On March 1st and 2nd 2014, the eyes and ears of NASCAR fans were on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race being held at Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona (PIR). While fans were nervously biting their nails during the race and cheering ecstatically when their favorite driver pulled off a pass, we at Qualcomm joined them. Admittedly, we were not there only to see the spectacle of NASCAR. Phoenix International Raceway was the venue for the joint trial among Sprint, NASCAR and Qualcomm Technologies. The companies were stress-testing and validating the “hyper-dense small cells” concept and our “UltraSON” suite of features. And when the results were in, we were as ecstatic—perhaps more so than the fans of the winning car and driver.
Posts tagged ‘Qualcomm’
If there was any proof that what smartphone users really, really want is LTE then the exciting story of the Google Nexus Phone and the Phantom LTE chip should put paid to that.
When Google released its latest smartphone, the Nexus 4, all and sundry were duly shocked and surprised to find that it lacked LTE support. This truly was unexpected, as all recent flagship smartphone releases, such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the iPhone 5 have featured LTE support.
Google’s explanation for this, delivered by Android head honcho Andy Rubin, was that it was a ‘tactical issue’, which of course means nothing. He also cited cost and battery life concerns but the most likely suggestion for the omission that I have seen is that if Google included LTE that it would not have had to do deals with the carriers in the US to get onto their network, and that would have prevented it from selling the phone unlocked in its own online store – which would essentially defeat the purpose of having a Google branded phone, and eat into its revenue.
However, it turned out that while LTE was not on the list, it had still gatecrashed the party.
iFixit, a web site that loves its teardowns, where a gadget is taken apart to find out what lurks within, discovered that there was indeed, an LTE chip nestling inside the LG manufactured phone. So why was it not turned on?
This time the explanation had to come from LG, and the quote was:
“In order to provide the best possible specification for Nexus 4, LG utilised the same powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset as can be found in its 4G LTE product, namely LG Optimus G. This powerful chipset is only available with a combined processor and modem and cannot be implemented separately.”
In other words it was cheaper for LG to leave the LTE chip in there than use a different chipset sans LTE.
The reason it could not be activated LG said was the LTE requires a dedicated antenna and filter to operate correctly for each frequency. This is what adds, bulk, cost and complexity to smartphones and one of the reasons why not all bands can be supported.
That seemed to be the end of that, until it turns out that some crafty people had managed to get that LTE chip to do its thing using some software tweaks. Users on the XDA developers forum (or in other words – hackers!) discovered a settings menu that enables them to turn on the LTE- and lo and behold it worked. So is this affordable LTE for everyone? (The Nexus 4 only costs around £250, compared to £600 for an iPhone 5).
Well, not for everyone. The hardware only supports Band 4, which is 2110MHz for the downlink and 1710MHz for the uplink. The only operator that use that is Telus in Canada, which is great for them, but not much use anywhere else. (See missing antenna’s and filters mentioned earlier).
It’s interesting though, as it reveals how politics, control and money can affect how devices and gadgets are implemented. It also demonstrates that ‘old skool’ hackery is alive and well. We are in the ‘post-PC era’ and mobile phones, particularly if they are running Android, are like PCs ‘back in the day’ – intriguing, powerful, and eminently hackable.
So Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, the co founders of ailing Blackberry smartphone maker RIM, have finally seen sense and stepped down. It seems that they have finally done what everybody has been telling them to do for some time – get up, get out and get a clue. Whatever RIM has been doing over the past few years, clearly hasn’t been working, with the company losing market share faster than something that loses market share really fast, going downhill. Like Nokia.
It’s a welcome move, but if we were being kind we have to admit that we don’t think that new boss Thorsten Heins has quite the charisma of a Steve Jobs – we can’t see him easily inspiring the troops to innovate it’s way out of trouble. If we were mean, and we’re not, we’d say he seems too conservative, too boring.
Well, we’re a bit mean. He’s seems boring.
What RIM simply needs is a hit, and with Apple and Android phones continually upping their game, not to mention the possibility of a resurgent Windows Phone powered Nokia, that’s going to be a tall order.
The hope is that Blackberry 10 devices and PlayBook 2 updates will save the say, but as ever with RIM these are subject to delays. The suggestions are that RIM is waiting for new LTE chipsets from Qualcomm. On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with that – after all, Apple doing the same. However, Apple is the second richest company in the world and its phones so successful it barely updated the last one and still had a monster hit on its hand. For RIM however, the clock is ticking.
The problem is, the reasons to want a Blackberry are now smaller than ever. RIM came into existence on the back of email – a unique appeal that pretty much went with the introduction of the first smartphones. Then there’s the enterprise integration and security – areas the competition are making huge strides in. In fact you could argue that much of its continued success is from momentum of an existing customer base rather than any genuine technical advantages.
I personally know of one IT department at a large law firm that is exclusively a RIM shop, investigating the competitors as an insurance policy in case its main supplier goes belly up, and I’m sure it’s not the only one.
Then there’s its biggest remaining pull for many is from the “I have to have a keyboard” brigade – but my long held view is that this bunch are just stick-in-the-muds. The benefit of a smartphone is as an internet device, and taking up half its space with a keyboard virtually negates that; browsing on a Blackberry is unquestionably poor compared to a large screened iPhone, iPod touch or Android device.
So can RIM actually afford not to get new product out there quickly? If it is goes early and chooses to go with HSPA devices, it will be seen as a lagging behind, even if Blackberry customers are not the ones who are likely to actually need LTE speed. It could go for the current LTE chipsets, but that would force even more design compromises, and negate battery life that is probably its one real boon over that of the iPhone and Android brigade.
The face is that it’s caught between a rock and a hard place and in essence it is going to be forced to wait it out. And while Apple can bide its time, and use it to further improve the iPhone 5 or count its stash of cash, RIM will have to just cling on, and hope that when those suitably downsized, power efficient Qualcommm LTE chipsets finally appear, there’s still a company to make use of them.