows on ARM devices, HP is focusing on productivity versus mobility to differentiate the two ENVY x2 models. The Snapdragon version offers longer battery life, always-on connectivity via integrated LTE, and, if you elect to stick with Windows 10 S, improved security and reliability. The Intel version offers comparatively shorter battery life and traditional connectivity options (although built-in LTE without the "always on" capability is available), but can run all x86 software and drivers natively.

Further enhancing the productivity benefits of the Intel-based ENVY x2, HP is boosting the TDP of the system's Y-series processors from their default 4.5 watts to 6 watts, a move that the company claims results in up to 20 percent better performance.


Complete specifications and upgrade options for the Intel-based ENVY x2 are not yet available, but here are the specs HP has unveiled thus far:

  • 7th generation Intel Core processors
  • Up to 15 hours of battery life
  • HP Fast Charge technology (90% charge in 90 minutes)
  • 12.3-inch 1920x1280 IPS display
  • Up to 256GB PCIe flash storage
  • IR camera with support for Windows Hello
  • 7.9mm thick
  • HP Digital Pen and keyboard included

Like the complete specs, pricing information has not yet been revealed, but HP says that the Intel ENVY x2 will begin shipping in "Spring 2018."


Qualcomm, HP, and ASUS announce first Windows on Snapgdragon devices

Subject: Mobile | December 5, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon x16, snapdragon tech summit, snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, NovaGo, LTE, hp, envy x2, asus

Today at its Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm has announced the first round of Snapdragon-enabled devices running Windows from partners HP and ASUS.

HP ENVY x2_FrontLeftKBup.jpg

The HP ENVY x2 is a detachable 2-in-1 device reminiscent of the Microsoft Surface products or the Huawei Matebook-E that we recently took a look at. The 12.3-in screen is the same size as the current Surface Pro, but the HP option will have a more traditional 16:9 screen aspect ratio.  

HP ENVY x2_Lifestyle05.jpg

Built upon the Snapdragon 835 SoC, the Envy x2 will be available in configurations featuring up to 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage. The Envy x2 will also support an active stylus that is Windows Ink certified for activities such as note-taking and illustration.

For connectivity, the Envy x2 has a single USB-C port which will serve for both charging the tablet as well as connecting external devices.

ASUS NovaGo 2.jpg

The ASUS NovaGo, however, features a more traditional thin-and-light notebook design with a 360-degree hinge. This means that users can take full advantage of the 13.3-in 1920x1080 screen in all sorts of different scenarios from traditional notebook mode to tablet mode. 

ASUS NovaGo 7.jpg

Similar to the HP offering, the ASUS NovaGo will be available in configurations ranging up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of Storage. However, connectivity on the NovaGo includes 2x USB 3.1 Type-A ports, as well as an HDMI Port and Micro-SD card slot for memory expansion allowing for more options than the HP Envy x2. 


Utilizing the Snapdragon 835 SoC, both of these devices will also feature cellular connectivity from the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem. This is a huge advantage for mobile users, who can simply add these devices to their cellular accounts and receive internet connectivity anywhere in the world, allowing them to simply turn on their device and start working instead of hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots.

Both of these devices will come preinstalled with Windows 10 S but will allow for a one-time upgrade to a full Windows 10 license which will allow users to install non-Windows store applications.

(For those asking in the comments, yes, this is the emaulation layer we have mentioned previously at work. Snapdragon-based Windows machines will be able to run MOST x86 (not x64) Windows applications, with some exceptions. Exceptions tend to stem from things like kernel-mode drivers that some software wants to install that won't work. Dropbox is an unfortunately example of this.)

Availability of both systems is expected just before the end of the year and pricing for both will range from $600-800 depending on the specific configuration.

It's just the beginning here at the Snapdragon Tech Summit, so stay tuned for more announcements from Qualcomm as the week progresses!

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm Showcasing Windows on Snapdragon and Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform on Tech Summit Live Stream

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | December 4, 2017 - 01:50 AM |
Tagged: windows on snapdragon, snapdragon 845, snapdragon, qualcomm, live stream

Qualcomm is preparing for its second annual Technology Summit, this time from the sunny shores of Maui, where it will unveil the roadmap and technologies that it will be driving into the ecosystem for 2018. Hosted by EVP of Qualcomm Technologies Cristiano Amon, this event will play host to not just Qualcomm personnel but several other key leaders in the hardware and software industry, backing Qualcomm’s play into flagship mobile, Windows, and more.

The PC Perspective team is on-site to cover the announcements, interview executives, and attempt to gauge the potential for this technology being presented. If you want to follow along at home, Qualcomm is hosting a live stream of the event on its website and of course will be tweeting all of the key details from its primary account. It starts bright and early at 8:30am HST in Hawaii but that translates into 10:30am PST and 1:30pm EST for those of you on the mainland.


There are definite announcements coming that you should expect during the live stream. First, Qualcomm will be updating its flagship mobile platform to the Snapdragon 845, a potentially significant bump over the 835 shipping today. We have already seen rumors of several next-gen Android smartphones using the SD 845 including Samsung’s Galaxy S9. The company announced the SD 835 and corresponding technology in November of 2016 at the first Tech Summit, so expect Qualcomm to follow suit for the SD 845 this year.

More exciting to many might be the pending release of the much-hyped Windows on Snapdragon hardware. We have been talking about it for more than a year now, but we have it on high authority that we are past theory and will be seeing real hardware from real vendors with real prices and real time tables. These Windows 10-based notebooks and convertibles should include Gigabit-class LTE, extended battery life, and a true Windows 10 experience. But details up to this point have been sparse – hopefully this week we’ll have much more definitive information in our hands.

That’s all I can say for sure we’ll see at the Qualcomm Tech Summit, but who knows, the company may have some more surprises in store for us. The company has a lot of technology in development in areas like self-driving cars, mobile connectivity, IoT, VR; any of which could make for an interesting addition to our pre-CES flurry.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm Introduces Snapdragon 636 Platform with 8-Core Kryo CPU

Subject: Mobile | October 17, 2017 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 636, snapdragon, qualcomm, octa-core, mobile platform, Kryo 260, Kryo, cpu, adreno, 8-core

Qualcomm's latest mobile platform is the Snapdragon 636, positioned (at least numerically) between the Snapdragon 630 and 660 introduced earlier this year, and offering a very impressive set of features for mid-range devices - even reaching parity with the Snapdragon 800-series in some respects.


Qualcomm claims CPU performance gains of up to 40% from the Kryo 260 cores in the Snapdragon 636 compared to the ARM Cortex-A53 cores found in the Snapdragon 630, and the switch to Kryo brings the new Snapdragon 636 closer to the specs of the Snapdragon 660 - also an 8-core Kryo 260 design (though the higher-numbered platform does boast slightly higher clocks from its eight CPU cores at 2.2 GHz vs. 1.8 GHz from the 636).

The Snapdragon 636 also features the same X12 LTE modem found in the existing Snapdragon 630/660, which is capable of up to 600 Mbps download speeds (3 x 20 Hz carrier aggregation, 256-QAM) and 150 Mbps peak upload (2 x 20 Hz aggregation, 64-QAM).

Graphics duties are performed by the Adreno 509, and 18:9 FHD+ displays are supported. The Snapdragon 636 also includes the Hexagon 680 DSP (which we first saw in the Snapdragon 820) with Spectra 160 ISP for supported image capture "of up to 24 megapixels with zero shutter lag while supporting smooth zoom, fast autofocus and true-to-life colors for outstanding image quality", according to Qualcomm.

This new Snapdragon 636 also offers Qualcomm's Aqstic codec (another feature inherited from the 800-series) for high-resolution audio up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM, along with dual-oscillator support (separate clock generators for 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz based sample rates!) and a 130dB dynamic range with a very low THD+N of -109dB.


To expand on what the Aqstic codec in the SD636 provides, the separate clock generators are a fascinating addition in a world where many codecs resample the common 44.1 kHz - pretty much all digital music at or below CD quality - to 48 kHz during playback. Having a proper 44.1 kHz clock means native playback without the interpolation and subsequent filtering required when altering the original signal to an incompatible sample rate.

The Snapdragon 636 - which is both "pin and software-compatible" with existing Snapdragon 660 and 630 mobile platforms, according to Qualcomm - is expected to ship to customers beginning in November.

Source: Qualcomm

HTC Vive Standalone VR Headset to expand VR market with low cost, dedicated hardware

Subject: Mobile | July 27, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: htc, vive, VR, virtual reality, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon 835

This article first appeared on MarketWatch and Shrout Research.

During the ChinaJoy 2017 event in Shanghai, VR pioneer HTC announced its standalone VR headset aimed at the China market. This marks the first major player in the virtual reality space to officially reveal a standalone product intended for the broad consumer market that requires a more affordable, portable VR solution.

Standalone VR headsets differ from the current options on the market in two distinct ways. First, they are disconnected from a PC and don’t require attachment to a desktop for processing or display output. The current HTC Vive product that ships in the market, as well as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, require a high-end PC to play VR games and use HDMI and USB connections to power the headsets. This new standalone design also moves away from the slot-in design of the Samsung Gear VR and doesn’t require the user to monopolize their smartphone for VR purposes.

Though mobile-first VR solutions like Gear VR have existed for several years, selling on the market before the PC-based solutions were released, the move of HTC from tethered virtual reality to a wireless standalone unit signals a shift in the market. Consumers see the value and quality experiences that VR can provide but the expense and hassle of in-place configurations have stagnated adoption.

Caption - VIVE Standalone VR headset designed for the Chinese market and....jpg

HTC is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform to power the Vive Standalone VR Headset, the same chipset used in many high-end smartphones on the market today. Qualcomm and HTC can modify traits of the processor to improve performance without worrying about the sensitive battery life of a consumer’s phone. Though we don’t know the specifics of what HTC might have modified for the configuration of this standalone unit, it likely is a mirror of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR hardware development kit that was announced in February. That design includes the capability for six degrees of freedom tracking (moving around a space accurately without external sensors), high resolution displays for each eye, and a full suite of graphics and digital signal processors to handle the complex workloads of VR experiences.

Though HTC is the first to announce and a complete standalone VR product, HTC and others announced their intent to release standalone units in the US later this year through Google’s Daydream program. Lenovo plans to build a VR headset using the same Qualcomm reference design for the Daydream platform.

Facebook-owned Oculus has not officially announced its intent but rumors in July point us to another Qualcomm-powered headset that will sell for around $200. Facebook plans to reveal the hardware in October.

HTC’s decision to target the China market first is driven by its ability to promote its custom Viveport software store in a region that does not offer Google services like the Android Play Store or Daydream. HTC will leverage a customer base that is larger than North America and Western Europe combined, and one that is expected to grow rapidly. IDC statistics show VR headset shipments reaching 10.1 million units this year and target 61 million units by 2020 worldwide. iResearch Consulting estimates Chinese VR market revenues to reach $8.1B in that same time frame.

Growth in VR and AR (augmented reality) is driven by the consumer markets but it is the enterprise implementations that provide the push for expanded usage models. Medical professionals already utilize VR technology to analyze data and mechanical engineers can dissect and evaluate models of products in a virtual space to improve and speed up workflows. Target fields also include factory workers, emergency personnel, the military, delivery drivers, and nearly all facets of business. As VR technology improve usability, comfort, and general societal acceptance, the merger of virtual and augmented reality hardware will create a new age of connected consumers.