Great User Experience For All
Normally when you are looking at what is going to happen in the coming year, the focus is on the high-end superphones. This year great things will be happening in both the entry-level and mid-level smartphones.
Unless you are lucky enough to live in a market where handsets are heavily subsidized, a $600 smartphone is beyond reach for most consumers, but now, you can great user experience from $50. This was demonstrated by a Spreadtrum-based smartphone, which features the ARM Cortex™-A5 processor and Mali™-300 GPU, showcased in the ARM booth. The device showed a smooth UI, combined with a responsive user experience. If this phone came in a better case, it could have been your superphone from 3 years ago.
The next big hit for me was the quad-core Cortex-A7 processor-based handsets and tablets. The Cortex-A7 processor is the LITTLE in big.LITTLE™ processing, and it delivers a very good user experience. With a size of 0.5mm2 in 28nm, it allows ARM’s silicon partners to deliver quad-core SoCs into the mass market. On our booth, we showed off an AllWinner quad-core Cortex-A7 processor-based tablet, with a 2048 x 1536 display capable of playing 4K video -- very impressive for a tablet with a retail price of $250. Another quad-core Cortex-A7 processor-based device at the ARM booth, we had a pre-production, MediaTek-based handset offered by Alcatel/TCL with extremely nice mechanicals and screen. This device impressed me so much that I’m trying it out as my day-to-day phone. Assuming that I do not offend ATT with this strange device on their network, I hope to share my experiences with you in a later blog.
So in 2013 from $50 upwards, you will be able to buy some great entry-level and mid-tier handsets, which are based on Android. The additional dynamic in this market is the launch of Firefox OS and Ubuntu Mobile, targeting these lower price points. It is going to be very interesting to see how this market develops.
Supercharging Your Superphone
The big change that you are going to see in your superphone over the coming year is a doubling in the performance of your smartphone from both the graphics and CPU perspective. I predict that my next Superphone will have the CPU performance of my work-issued laptop. We had some great demos of these new CPU and GPU capabilities on our booth including:
- Samsung Eynos 5 Octa with big.LITTLE processing in action
- Nexus 10 showing a stunning demo of the Unreal graphics engine running on a 1080p and 2.5K screen simultaneously. If you asked my work-issued laptop to do this, it would just curl up in the corner and wimper at its pathetic graphics capabilities.
- GPU compute allowing your smartphone to increase its imaging and video processing by over 5x, photo editing will never be the same on your smartphone or tablet again.
The really exciting trend to watch this year will be to see how the OEMs and the app developers take advantage of these new capabilities.
Other Things That Caught My Eye
The following is a random list of things that caught my attention at MWC:
- NVIDIA Project Shield: I was very impressed with the mechanical design of the Shield and how it felt “right” in my hands. Though I am one of the world’s worst gamers, I can see my son, who is an avid PC and Android gamer pestering me for one of these.
- Water-resistant Phones: I was very pleased that Sony is bringing water resistant phones to the US; anything that helps your valuable smartphone last longer is well worth while. The only question I have is, it also beer proof?
- Brightly Colored Phone Bodies: As a person who has problem finding phones down the side of car seats, airplane seats, etc., I’m all for the trend of fun colors. My favorite was the orange of the Firefox OS demo phone.
- Low light Cameras: Hats off to HTC for focusing on quality of pixels, rather than number of pixels on the HTC One. A camera that worked in low light would have allowed me to capture some very interesting images at MWC.
I have no prediction on MWC 2014 itself, but here is my prediction of the smartphone that I will be carrying:
- Based on big.LITTLE processing with Cortex-A15/Cortex-A7 processors offering stunning performance and user experience.
- Stunning console graphics to distract people from my gaming skills using the Mali-T628.
- Camera that works well in low light to capture that full MWC experience.
- GPU compute that will quickly allow me to edit, enhance, and share the most
embarrassinginteresting photos of my colleagues at MWC.
- Phone in orange.
I’m 100% sure I will get 4 out of 5 of these, but the orange (color not operator) phone is less likely.
James Bruce, Lead Mobile Strategist, ARM, is based in Silicon Valley. James is without doubt a gadget guy who is continuously looking at the latest devices and services on them. Working for ARM allows James to see what technology will be on your mobile device in 3 to 5 years time. This view of the future combined with being based in Silicon Valley and having worked on mobile for the last 12 years allows James to have a unique view of mobile technology. At the moment James is enjoying the latest quad core CortexTM-A9, quad core MaliTM-400 smartphone, but is waiting impatiently for next years Cortex-A15 phone.
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