Google, Qualcomm Partner for Faster Android P Upgrade Adoption

Subject: Mobile | May 9, 2018 - 02:21 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon, sd636, sd 845, sd 660, qualcomm, android p

It's no secret that one of the easiest to point out critiques of Android is the lack of major software updates for the majority of handsets. While this has gotten slightly better over the years, new Android releases still take a substantial amount of time to roll out to existing phones, if they do at all.

However, with Android 8.0 (Oreo), Google began to address some of the core technical issues preventing phone manufacturers from quickly releasing software updates through an initiative they call Project Treble.

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Essentially, Project Treble decouples the Android Operating System from the proprietary software bits such as drivers needed to provide support for a given SoC. Instead, Android 8.0 and up moves the SoC support to a separate software layer, which a vendor like Qualcomm can universally implement for their SoCs and pass to a handset maker, instead of needing to be implemented into software updates for each specific model of phone.

Qualcomm announced earlier this week that they have been working with Google ahead of the Android P developer preview release to "pre-integrate" support for the next version of the operating system with Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered devices, specifically devices with Snapdragon 845, 660 and 636.

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We are already starting to see some of this work pay off, with an expanded list of devices that are already compatible with the Android P developer preview, as compared to previous Android betas.

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In addition to the standard Google development devices, the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL, other various other phone makers are rolling out options to enroll in the Android P developer preview program, including:

  • Essential Phone (Snapdragon 835)
  • Nokia 7 Plus (Snapdragon 660)
  • Oppo R15 Pro (Snapdragon 660)
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 (Snapdragon 845)
  • Vivo X21 & X21UD (Snapdragon 660)
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S (Snapdragon 845)

Despite Qualcomm's work with Google on Android P "pre-integration", the ball remains in the court of OEMs like Samsung, and carriers to push these updates through to consumers.

Source: Qualcomm

Microsoft releases 64-bit SDK for Windows on Arm platforms

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 8, 2018 - 07:30 PM |
Tagged: windows on snapdragon, windows on arm, microsoft, 64-bit

During the Microsoft BUILD developer conference, the Windows initiative for Qualcomm and Arm processors got a much needed shot in the arm (heh) with announced support for a 64-bit SDK.

Visual Studio 15.8 Preview 1 contains the early version of these tools that will give developers the ability to build native 64-bit Arm apps. Microsoft claims that this “represents the next step in the evolution of the Always Connected PC running Windows 10 on ARM” and I couldn’t agree more.

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This gives software developers the ability to target Arm-based processors like the Snapdragon 835 from Qualcomm natively without forcing users to depend on emulation layers provided by Microsoft. While the emulation layer is critical for compatibility, it does slow performance quite a bit compared to native-running code.

While the Windows Store already supports ARM32 packages, ARM64 packages will be supported “soon” based on what Microsoft is telling us. Even more interesting, Microsoft is promoting the ability for developers to post the Win32 (non-Store) ARM64 version of software online, rather than waiting for the Store apps to be approved.

The Microsoft website has details on how developers can start this integration. Qualcomm has its own documentation as well.

From my own view, this a necessary step for Microsoft to take, even if it does seem later than many would have liked. The benefits of Windows 10 running on Snapdragon and Arm are real and substantial, but being hindered by performance due to emulation was always known to be a speedbump. Getting developers access to better, and easier to use, Arm compilation is the next step.

I would also like to see Microsoft take a more proactive role in pushing developers to offer both versions of software. MS simply cannot take a passive, backseat approach to the Always On, Always Connected PC initiative and have it be a success.

Source: Microsoft

ZTE Shuts Down Their OTA Servers...

Subject: Mobile | April 28, 2018 - 04:14 PM |
Tagged: zte, axon 7

So, for the last couple of years, ZTE was making a point to keep their devices supported with up-to-date software. They were a bit on the slow side, but devices got their updates eventually, including new features and other improvements.

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Then, recently, the US Department of Commerce banned American companies from exporting goods to ZTE for seven years. This means that they can no longer acquire things like Qualcomm processors. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade followed in the US’s footsteps and banned companies in Taiwan from selling to ZTE, which also rules out sourcing from companies like MediaTek.

At around the same time, ZTE was wrapping up their Oreo update beta. A new wave of participants was added for a couple of weeks, and then it was announced that the program has ended. The export ban occurred between those two points. This could have meant that they were ready to release, and it could have also meant that they gave up.

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It'll just keep doing this... over and over...

Now, if you attempt to run ZTE’s system update app, it just spins forever – they shut their update servers down. It looks like they gave up.

So… yeah. That sucks. It was a good phone, too.

Gigabyte's Aero 15X can work all day and play all night

Subject: Mobile | April 27, 2018 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: x-rite, laptop, i7-8750h, gigabyte, coffee lake h, aero 15Xv8, 144hz, 1070 Max-Q

Gigabyte's Aero 15X is a working laptop, it may have a GTX 1070 Max-Q powering its 144Hz panel, but it does not offer G-SYNC.  Instead it has X-Rite Pantone certification, perfect for professional work.  The 15.6" laptop is 18.9mm thick and weighs in at 4.4lbs, with a fair amount of that being the 94Wh battery.  TechSpot was somewhat disappointed to discover the 16GB of DDR4-2666  is on a single DIMM, and suggest picking up another immediately to enjoy the benefits of dual channel memory.  If you are looking for a laptop you can design graphics and video on, with enough power for occasional gaming then check out the Aero 15X.

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"Today we're taking a closer look at the Gigabyte Aero 15X, launched alongside Intel's new H-series Coffee Lake processors which brought up to 6 cores and 12 threads to the laptop form factor. Gigabyte is key to stress this isn't just a gaming laptop, but a machine designed for productivity, and that shows with features like an X-Rite certified display."

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Source: TechSpot

Running Windows on Qualcomm is a Snap with the HP Envy x2

Subject: Mobile | April 16, 2018 - 03:40 PM |
Tagged: hp envy x2, qualcomm, snapdragon 835

The first laptop to hit the market running Windows and powered by a Snapdragon 835 is a bit of a strange duck.  When you see an ARM powered device you expect a low price tag so you are in for a bit of a shock; $1000 is the going price for the HP Envy x2.  The price comes from the extras, the body is constructed entirely of metal, the screen is Gorilla Glass and audio is provided by Bang & Olufsen.  When TechSpot benchmarked the device the issues with this price point became very obvious, as it performs as you would expect and lags significantly behind laptops with more traditional CPUs.  The battery life is quite good but during video playback the Dell XPS 13 lasts longer than the Envy x2 so not even the lower power draw helps this notebook.

It is an interesting product but priced at twice what you would expect; all the details are here for your perusal.

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"Today we're looking closely at the first Snapdragon 835 device running Windows: the HP Envy x2. Having used it for a few weeks, there's a lot of things HP did well to make this a hardware experience to rival the Microsoft Surface."

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Source: TechSpot

Don't have a meltdown, pick up on Coffee Lake instead with the Gigabyte Aero 15Xv8

Subject: Mobile | April 4, 2018 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: Intel, gigabyte, gaming laptop, coffee lake h, coffee lake, aero 15Xv8, Aero

Intel have stated that their new Coffee Lake processors are immune to Spectre and Meltdown, which is one of the more compelling reasons to consider an upgrade in several generations of chips.  Gigabyte's new Aero 15Xv8 contains such a chip, the i7-8750H which runs at 2.2 GHz base and 4.2 GHz in Turbo Boost 2.0 mode.  Along with the new CPU is a GTX 1070 Max-Q which makes this 0.7" (18 mm) thick, 4.4lb (2 kg) laptop an impressively compact gaming machine.  Take a look at The Tech Report's review to see how this new CPU performs, as well as the laptop overall.

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"Gigabyte's Aero 15Xv8 mixes Intel's Coffee Lake Core i7-8750H and Nvidia's GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics card into a potent blend of gaming and productivity potential. We put those parts to the test to see whether the Aero 15X's thin-and-light chassis is up to the task of keeping all of that processing power in check."

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Huawei Unveils Flagship P20 Pro Smartphone With AI-Powered Triple Leica Cameras

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | April 4, 2018 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, p20 pro, Oreo, Leica, Kirin 970, Huawei, android 8.1

Huawei recently unveiled a slew of new smartphones and its new flagship P20 Pro is quite impressive and is the first smartphone to pack three rear cameras with Leica optics. The Huawei P20 Pro measures 155 x 73.9 x 7.8mm, weighs in at 180 grams (0.0275 lbs), and comes in black, midnight blue, pink gold, or gradient twilight colors.

Huawei P20 Pro Kirin 970 Android 8 Smartphone.png

The P20 Pro is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance and features soft rounded edges and flat faces. The front of the smartphone is dominated by an edge-to-edge 6.1’ FullView OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2440 (408 PPI). a fingerprint sensor sits below the display and is the only hardware button on the front fact. While there is a notch (that is smaller than the iPhone X’s), Huawei offers a setting that will turn off the top of the display to the left and right of the notch to hide it if the notch is too annoying to you. The notch in the display is where the front facing camera with 24.8 MP CMOS sensor is located (the camera can be used for facial recognition to unlock the phone). External I/O includes a single USB-C port on the bottom (there is no 3.5mm headphone jack but Huawei does include the USB-C to 3.5mm adapter).

Around back is where things get interesting as Huawei has managed to pack three Leica cameras as well as an LED flash into the top corner. The rear cameras can be used alone or in combination and offer various forms of autofocus and depth detection along with bokeh portrait modes, improved low light and long exposure performance, and AI-powered image stabilization, scene detection, camera settings, and shot composition assistance. That's quite the run-on sentence, but in fact the P20 Pro managed to obliterate the DxOMark benchmark with an overall score of 109, a photo score of 114, and a video score of 98 which is very impressive! The NPU-powered AI is trained to recognize 500 scenarios in 19 categories and is able to assist the user in taking fast motion shots as well as night shots without flash using long exposures even when handheld, and looking at some of the night photos DxOMark was able to get seems to show it works well. Other camera features include 4D predictive focus, up to 102400 ISO, 960 FPS 720p video, and a 5-time hybrid zoom. Phase Detection Auto Focus is used in the main sensor and the cameras also support laser focus, deep focus, and contrast focus. Huawei claims that its "super snapshot" mode allows users to go from off to taking a photo in as little as 0.3 seconds.

Huawei P20 Pro Smartphone Kirin 970.jpg

The three cameras include:

  • 20 MP Monochrome (1/2.78”) f/1.6 27mm equivalent
  • 40 MP RGB (1/1.73”) f/1.8 27mm equivalent (10 MP photos produced using quad bayer patterning)
  • 8 MP RGB (1/4.4”) f/2.4 80mm equivalent with optical image stabilization

Enough with the covers though, what's inside this smartphone? Well, Huawei has chosen the HiSilicon Kirin 970 SoC which features four ARM Cortex-A73 cores at 2.36 GHz, four Cortex-A53 cores at 1.8 GHz, a "micro core i7" NPU (neural processing unit), and Mali G72 MP12 graphics. The SoC looks to be somewhere between the Snapdragon 820 and Snapdragon 835 in performance (according to AnandTech) is paired with 6 GB of  RAM and 128 GB of flash storage. Connectivity includes NFC, GPS, and LTE (oddly, they don't list any Wi-Fi information on the specifications page) and the P20 Pro has the usual sensor compliment (e.g. gravity, proximity, ambient light, hall, gyroscope, compass, color temperature sensor). A 4,000 mAh battery with Huawei supercharging powers the device. As of the time of writing the Huawei P20 Pro comes with Android 8.1 Oreo for the operating system.

According to Hexus.net, the Huawei P20 Pro will be available across the pond in both dual and single SIM versions starting at £799 RRP (recommended retail price) which comes out to about $1,230.93 in US dollars for those curious. Needless to say, the Huawei P20 Pro isn't going to be cheap when (or if) it hits the US but at least you get a of hardware packed into it!

I am interested to see the reviews on this one though I just recently bought the LG V30 due to my G3 dying so I'll likely be holding onto it for as long as possible as well (heh). I can't lie that I'm a bit jealous of the camera though; guess I should have waited – my corgi photos could have been so much better! (haha) What are your thoughts on the Huawei flagship?

Source: Huawei

Gigabyte's new 8th generation Core powered laptops

Subject: Mobile | April 3, 2018 - 04:45 PM |
Tagged: aorus, gigabyte, gaming laptop, Aero, i7-8750h, Core i9-8950HK, X9 DT, X7 DT V8, X5 V8, 144hz

Gigabyte have updated their Aero and Aorus family of laptops with the new 8th generation Intel chips.  Depending on the model, you will find either a i7-8850H or i9-8950HK inside as well as a GTX 1080 or 1070.

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The Aero laptop has a 'bezel-less' 144Hz monitor, by which they mean a 5cm bezel surrounding the 15.6" 4k display.  The chassis is an impressively svelte 1.8cm thick, especially when you consider they squeezed a GTX 10X0 inside.  Audio is provided by Dolby Atmos and Sound Radar and of course there are RGBs below your keyboard which you can program, along with macro keys.  The 94.24 Wh battery will keep you gaming for quite a while, even when you are on the go.

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Also announced were the The Grand Trio, the X9 DT, X7 DT V8 and X5 V8 gaming laptops.  All three models feature a 144Hz IPS G-SYNC panels which have been X-Right Pantone corrected.  They sport the same Dolby Atmos audio as the Aero as well as RGB infested keyboards.  Storage is provided by a pair of M.2 PCIe SSDs as well as a 2.5" HDD for your larger files.  Connectivity includes a Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Gen.2 Type-C port as well as a USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Gen.2 Type-A ports, with both HDMI and DP video out. 

The basic specs of the laptops can be seen below. 

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Source: Gigabyte

ASUS Announces new ROG Zephyrus M GM501 Notebook

Subject: Mobile | April 3, 2018 - 02:04 PM |
Tagged: zephyrus m, ROG, i7-8750h, gm501, coffee lake h

Along with the announcement of high-performance 8th Generation mobile processors from Intel today, comes plenty of announcements from partners about new gaming notebooks built around these processors.

One of the most appealing notebooks to be announced so far is the all-new ASUS ROG Zephyrus M GM501. 

Previously launched alongside NIVIDIA's Max-Q initiative, the first ROG Zephyrus served as ASUS's flagship thin-and-light gaming notebook. We were quite impressed with the performance in our review but had some qualms about the odd form-factor decisions, including keyboard placement. 

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The ASUS ROG Zephyrus M address these concerns, moving the keyboard and trackpad to a more traditional location along with a plethora of hardware changes. 

ASUS ROG Zephyrus M (GM501)
MSRP $1499 (Best Buy Exlusive, coming 5/6) $1899 $2199
Screen 15.5" (1920x1080) IPS 120Hz 15.5" (1920x1080) IPS-Type 144Hz G-SYNC
CPU Core i7-8750H (6 core / 12 threads)
GPU NVIDIA GTX 1060 + Intel UHD 630 (Switchable) NVIDIA GTX 1070 + Intel UHD 630 (Switchable)
RAM 16GB DDR4 2666MHz
Storage 128GB SATA + 1TB FireCuda SSHD 256GB PCIe + 1TB FireCuda SSHD
Network Intel 8265 802.11ac MIMO (2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.2
Connectivity 1 x Thunderbolt 3
2 x USB 3.1 Gen1
2 x USB 3.1 Gen2
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm headphone and mic combo jack
Weight 5.5 lbs ( 2.45 kg)
Dimensions 15.1 x 10.3 x 0.7~0.78 inches
(304mm x 199mm x 8 -13.7 mm)
Battery 55 WHr

The biggest hardware change of course is the move to Intel's 6-core, 12-thread i7-8750H processor. 

Instead of the previous Max-Q GPU options (GTX 1070 and 1080), ASUS has opted for configurations up to a full GTX 1070, as well as the GTX 1060 on the lower end models.

In addition, the new iteration of the Zephyrus gains switchable graphics, which should help with battery life. ASUS says there will be a dedicated keyboard shortcut to manually switch between graphics modes, potentially alleviating some of the issues users have with Optimus technologies in certain applications.

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Battery capacity also sees a 10% bump to 55 WHr from the previous 50 WHr. Hopefully, these changes will provide a much-needed battery life improvement over the original Zephyrus notebook.

Storage options for all configurations of the GM501 will contain both an SSD and a 1TB Seagate FireCuda SSHD hybrid drive for fast mass storage. The highest-end GM501s will be offered with 256GB NVMe drives, while the lower end will stick with just a 128GB SATA SSD.

Pricing for the new Zephyrus M is in line with the last generation, meaning that users looking for the ultimate marriage of gaming performance and portability will have to sacrifice a bit on price. However, I think the $1500 Best Buy exclusive SKU coming next month is a pretty compelling package for a lot of gamers. 

Expect these notebooks to start shipping on April 16th for the two highest configurations, with the lower end option coming in May.

 

Source: ASUS

Intel Unveils More 8th Generation Mobile Processors, 6-Core Mobile CPUs

Subject: Processors, Chipsets, Mobile | April 3, 2018 - 03:01 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Core i9-8950HK, coffee lake h, 8th generation

Intel's rollout of their "8th Generation" processors has been glacial compared to other generations, and overall a bit confusing when it comes to trying to decode what processor belongs to what architecture. 

8th Gen Intel Core i9 Badge.png

Past the 8th generation Kaby Lake-R 15W quad-core mobile processors in August of last year, the Coffee Lake-S desktop CPU launch in October, and the recent Kaby Lake-G launch combining Intel processors with AMD graphics, there has still been one big missing market—high performance mobile processors.

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Today, Intel is finally rounding out it's 8th Generation Mobile processor line-up with the addition of Coffee Lake-H processors. 

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The biggest change with Intel's new mobile lineup is the delightful addition of more cores. All i7 and Xeon-based SKUs will now have 6 cores with Hyper-threading enabled for a total of 12 threads. In addition, the entire i5 lineup is gaining Hyper-threading support, bringing them to 4 cores and 8 threads. 

Coffee Lake-H also marks the introduction of Intel's first "i9" branded processor, the i9-8950HK. Taking the top spot of the mobile lineup previously held by the i7-7920HQ, the i9-8950HK is fully unlocked, with a turbo frequency of up to 4.8GHz. 

In addition, all of these new 8th generation mobile processors will bring support for Optane Memory caching to mobile for the first time.

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Intel is achieving the 4.8GHz single core turbo boost on the i9-8950HK through what they are calling "Intel Velocity Boost." While there aren't a lot of details about exactly how this technology will work yet, Intel has told us that essentially it's a way of providing extra frequency if there is thermal headroom on a given notebook design.

Below the 50 degrees C target temperature, we were told to expect about a 200MHz single-core boost and a 100MHz multi-core boost. With factory overclocking, Intel says they expect to see OEMs hit 5GHz and beyond, thanks in part to Velocity Boost.

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In addition to new processors, Intel is also unveiling their new 300-series mobile chipsets today. The major additions include the adoption of USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports directly from the chipset, as well as the integration of an 802.11ac radio.

The all-new wireless radio is said to be capable of Gigabit speeds using 2x2 MIMO at 160MHz, which is part of the Wave 2 specification. While routers that support the 160MHz band are few and far between today, hopefully, Intel's adoption of this technology into its chipset will help spur faster adoption.

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In addition to the H-series processors, Intel also unveiled several new U-series parts today with Iris Plus graphics.

While the 28W notebook processors combining Intel U-series parts with Iris graphics containing 128MB of eDRAM have been available for generations, the only major customer for these parts historically is Apple. I fully expect these processors to make it into a revised 13" MacBook Pro later this year.

These new U-series parts will also be able to take advantage of the new 300-series chipsets with the integrated 802.11ac and USB 3.1 Gen 2 connectivity. It will be interesting to see if Intel finally integrating Wi-Fi capability directly into the chipset will cause Apple to ditch Broadcom on their MacBook lineup.

Stay tuned for more announcements from Intel today, as well of announcements from notebook vendors utilizing these new processors!

Source: Intel

Tobii and Qualcomm Announce Collaboration on Mobile VR Headsets with Eye-Tracking

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2018 - 09:45 AM |
Tagged: xr, VR, Tobii, snapdragon 845, qualcomm, mobile, HMD, head mounted display, eye tracking, AR, Adreno 630

Tobii and Qualcomm's collaboration in the VR HMD (head-mounted display) space is a convergence of two recent stories, with Tobii's impressing showing of a prototype HMD device at CES featuring their eye-tracking technology, and Qualcomm's unvieling last month of their updated mobile VR platform, featuring the new Snapdragon 845.

SVR845.jpg

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform

What does this new collaboration mean for the VR industry? For now it means a new reference design and dev kit with the latest tech from Tobii and Qualcomm:

"As a result of their collaboration, Tobii and Qualcomm are creating a full reference design and development kit for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform, which includes Tobii's EyeCore eye tracking algorithms and hardware design. Tobii will license its eye tracking technologies and system and collaborate with HMD manufacturers on the optical solution for the reference design."

The press release announcing this collaboration recaps the benefits of Tobii eye tracking in a mobile VR/AR device, which include:

  • Foveated Rendering: VR/AR devices become aware of where you are looking and can direct high-definition graphics processing power to that exact spot in real time. This enables higher definition displays, more efficient devices, longer battery life and increased mobility.
  • Interpupillary Distance: Devices automatically orient images to align with your pupils. This enables devices to adapt to the individual user, helping to increase the visual quality of virtual and augmented reality experiences.
  • Hand-Eye Coordination: By using your eyes in harmony with your hands and associated controllers, truly natural interaction and immersion, not possible without the use of gaze, is realized.
  • Interactive Eye Contact: Devices can accurately track your gaze in real time, enabling content creators to express one of the most fundamental dimensions of human interaction – eye contact. VR technologies hold the promise of enabling a new and immersive medium for social interaction. The addition of true eye contact to virtual reality helps deliver that promise.

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Tobii's prototype eye-tracking HMD

For its part, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845-powered VR mobile platform promises greater portability of a better VR experience, with expanded freedom on top of the improved graphics horsepower from the new Adreno 630 GPU in the Snapdragon 845. This portability includes 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) using external cameras to identify location within a room, eliminating the need for external room sensors.

"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale - the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."

It is up to developers, and consumer interest in VR moving forward, to see what this collaboration will produce. To editorialize briefly, from first-hand experience I can vouch for the positive impact of eye-tracking with an HMD, and if future products live up to the promise of a portable, high-performance VR experience (with a more natural feel from less rapid head movement) a new generation of VR enthusiasts could be born.

Source: PR Newswire

Chuwi made a lot of friends, see if the SurBook 2 might convince you to count yourself among them

Subject: Mobile | March 5, 2018 - 05:06 PM |
Tagged: chuwi, surbook, convertible, apollo lake

You may not have heard of Chuwi but they are not a new player, they have been around since 2004 and have been partnering with Huawei, Google, Microsoft and Intel to try to make it onto the world stage.  This recently cumulated in a successful IndieGoGo campaign and the release of the SurBook convertible laptop. Inside is an Intel Celeron N3450 with 6GB DDR3-1600 and 128 GB eMMC flash storage with a 2736x1824 IPS touchscreen.  The design which TechPowerUp tested cost a hair under $500, which is just about perfect for what you get.  It won't win any benchmarking awards but for what it is intended for it seems to do well; check it out for yourself.

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"Chuwi looks to conquer the convertible 2-in-1 market with their new SurBook. Featuring an all-aluminum shell and a rather large battery, it has the looks and specifications to turn a few heads, which may have something to do with its successful Indiegogo campaign in mid-2017."

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Source: TechPowerUp

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

MWC 2018: Samsung Unpacks Galaxy S9 and S9+ Phones

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2018 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 845, smartphone, Samsung, MWC 2018, MWC, mobile, Galaxy S9+, galaxy s9, exynos

Samsung unveiled their not-so-secret Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at their 'unpacked' event at MWC today, coming after months of leaks and an accidental post of the launch video yesterday. So, while the existence of these new Galaxy phones was a foregone conclusion, does the final product meet expectations?

Galaxy_S9.jpg

As previously leaked, the design of the Galaxy S9/S9+ is carried over from last year, as Samsung is updating their lineup in the manner of Apple's second-year iPhone "S" refresh. What we have are devices with faster internals courtesy of the Snapdragon 845 in the U.S. and China (read our performance preview of the 845 here), Samsung's Exynos 9810 Octa in the rest of the world, and improved cameras - the latter of which was the focus of the event (sorry).

Camera.jpg

The newest term in the smartphone space is "dual iris" thanks to Samsung's adoption of an adjustable iris on one of the dual 12MP rear cameras, which moves from f1.5 to f2.4 based on light level (the second camera is fixed at f2.4). This should result in much better exposures in low light without sacrificing daylight performance. But as vital as still camera quality is on mobile phones, as for so many is has replaced the need for a dedicated point-and-shoot, there is also video to consider. And not just any video.

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Water bottle antics from Samsung's slo-mo demonstration video

Much was made during the event of the Galaxy S9/S9+ exclusive "Super Slow-mo", which takes just 0.2 seconds of video and produces 6 seconds of the sort of slow motion you never knew you couldn't live without before seeing it...in slow motion. (Some impressively slow cat videos were also shown during the event, as well as popcorn being thrown... AND MORE.) Regardless of the usefulness of capturing 0.2 seconds of action at 960 FPS (in HD, no less) - which you can do up to 20 times per video - these slo-mo treasures can be exported right from the phone in GIF format! (Expect uploads of such videos to fill your social feeds later this spring.)

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From a design standpoint we are not seeing a new device, but that is not a bad thing in this case. Fans would always like to see the next big thing, of course, but the S8 was already an advanced design when it launched a year ago, marking the start of the all-display trend that Apple joined later on with the iPhone X. Speaking of displays, we know that Samsung has a killer screen already with the Galaxy S8/S8+, and on paper the S9/S9+ have identical 5.8-inch, 1440x2960 18.5:9 aspect AMOLED with the S9 and slightly larger 6.2 inches of the same on the S9+, both still covered in Gorilla Glass 5.

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Samsung's cluster of camera and iris scanning tech is hidden from view

Two obvious nods to Apple's confusingly-named "X" handset were also introduced by Samsung, with both face/iris unlocking and animated emojis. First, it will be possible to unlock your Galaxy S9/S9+ by looking at it, but have no fear as the fingerprint reader remains - and is no longer next to the camera sensor on the back!

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The fingerprint scanner is now below the camera sensors

Far more important, as everyone knows: animated emoji. Animoji is not the only facial-recognition-powered animated emoji game in town anymore, though Samsung's implementation of this is a little different since it is creating an avatar based on your own face, which you can then customize. The result is something possibly a little more realistic than an early 2000s sports game create-a-player, but with considerably less work. Progress!

March 16 is the release date for both the Galaxy S9 and S9+, with retail prices starting at $719.99 for the S9 and $839.99 for the S9+. Pre-orders are up now on Samsung's official web store.

Source: Samsung

MWC 2018: Huawei Announces the MateBook X Pro Notebook

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2018 - 10:49 AM |
Tagged: thin and light, notebook, mx150, MWC 2018, MWC, MateBook X Pro, matebook, laptop, Huawei

Huawei has introduced their new MateBook with the X Pro, an ultra slim design which features a nearly bezel-less 13.9-inch display that boasts a 91% screen-to-body ratio. More than just display, which is a 3:2 ratio 3K LTPS panel, the MateBook X Pro offers a choice between 8th-gen Intel Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors, and the option of a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU.

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"Huawei has applied many of its innovative smartphone technologies to the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro to create effortless and intuitive user experiences. Pioneered by Huawei for the HUAWEI MateBook Series, the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro features the super-fast power button 2.0 which enables login in just 7.8 seconds from power off, and 6.6 seconds from hibernation. In addition, the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro features the world’s first recessed camera which discreetly sits on the keyboard – to activate it, all users need to do is press it and it will pop up, ensuring privacy when it’s not being used. This contributes greatly to the perfect experience of FullView Display."

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While the look and especially name of the MateBook X Pro evokes memories of similar products from Cupertino, this seems to be more of a Surface Book competitor, down to the multi-touch 3:2 aspect, 3000x2000 display. A couple of the unique features are the combination power button/fingerprint reader, and a camera that is hidden among the function keys and pops up during use. Audio is also premium for a slim notebook with a four-speaker Dolby Atmos system.

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A unique recessed camera design that pops up when needed

Specifications:

  • FullView Display
    • Size: 13.9 inches
    • Resolution: 3000 x 2000
    • Type: LTPS
    • Screen-to-body ratio: 91%
    • Aspect ratio: 3:2
    • Viewing angle: 178 degrees
    • Color: sRGB 100% color gamut
    • Contrast: 1500:1
    • Maximum brightness: 450 nits
    • Touchscreen: 10-point, anti-fingerprint
  • Processor: 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8550U / i5-8250U
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce MX150 with 2GB GDDR5 / Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Memory 8GB / 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz
  • Hard Drive: 256GB / 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5 GHz 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth: BT 4.1 (compatible with 3.0 and 2.1+EDR)
  • Camera: Front 1MP
  • Audio Configuration: Quad digital microphones and Quad speakers
  • Battery Material: Lithium polymer 57.4Wh (Typical Capacity)
  • Local video playback: 12 hours (testing conducted by Huawei in a laboratory environment)
  • Buttons and Ports
    • One touch power button
    • 3.5mm stereo headset jack
    • USB-C x2 (both allow data transfer, charging and connection with MateDock 2 and one supports Thunderbolt 3)
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 304mm x 217mm x 14.6mm Weight: approximately 1.33kg
  • Colors: Mystic Silver and Space Gray

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The one touch power button with integrated fingerprint reader

The MateBook X Pro will be available this spring with pricing starting at €1499, or approximately $1850.

Source: Huawei

Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 07:50 PM |
Tagged: VR, snapdragon 845, reference platform, qualcomm, mobile, headset, development

Qualcomm has another mobile-related announcement ahead of MWC, introducing a new VR reference platform based on the Snapdragon 845 in collaboration with HTC. As the new Snapdragon 845 boasts much more powerful graphics from its Adreno 630 GPU compared to the Snapdragon 835 - which was behind the previous mobile VR platform - this represents an important step forward in the mobile VR space.

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The increased graphics horsepower isn't the only aspect of the Adreno 630 that should translate into a better mobile VR/AR (now rolled together into the term "XR" for extended reality) experience, as the gains in graphics performance we saw from the SDM845 reference platform are said to come with 30% power savings as well as Adreno Foveation, which allows eye-tracking to direct resources only to the area where the user is looking. Thus Foveation allows for, literally, focused GPU resource allocation, which should translate into better performance with less hardware overhead.

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The Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform also boasts 6DoF, or "6 degrees of freedom", which incorporates external cameras to improve free movement compared to the previous 3DoF limitations:

"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale - the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."

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Qualcomm's goal with the new Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform is to support "the next wave of smartphone and standalone VR headsets", and it seems that mobile hardware is starting to catch up to the ambitions of what is now being called XR.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

ZTE Axon 9 Leaks Surface

Subject: Mobile | February 19, 2018 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: zte, axon 9, qualcomm, snapdragon 845

So there’s a lot to say about this story. The first bit is that the follow up to my current phone, which is a ZTE Axon 7, will be launching later this year. It will be called the ZTE Axon 9, and a bunch of rumored leaks have just dropped on it.

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Image Credit: ZTE Weibo via GSM Arena

GSMArena cites claims that the device will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. High-end SKUs will have 6GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of internal storage. Low-end SKUs will have 4GB of RAM. Personally, I haven’t come close to filling up the 64GB of the original ZTE Axon 7, although that’s just me. This is the first time I checked pretty much since I got the phone, and I still have about 33 GB remaining. That said, you are not me, and you probably know how much space you’ll use.

The choice of SoC is interesting. ZTE seems to go straight for the top of Qualcomm’s product stack with their flagship device, which puts it against the performance of, for instance, Samsung’s latest-and-greatest at the time. The ZTE Axon 7 came out a few months after the Samsung Galaxy S7, had the same processor, and was hundreds of dollars cheaper. ZTE wanted market share, but it looks like they might be continuing the trend.

The new device is said to have a 6-inch screen, which makes it slightly larger than the Axon 7, which has a 5.5-inch screen. Both cameras have also been upgraded. The rear camera will be 20 megapixels, while the front-facing one will be 13 megapixels. This doesn't say much about how it will perform, such as how much light is required to get a good image, but we will find out eventually.

At around the same time, US intelligence agencies are warning against purchasing ZTE and Huawei devices because the two companies have ties with the Chinese government. ZTE and Huawei both rebuke the assertions, of course. Personally, I use the ZTE Axon 7 as my only cellphone.

It doesn’t bother me.

Source: GSMArena

Qualcomm pushes LTE forward again, up to 2 Gbps with Snapdragon X24 modem

Subject: Mobile | February 14, 2018 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, modem, 4g lte, x24

Hot on the heels of the 5G momentum that saw Qualcomm announce working with 18 different device OEMs and 18  different network providers to bring 5G hardware and carriers online for wide adoption in 2019, the mobile giant is launching another 4G LTE modem. The new Snapdragon X24 LTE modem will provide connectivity speeds as high as 2.0 Gbps (Cat 20) and happens to be the first chip officially announced to be built on a 7nm process technology. It will be shipping in products by the end of 2018.

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With the 5G wave of products just on the horizon it might seem odd to see Qualcomm launch yet another LTE modem, especially one that offers such high performance and capability. The truth is that while 2019 will see the first nationwide (and global) 5G networks launched, 4G LTE will remain a fallback for the many years going forward. In fact, the first 5G devices (phones, laptops, tablets) will be connected to both 5G and 4G networks simultaneously to maintain connectivity through location changes. This will be temporary as the 5G networks scale to outdoor and internal designs, but expect that to be the case for at least 5 years.

As a result, newer LTE modems will remain a key differentiation point for mobile devices and chipsets. While the Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform (Sebastian recently posted a story with early benchmarks if you’re interested) uses the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, which only runs at 1.2 Gbps peak download rate, the new X24 will start by shipping as a discrete modem/chip solution. As has been the case with the X16 and X20 before it, you should then expect to see the X24 integrated into the next-generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon application processor.

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Obviously the flagship feature of this new modem is its ability to raise peak download speeds to 2.0 Gbps, doubling that of the X16 modem that brought Gigabit-class LTE to the world. This is possible due to the chips ability to handle 7x CA (carrier aggregation) downlink and improved unlicensed spectrum support. You can see from the diagram above that the X24 modem greatly increases the complexity and potential combinations of spectrum.

The Snapdragon X24 also marks the first publicly announced 7nm chip in the world. Though it wasn’t confirmed by Qualcomm, this is being made at TSMC, the only foundry with currently available 7nm technology in place. This move to a new technology means Qualcomm can offer a chip that is smaller and more power efficiency than would be possible on 10nm or 14nm nodes. The company also has the world’s first 14nm RF transceiver chip to pair with the X24 modem, another improvement in power and space efficiency.

Qualcomm will be demonstrating the new Snapdragon X24 modem technology running at 2.0 Gbps at Mobile World Congress, working with Ericsson, Telstra, and Netgear later this month.

Source: Qualcomm

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.

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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.