Info & Phones News
Qualcomm introduced an end-to-end Bluetooth Smart Headset reference design that hardware makers can use to develop headsets with Amazon's Alexa on board. The reference design shows developers how they can add push-button activation support for Alexa to hearables connected to Android phones. The reference hardware includes Qualcomm's QCC5100 series Bluetooth audio chips as well as all the key hardware and software to allow for quick and efficient designing and engineering. The reference design also demonstrates ultra-low power consumption, Qualcomm cVc noise reduction for improved audio, and aptX HD for the best possible music reproduction. The Qualcomm Smart Headset Development Kit should speed up time to market, as Qualcomm has done the bulk of the needed coding for Alexa integration. This will let headphone makers plug in that code so they can concentrate on other aspects of their hardware. The real goal for Qualcomm is to convince OEMs to use its QCC5100 Bluetooth chips in their designs. Similarly, Qualcomm said it is partnering with several original design manufacturers to launch reference designs for wearables. It is working with Compal Electronics and Longcheer on smartwatches, Huaqin and Thundersoft on 4G kid watches, Franklin Wireless on 4G smart trackers, and Smartcom on 4G connected end-to-end solutions. Once these reference designs are all worked out, hardware makers should more easily be able to add Wear OS to devices that rely on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 for smartwatches, open Android on the Snapdragon Wear 2500 for kid watches, and other platforms on the Snapdragon Wear 1100 and 1200 for smart trackers. Some of these will support 2G/3G devices, while others will support LTE 4G. Qualcomm didn't put a timeframe on the completion of these reference designs.
Qualcomm is targeting companies that manufacture Apple products in an attempt to recover royalty payments. Qualcomm sued Foxconn, Pegatron, Wistron, and Compal Electronics seeking patent fees. Apple is withholding about $1 billion in royalties from Qualcomm after it sued the company in January for overcharging for patents and technology licenses. The move is just the latest in a series of legal maneuvers between the two companies. "While not disputing their contractual obligations to pay for the use of Qualcomm's inventions, the manufacturers say they must follow Apple's instructions not to pay," said Qualcomm in a statement. Apple said it will support its suppliers until the dispute with Qualcomm is resolved. Qualcomm is being sued by the FTC, Apple, and other companies over its patent-licensing practices. The FTC says Qualcomm's business practices may violate antitrust laws.
Qualcomm made a slew of announcements across its various business units today. First, it introduced the RF360, a next-generation suite of radio products for phones spanning entry-level through flagships. The portfolio includes what Qualcomm claims is the first 40MHz envelope tracker for tuning multiple antennas and switches, along with a power amplifier. The suite will lead to slimmer handsets that have better battery life and improved wireless performance. Next, Qualcomm said it has partnered with Samsung to create the Samsung LTE-U eFemto cell, which relies on the Qualcomm FSM9955 chipset. The eFemto is able to provide LTE service over unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band. The company has also added support for the Khronos Vulkan API to the Adreno 530 GPU. This graphics processor is paired with Qualcomm's top-of-the-line Snapdragon 820 processor. Together, the 820, 530, and Vulkan API will lead to dramatically improved 3D gaming on mobile handsets. Qualcomm says several ODMs have agreed to make reference designs using the recently announced Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC for wearables. Borqs, Compal Electronics, and Infomark will generate designs that device makers can pick up and use in their own smartwatches and fitness bands. Last, Qualcomm says its Haven authentication framework now supports hardware-backed biometric fingerprint authentication for Tencent's WeChat mobile payment service. This means WeChat customers will be able to use their fingerprint rather than a PIN or password to authorize payments on their handsets. This tech is limited to China for now, but Qualcomm expects to see it expand over time.
BlackBerry and Cisco today announced that they have signed a long-term patent cross-licensing agreement. The agreement applies to a number of products and technologies, though the companies didn't specify which ones. BlackBerry will receive royalty payments from Cisco as part of the deal, which is being kept confidential. Companies often strike patent agreements, and BlackBerry and Cisco have a history of sharing information with one another. BlackBerry also reported its first-quarter financial results today. The company said it shipped about 1.1 million smartphones during the period. During the company's call with press and analysts, CEO John S. Chen said he's pulled resources from the handset team and moved them to software and internet-of-things efforts. His goal is to make the handset team profitable, which is why the company recently reduced its headcount in that business unit. The company has added to its list of ODMs and signed agreements with Wistron and Compal Electronics, which will manufacture its phones along with Foxconn. BlackBerry posted a loss of $28 million on revenues of $658 million.
HTC has begun using other companies to build some of its devices, according toThe Wall Street Journal. The company has asked Taiwan-based Compal and China-based Wingtech to manufacture its mid-range Desire series phones. Outsourcing the manufacture of these devices is meant to help HTC cut costs. HTC has faced financial troubles for years, and posted losses in its two most recent financial quarter. HTC still makes its high-end One series devices in-house, where it has more control over processes. Apple has long outsourced the manufacturing of its iPhones and iPads to Asia-based corporations. Nokia has begun outsourcing some of its manufacturing, though Samsung and LG continue to make their own hardware. The Journal says HTC's moves reflect more active engagement of Chairwoman Cher Wang, who has stepped up in recent months to help CEO Peter Chou. HTC did not comment on the Journal's report.