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Motorola exec details Droid design challenges

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:computing? smart phone? Motorola Droid design? software?

The PC is no longer the center of gravity as the smart phone rises to be the platform for embedded computing. Motorola is addressing this shift in the marketplace with the Droid design.

Iqbal Arshad, corporate VP of innovation products at Motorola Mobile Devices Inc., recently recalled how Motorola being eight years behind its competitors pooled all its strength and needed resources to innovate itself out of possible oblivion as a mobile device provider.

"We succeeded with the Droid because we addressed the target consumer with a laser focus," said Arshad in his keynote here at the Design Automation Conference.

Arshad is responsible for delivering for all aspects of hardware and software for Motorola's smart phone products including the latest Droid product line.

Arshad said it was a struggle to come up to par to the competition.

"We decided to deliver a larger screen in the same form factor with more features than a comparable smart phone," said Arshad. "It is based on a brand new system design with a complete new manufacturing and supply chain."

What became know internally as "mission impossible" had the Droid design team working practically around the clock, according to Arshad.

One challenge was to design with separate electrical and mechanical design tools. "We just could not use each separately because of the tight form factor specifications so we came out with our own custom tools."

"We applied a rapid system prototyping process to ram maximum function in the smallest possible space," said Arshad. For instance, designers developed a special 13.7mm keypad in a forged aluminum package and used non-assist sliders for the capacitive touch front keys on a proprietary Motorola board. This innovation yielded the thinnest possible keyboard.

To save more space the USB connector was laid out in a portrait location, not the usual landscape, again to save space.

A double VGA 3.7-inch display was optimized for the Web. "Had we used the 3.4-inch displays found in other smart phones, we would not have been able to be Web-friendly," said Arshad.

"Packaging RF, antenna and modem was a global product design that yielded an antenna system that is a best in class GPS system. Motorola's RF experience and tons of measuring tools helped ensure that," said Arshad.

"We had to develop our advanced simulation routines using standard tools, as well as custom tools for mechanical, board and thermal requirements," said Arshad.

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