It’s the time of year when consumer electronics companies like Apple, Motorola Mobility, Samsung, and Nokia show off myriad engineering accomplishments via the smart phones and tablets they expect to release in time for the holidays.
None of these companies are resting on their laurels. They are all pushing the envelope in terms of speed, power, display technology, and other areas to make sure consumers are sufficiently awed to give up the old and purchase the new.
Speed Ramps Up
Smart phones with dual 1.5-GHz processors are all the rage. Nokia’s Lumia 920, for example, is powered by Qualcomm’s 1.5-GHz Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor. Apple’s iPhone5 (not yet announced at the time of this writing) may up the ante. Its processor is rumored to be a quad-core A6 system-on-chip (SoC) with increased clock speed CPU and GPU.
On the tablet side, Google’s Nexus 7 employs the NVidia Tegra 3, which boasts a quad CPU core with a fifth battery-saver CPU core. As a quad-core device, it runs at 1.4 GHz, but increases to 1.5 GHz when just a single core is being used.
I recently attended Motorola Mobility’s new smart-phone lineup rollout—the Droid Razr M, Droid Razr HD, and Droid Razor HD Maxx. The company was reticent about revealing the manufacturer of the dual 1.5-GHz processor that runs these phones, but it made an important point about software and communications technology.
Since Google acquired Motorola Mobility, the Android OS on the phone—Ice Cream Sandwich now, Jelly Bean coming soon—also includes the Chrome browser as a standard feature. This undoubtably helps with browsing speed.
Finally, these phones are being released on partner Verizon’s 4G LTE network. So fast phone, fast browsing, and fast data transfer will make for a very satisfying user experience.
One of the distinguishing features of the Droid Razr HD Maxx is the size of the battery. Its whopping 3300-mAh battery can power the device for 32 hours with an expected talk time of 21 hours.
How did Motorola do it? At more than 5 in. long with a thickness slightly larger than the HD model, the Droid Razr HD Maxx can simply hold a larger lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. To learn more about battery technology, read “Using Lithium Polymer Batteries In Portable Devices” from Electrochem (formerly Micro Power) at http://bit.ly/RkrtKm.
Apple’s iPhone5 is rumored to have a larger battery as well due to a new technology called in-cell touch that essentially reduces the display’s thickness. For more technical details on in-cell touch, visit http://engt.co/Qs9jEw.
Engineers have been working on easier ways to recharge the batteries, too. The Droid Razr M (see the figure) that I’m testing has an adapter with a USB socket built into it. Not only does the USB cable (with a Micro-B plug going to the phone) serve as the cable for the adapter, it also can be removed from the adapter and plugged into a PC for an alternate and convenient way to recharge.
The Nokia Lumia 920’s integrated coil for wireless charging complies with the Qi standard. IMS Research (recently acquired by IHS) calls this an important milestone for the market’s development. Shipments of devices that are enabled with wireless power are projected to grow from 5 million units this year to close to 100 million by 2015. IMS expects phones that integrate wireless power functionality to be critical to driving this adoption.
Smart phones and tablets have a plethora of other power management features, too. IHS iSuppli preliminarily estimates that the global revenue for power management semiconductors reached $7.9 billion in the second quarter, which is a 9.7% percent increase from $7.2 billion in the first quarter, due to strong demand from electronic products including smart phones and media tablets.
There’s lots of other neat engineering going on in the latest smart phones and tablets including improvements in display technology, audio, cameras, sensors, and connectivity. There’s so much innovation that it’s becoming increasingly harder to resist upgrading your devices.