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Smarter feature handsets to invade mobile market

Posted: 26 Feb 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:feature phone? mobile market? Wi-Fi? GPS? Bluetooth?

EE Times checked in with several leading mobile chip vendors to ask about trends in the mobile handset market, products and strategies going forward. The following is from a written interview conducted with Robert Nalesnik, senior director of marketing with Broadcom Corp.'s mobile platforms group.

EE TimesWhat are the three biggest changes (new trends in business, apps, OS, hot features, technology, geography, etc.) you are seeing on the mobile handset market in 2010 and beyond?
Robert Nalesnik: Feature phones are getting "smarter." Capabilities previously seen only on high-end smart phones are rapidly trickling down into the more affordable feature phone category. Features like touchscreens, optimized Web browsers, web widgets, GPS, Wi-Fi, highly capable multimedia and downloadable applications. These "smart feature" phones are quietly opening up the mobile Web to a much broader audience. As an example, according to Samsung, one of their recent smart feature handsets achieved the fastest ramp to 10 million units in the company's history.

"Cellphone" is quickly becoming a misnomer. It is no longer just about cellular technology; handset capability is increasingly defined by the benefits brought with integration of multiple wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, FM radio and NFC. The advent of cost-effective wireless "combo" chips is broadly driving multiple wireless standards beyond smart phones into high-volume mobile handsets. While Bluetooth is in the majority of phones today, expect to see combos drive GPS and Wi-Fi attach rates to this threshold within several years.

Your mobile phone is about to go high definition. While many phones have camcorders, they are not widely used given the low resolution and poor quality. Cellphone cameras have improved, but many are still far from compact digital camera quality or features. Mobile multimedia quality is about to take a big step forward in 2010 and beyond from major cellphone suppliers. Expect to see your new phone include a 1080p camcorder, 20 megapixel camera with image stabilization and smile detection, significantly improved video enabled web browser, console quality gaming, and connection to HDTVs via HDMI to play games and view your favorite videos and pictures.

What are the new requirementsimposed by handset OEMs and carriers for mobile handset chip vendors?
Software is clearly becoming a more significant mobile platform component. Open operating systems such as Android are gaining traction, and major handset vendors are adding open interfaces to proprietary handset operating systems to enable downloadable applications as well. OS multimedia infrastructure requires significant upgrading and linkage to optimized hardware accelerators to handle the increased demands of high definition mobile video and graphics. Integration of multiple wireless technologies and radios in space-constrained handsets presents co-existence challenges. Customers expect us to support these advancements and resolve these challenges by providing a level of pre-integration with our chipsets.

Handset security is getting more attention as mobile Internet usage expands. Handset OEMs and carriers are spending a lot more time specifying security requirements and probing hardware and software implementation details. Expectations are that chip vendors must take a holistic approach to security across the design, manufacturing and deployment phases.

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