lFA 2014, CTIA 2014, IDF & Apple Intro Record Gadget Introductions
September hi-tech activity began with IFA Berlin followed on the 9th by CTIA in Las Vegas, Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco and Apple's Media Event in Cupertino, California. Unfortunately, Apple's big announcement seems to have sucked up most of the air (and ink) from the worthy cellphone and smartwatch introductions by Samsung, LG, Motorola and others. Hopefully, the press will be a bit more even-handed later this season.
iPhone 6 Boosts Qualcomm's Lead in LTE Modems…and There's More
Although the industry press is more enamored of the great iPhone6 and iPhone6 Plus screens and glitzy bodies (but most to be covered with new colorful protective silicone or leather cases from Apple), it should be pointed out that among many great features provided by the new smartphones are their worldwide LTE coverages.
All regional models have Qualcomm-provided 16-band FDD-LTE-A modem capability and the China-specific models also include 4-band TDD-LTE plus TD-SCDMA (and total CDMA & GSM coverage, too). Clearly, Apple can address all three carrier networks in China now (China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom)…that constitute the world's largest cellphone market.
What's also intriguing is Qualcomm's Hong Kong introduction of the Snapdragon 210 processor, a low-cost chip that features multimode 3G/LTE and LTE Dual-SIM support. It also includes LTE-A Cat 4 Carrier Aggregation as well as LTE-Broadcast. It also employs a quad-core CPU and Adreno 304 graphics capability of 1080p video playback. It will be years before competitors can cover all the modem bases that Qualcomm currently addresses.
Spreadtrum Enters LTE Modem Market
Shanghai-based Spreadtrum Communications has announced the SC9620 LTE-TD thin modem which, when paired with the company's existing GSM/TD-SCDMA modem solution adds Cat 4 support for TD-LTE bands include Band 38, 39, 40 and 41. Clearly, the solution is aimed at the China market…which is only natural for a company whose current success has been serving that market.
Intel Introduces World's Smallest Standalone 3G Modem---for IoT
Intel has introduced the XMM™6255 3G modem for the Internet of Things (IoT) and value devices. Building upon its proven 3G modem technology acquired from Infineon, Intel has integrated a new 65 nm 3G CMOS RF and power amp with DC/DC converter on a single die (the SMARTi UE2p). The X-Gold 625 3G baseband processor is paired with a co-designed isoplexer module that enables simplified antenna design. The resulting circuitry enables an ultra-compact form factor (≈300 mm2 with third party memory) and the combination is commercially available in a board from u-blox (SARA-UT module). Four more board vendors are said to be in the queue.
Intel Bulks up on Wireless Infrastructure
With its recent acquisition of the Axxia mobile communication processor business from Avago Technologies, Intel is significantly expanding its wireless infrastructure capabilities. Formerly part of LSI Corporation, the Axxia product line consists of multicore processors that combine specialized networking acceleration engines such as traffic management and deep packet inspection with power-efficient ARM Cortex-A15 processors to enable more capable and intelligent mobile networking equipment, including multi-radio base stations, mobile backhaul equipment and gateways. It'll be interesting to see if Intel simply taps the considerable LSI brainpower to move the technology into Intel processors or will continue expanding the ARM-based products to enhance their server product line.
Are NFC and Smartwatches Ready for Prime Time?
- With Apple's introduction of NFC (Near-Field Communication) in its iPhone 6 many assume that this long-suffering technology will certainly break out into the open now. Well, don't hold your breath. Merchants will have to gear up with NFC readers which will take many months, if not years, to achieve reasonable market coverage. Moreover, it's not a certainty that ApplePay or even Google Wallet will be the Wallet scheme that will be universally embraced. For example, Walmart wants to use MCX instead.
- Apple Watch, also introduced with the iPhone6, is certainly a visual stunner, but there are dozens of smartwatches already on the market, with Samsung introducing 7 models over the last year. And Motorola has introduced the Moto 360, which some believe to be Apple Watch's biggest rival. As pointed out by others, not a single smartwatch has become a mainstream, runaway hit and market research tells us that after 6 months of use, about one-third of all consumers stop using their wearable devices entirely. At $349, the Apple Watch is more expensive than an iPhone 6+ ($299 with 2-year contract). The iPhone 6's are usually subsidized by the carriers; the Apple Watch presumably is not. With Apple's opening up the software development of the Apple Watch to 3rd parties, maybe someone will develop applications for it that we can't live without.
As always, I encourage your feedback.
President & Principal Analyst