by TIRIAS Research (left to right: Jim McGregor & Kevin Krewell)
(Formerly Wireless / DSP Newsletter)
Between MWC Barcelona 2019 (formerly Mobile World Congress) and Embedded World (EW) both taking place in different parts of Europe, the last week of February provided a deluge of new technology, chip, and device announcements. It is almost impossible to catch all of them, but we tried to summarize the highlights.
Contact us directly if you have any questions or suggestions for the newsletter.
Arm released two new CPU cores and a new network on chip (NOC) mesh fabric for cloud servers and communications and storage SoC designs. The new IP from Arm gives more companies the ability to build high-performance systems using Arm.
Read about it here in Forbes: Arm Makes A Major Push For The Cloud With New Neoverse IP
Arm Helium lifts Cortex-M
Arm just supercharged the Cortex-M family of MCU cores with the release of Armv8.1-M. The new “Helium Technology” additions include the M-Profile Vector Extension (MVE). Compared to compared to existing Armv8-M instruction set, these vector extensions deliver up to 15 times the performance for machine learning (ML) functions, and up to 5 times for signal processing functions. MVE brings Cortex-A-like Advanced SIMD Extension (Neon) to the M-Profile. The Arm Helium Technology will greatly enhance intelligence at the edge.
Read more about Arm Helium Technology here and we’ll be covering it in future articles.
IBM Opens Watson AI
At IBM Think, IBM announced that it was opening up Watson to run on other 3rd-party clouds and even on-premise solutions. This will extend IBM’s industry leading AI technology beyond just IBM Cloud.
Read about it here in Forbes: IBM Drives Watson AI Everywhere
New Chips and Devices Abound at Embedded World
Computing, AI, and security at the edge were central themes at Embedded World this year. Edge computing and AI go hand-in-hand with more computing horsepower and sensor fusion processing powering neural network models on even sub-1W devices.
Arm PSA for device security
In terms of security, Arm introduced a new certification component to its Platform Security Architecture (PSA) that includes different levels of certification by 3rd-party labs. The labs include Brightsight, CAICT, Riscure and UL. There are different level 1 certifications for the chips, OSs, and devices, and then there are two additional levels of certification for chips. Level 1 certification requires documentation and an interview with one of the lab partners. Level 2 requires testing a 25-day lab testing against the PSA-root of trust protection (PSA-RoT) profile. Finally, level 3 requires testing against more aggressive attacks like side channel intrusions and physical tampering. Thus far, Cypress, Express Logic, Microchip, Nordic Semiconductor, Nuvoton, STMicroelectronics, and Silicon Labs have passed level one testing for some of their PSA-complaint product lines. Level 3 testing is still under development.
Read about it here in Forbes: Arm Introduces Security Certification Testing For IoT
NXP announces new i.MX 8M Nano
NXP announced the latest in its low-power applications product line with the i.MX 8M Nano. The Nano features a 2W TDP, but typically runs under a 1W with four Cortex-A53 cores, one Cortex-M7 core and a 3D GPU. The Nano is even PSA level 1 certified. Read about it here in Forbes: NXP Proves That Smaller And More Secure Is Better
MWC 2019: 5G, HoloLens, and Foldable phones
The 2019 MWC was supposed to be all about the introduction of 5G, but augmented reality (AR) glasses and foldable phones made a splash as well. One trend that was apparent with the more “unique” devices is that they are not for the faint of heart when it comes to pricing. Also note that MWC only saw a select group on new devices using 5G, many more will be announced throughout 2019. The following is just the technologies and devices that caught our attention because of the technology and/or unique design.
Prior to MWC, Samsung jumped out in front of everyone by introducing its new Galaxy Fold and Galaxy S10 smartphones. The big news was the Galaxy Fold which features two displays: a front 4.6” display for the phone and a folding 7.3” display for use in tablet mode. The Galaxy Fold also features a 3D ultrasonic fingerprint sensor behind the display and an arsenal of 6 cameras, all for a whopping price of $1,980. TIRIAS Research has reservations of using foldable displays in smartphones because how delicate the devices will be. Apparently, the devices are so delicate that Samsung kept the Galaxy Fold in a glass display case. Samsung also introduce the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10 5G. All feature the latest Exynos or Snapdragon SoCs, up to 5 cameras, and improved displays. Only one, the Galaxy S10 5G, will feature a Qualcomm 5G modem.
Microsoft and HoloLens 2
Microsoft continues its push in mixed reality with the introduction of the new HoloLens 2. The new headset offers significant improvements over the first generation at a reduced $3,500 price tag. While the new HoloLens is still too bulky and pricey to be classified as a consumer device, it does hold promise for enterprise applications like design and maintenance. The HoloLens 2 features 2-3 hours of active battery life, a 3:2 aspect ratio, 2K resolution per eye, a 65-degree horizontal field of view, and eye-tracking and eye-rendering, a host of sensors for 6DoF position-tracking and gesture control, an 8MP camera capable of 1080p30 video, and a microphone array and built-in speakers for spatial audio. For connectivity, the HoloLens 2 uses Wi-Fi 802.11ax 2x2, Bluetooth 5.0, and USB-C. For processing, the HoloLens 2 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 SoC and the 2nd-Generation Holographic Processing Unit from Microsoft. Note that there is no x86 processor in this generation and it is significantly lighter than the first generation.
Huawei also entered the foldable smartphone foray with the Mate X. From first appearances, it looks like a better design than the Samsung Galaxy Fold by using only a single screen that folds out rather than in (the Galaxy Fold has an additional screen on the outside). In all it offers a larger screen in a very slim and nice-looking device. Like the Galaxy, it uses dual batteries, which is going to be necessary to get a full day of use out of these larger displays. The Mate X also features multiple cameras, including wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto. The Mate X is a 5G device but comes in at an even more outrageous price of €2,299 (about $2,600) for 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The Mate X will be powered by a HiSilicon Kirin 980 SoC and Huawei Balong 5000 5G chipset.
Huawei also introduced two new Matebooks. The Matebook X Pro will have Intel’s 8th gen Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of storage, and a discrete GPU option for €1,599 (~ $1,800). The Matebook 14 for €1,199 (~$1,360).
Xiaomi introduced its new Mi 9 premium smartphone with 64GB/128GB options for E449/E499 in Europe. The Mi 9 features a 6.39” AMOLED display, 6GB of RAM, a 3300mAh battery, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC. The Mi9 phone will not be available in the US.
Nokia goes after the avid photographer again with a new PureView smartphone that has 5 tandem cameras. Nokia also introduced a range of phones, including the Nokia 4.2 with Android Pie with a 5.71” display, the Snapdragon 439 and up to 3GB of RAM; the Nokia 3.2 with a 6.26” display, Android 9.0 Pie, and a Snapdragon 429 SoC with up to 3GB of RAM starting at $139 the Nokia 1 Plus for Android Go with a 5.45” display, MediaTek SoC, 1G of RAM, and up to 16GB of storage for $100; and a $35 Nokia 210.
LG announced an add-on case that features a second display for its new 5G V50 ThinQ smartphone. This is probably the least valuable large screen option of any of the major smartphone OEMs. LG also hinted to a new G8 ThinQ.
Sony introduced the tall Xperia 10 and 10 plus with 21:9 displays and the Xperia 1 with a 4K HDR OLED display and three cameras with autofocus eye tracking adapted from its A7 III mirrorless camera.
Alcatel introduced the Alcatel 3 and 3L with 19.5:9 tall displays and dual rear cameras and the Snapdragon 439 (8-core) plus 4GB of RAM and Snapdragon 429 (4-core) with 2GB of RAM, respectively. They are not fancy, but they are targeting more budget minded consumers at E159 (~$180) and E139 (~$158). The Alcatel 1S is available with an 18:9 display and other lower specifications for just E109 (~124).
ZTE introduced the Axon 10 Pro 5G with a 6.3” display,
BlackBerry introduced the KEY2Rd Edition with a build in keyboard and 128GB of storage for $749. Priced a bit high for a mid-range phone.
Vuzix introduced the M400 Smart Glasses using the new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 SoC. The headset will run on Android and will have a USB-C connectivity. The new platform will be available later this year and targeted toward enterprise. Pricing was not available.
More Folding: Not to be outdone be everyone else, Oppo also introduced a prototype foldable phone and LG and Xiaomi are also reportedly working on a foldable phones.
In terms of technology, Qualcomm kept the focus on 5G by introducing a complete 2nd generation platform for 5G devices that included everything except an SoC with an integrated modem, but it did hint at one. The 2nd-gen 5G platform is already sampling to OEMs even before the first 5G solutions are in the hands of consumers.
Read about it here in Forbes: Qualcomm Introduces 2nd-Gen 5G Before Consumers Have 1st-Gen 5G
In addition, Qualcomm is introducing a version of Quick Charge technology for wireless charging that will support both the Quick Charge and Qi standards. Apparently, Xiaomi is the first OEM offering a qualified Quick Charge wireless pad. Qualcomm also introduced its first platform for connected robots and drones dubbed the RB3. The RB3 is based on the Snapdragon 845 but is optimized for robots and drones with a focus on supporting AI and sensor processing. This may prove to be a highly competitive segment with other companies also focused on this segment including Intel, NVIDIA, and NXP.
T-Mobile announced delays in rolling out 5G services to the 2H2019. Meanwhile, Sprint, which may soon be a division of T-Mobile, is rolling out 5G services starting in May. The T-Mobile announcement is a rarity in the launch of 5G, where most carriers have been pulling in launch dates. The merger, however, is still facing political scrutiny.
Android just became FIDO2 certified meaning that users can sign into apps and websites using a fingerprint or physical security key. This requires Android 7.0 Nougat and a newer device, but it will eliminate many of the hassles of logging into each app or account.
FTC vs. Qualcomm
The proceedings for the FTC v. Qualcomm case came to a close and the decision is now in the hands of Judge Lucy Koh. Because the outcome of this case could impact the entire business model for the mobile and wireless segments, we have covered it extensively. What we found was the following:
- The FTC’s often confused its argument by introducing information that was beyond the defined scope of the case
- The FTC’s witness provided only theoretical analysis, nothing based on the what actually happened in the industry
- The FTC failed to provide any proof of harm, which is required in such cases according to a recent decision by the supreme court
Even with these key points, it is impossible to determine the outcome of the trial. Everyone is anxiously awaiting Judge Koh’s decision. TIRIAS analysts have written extensively on this case and its implications for the industry on Forbes.com.
Apple vs. Qualcomm
In other aspects of the ongoing battle between Apple and Qualcomm, one case has begun in San Diego and several more are scheduled around the world over the next few months. Additionally, Qualcomm filed another patent infringement suit against Apple in the US, like the ones filed in China and Germany, where Apple was found in violation of the patents. Rather than seeking an injunction, the new case is seeking damages. The saga continues.
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TIRIAS Researchers Around the Globe!
Find TIRIAS Research during these dates at these events.
- OCP, San Jose, CA, March 14-15 (Kevin Krewell)
- GDC, San Francisco, CA, March 21-22 (Kevin Krewell)
- GTC, San Jose, CA, March 18-21 (Kevin Krewell & Jim McGregor)
For meetings with the TIRIAS Research staff, please reach out to the analyst.
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Kevin Krewell, Jim McGregor
TIRIAS Research is a high-tech research and advisory firm, an independent third-party resource to high-tech companies. We provide custom research and advisory services on technologies, markets and ecosystems to a select group of technology industry leaders. Our Principal Analysts have decades of in-depth expertise in silicon, software, and systems specification, design and deployment.
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