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What’s Next After Apple’s A6?

21 Sep

The iPhone 5’s A6 can be said to be a highly customized processor. Compared to ordinary ARM CPUs, the chip’s strength revolves mostly around its processing speed and energy efficiency. One surprising find is that the ARM Cortex-A9 quad core chip used in certain Android devices does not necessarily perform better than the new iPhone’s ARM-15 dual core chip, even though both processors are essentially fabricated from the same 32nm process. This serves not only as a testament to the advantages of the Cortex-15 architecture, but also an indication of the potential benefits for manufacturers producing complex ARM core processors (for instance, Samsung, TI, and Qualcomm). It can be argued that in the future, the nature of market competition will be largely determined by how various manufacturers go about designing and customizing their Cortex-15 chips.


As Apple’s previous A5 and A5X were manufactured by Samsung, each chip’s design borrows heavily from the Korean company’s existing ARM processors. The A6 chip, however, is mostly Apple’s creation. Other than following the necessary ARM standards, Apple made sure to add many of its own unique touches to the Cortex-15 processor, in effect opening up room for incorporating further performance-related improvements.

Taking into account the potential for iPhone 5 sales to reach 100 million units, and given that Apple not only spent $400 million USD on acquiring PA Semi and other companies, but also another $100 million on development, a single iPhone 5 handset can be estimated to have incurred $5 USD for each A6 chip, and $15 to $20 USD for the CPU’s manufacturing cost. Apparently, Apple has placed a major emphasis on the development of the iPhone 5’s dual core processor. This is understandably crucial to helping it maintain its competitive edge within the future mobile hardware market.

TrendInsider forecasts that by the time the fourth generation iPad hits the market, the high-end processor that will be utilized –be it the standard or advanced A6 chip– is certain to have better clock speed and higher efficiency. This feature will arguably make the next iPad a heavy weight champion within the tablet industry. At present, both the A6 and A5 used in current Apple devices are ARMv7 processors. In the future, new ARMv8 processors will be introduced, and will be certain to show remarkable improvement in the functionality and efficiency departments.

It is predicted that A6X, Apple’s next gen A6 chip, will appear at around 2013. On the other hand, the new ARM processor, A7, is likely to debut sometime during 2014. By that time, Apple may no longer use Samsung for manufacturing processor chips, and may instead rely on potential partners like TSMC and Intel.

According to TrendInsider, judging by the present 32nm A6’s die size, chances are high that manufacturing advancements will bring about further developments. We believe that an upgraded SoC chip will allow for enhanced memory based capabilities, increased transfer rates, better capacity, and more remarkable GPU performance. At present, though, not even Apple has been able to achieve a breakthrough in this area, let alone other manufacturers. This is certain to be the next big area of development in the periods to follow.

How about That? $175 BOM for 16GB iPhone 5

12 Sep

With the iPhone 5 ready to launch in the US today, one question remains: will the 6 year “golden” tech champion be able to create another astounding, technological miracle? Not only does the iPhone contribute to over 46% of Apple’s revenue, the handset from each respective generation has also been able to consistently maintain 50% profit.

BOM of iPhone 5

At a time when the smartphone terrain was going through a drought, the iPhone was able to surprise many with just moderate hardware capabilities. With the iPhone4 having increased the performance and capabilities up by a whole notch, the Cupertino giant is not far from releasing perfect, 10-point smartphone. The iPhone 5 will be Apple’s last smartphone device that received creative input from the late Steve Jobs, and the first major Apple product to be released since Tim Cook took charge as CEO. The handset is both an indicator of the company’s future success and a product that helps us understand how the market may potentially assess the Cupertino giant’s performance.

Production-wise, the costs for most of iPhone 5’s components are lower than those of the iPhone 4S.TrendInsider estimates the profit of Apple will increase no matter how good or bad the iPhones 5 sales go. As the cost savings allow Apple to potentially experiment with different things, we look forward to seeing what surprises Apple has in store with its new product.

iPhone 5 will be increase sales of iPads and Macs, also thesales of apps, online music and video streaming.These sales will add to Apple’s profit.

New Prism Battery Technology to Potentially Change Laptop Structure

6 Sep

As many may be aware, most traditional notebooks utilize cylindrical batteries. These are generally found at the bottom of a laptop device and can be conveniently removed or replaced by its users. Ultrabooks, on the other hand, generally use flat, lithium polymer batteries that are embedded within the hardware device. The cost and price of these cells are a lot higher than those of the traditional ones, which explains why the retail prices of MacBook Air and other ultra books tend to be so expensive.

In the future, there will likely be a new form of battery similar to the slim ones found in cell phones, but only bigger. These are known as Prism Batteries, and many are already used in smart-phone and tablet pc products. If proper adjustments are applied within the manufacturing process, then the new battery models can be made by the same production equipments that makes the cylindrical batteries. Compared to the lithium cells used for ultrabooks, one of the major benefits of the new batteries is that they can be standardized.

With the release of the new battery models, an opening can be made in the rear of light ultrabooks or any “ultrabook-like” products, allowing users the convenience of replacing the battery with ease. At the moment, replacing customized batteries for existing ultrabooks not only burdens the users, but is inappropriate to the hardware as well.

According to TrendInsider, the NB manufacturers likely to utilize the new battery technology will be those equipped with better design and manufacturing capabilities rather than those that rely heavily on ODMs and OEMs. It is predicted that leading US and Korean manufacturers will utilize the new battery standard to create a notebook that not only blurs the boundary between traditional laptops and ultrabooks, but also comes at a cheaper price.

Microsoft Surface 2 to be Announced in 2013 following Surface Launch in 2012

24 Aug

Microsoft’s Surface is known to utilize the Windows RT system, which runs specifically on ARM microprocessors. With competitors like Toshiba and HP being somewhat reluctant to jump onto the Windows 8 RT tablet bandwagon, it is likely that the Surface tablet will not only gain major spotlight upon release, but also receive a lot of favorable momentum –as well as attention– within the market.

Out of all the competing manufacturers out there, TrendInsider believes Lenova to have given the most appropriate response to Microsoft’s hardware ambitions. While the former is by no means trying to venture into Windows RT tablet territory, the company remains adamant in its desire to maintain strong ties with Microsoft, viewing the software giant as both an important partner and respectable competitor.

It can be said that by sidestepping the usual software realm and opting to go further into hardware territory, Microsoft has not only entered into a new mode of thinking, but is also beginning to re-define its relationships with surrounding competitors.

From the Taiwanese OEM partner Pegatron, Microsoft estimates that by the end of 2012, an approximate total of 10 million Surface tablets could be assembled and shipped. TrendInsider, though, believes that the actual number may be a lot lower, given how the price of the tablet can easily affect consumer behavior. The 10 million shipment figure would not be impossible if the tablet were actually released with a $199 USD price tag. If Microsoft were to launch the Surface at $299 USD, however, the actual shipment number may only be at around 4 to 5 million units.

One major advantage of Microsoft’s Surface is that it does not have to incur costs related to the authorization of Windows software like Office. A benefit like this gives the Surface a formidable position within the tablet industry, since it would have a major competitive edge over potential rivals in terms of cost-efficiency.

From recent observations, TrendInsider has realized that the Surface tablet is being promoted and marketed in a manner similar to the XBOX 360. Given the success of the gaming console, Microsoft can be said to have found the right team to handle and support the Surface line.

The fact that Surface uses the NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor indicates how far the partnership amongst Microsoft, Pegatron, NVIDIA have gone since the XBOX 360 days. Considering the tablet’s utilization of the ARM microprocessor, NVIDIA should be more than able to showcase the Surface’s hardware capability. With regards to the tablet’s screen, reports indicate that the panels will be provided by two major Korean manufacturers.

Surface 2?

As an interesting side note, TrendInsider was recently able to confirm Microsoft’s plans to launch Surface 2 in 2013. About a few weeks ago, the media has been keen on Microsoft’s department transfers and employee movements, both of which eventually revealed that a new Surface tablet is in the works.

Update: iPhone and iPad Mini Components Shortage Issue Could Impact Apple’s Performance during Peak Season

23 Aug

TrendInsider recently learned that two manufacturers from Korea and Japan will be shipping LCD panels to Apple’s OEM partners beginning from July and August. The total number of panels shipped, on the whole, appears to be relatively small, and is not expected to increase until September or October. It is predicted that for the two following months, the number of panels provided by the three major manufacturers will end up being approximately 10 million units. If we were to add that to the existing panels from July and August, the total iPhone 5’s released in 2H12 will probably only hit 30 million units. Compared to the originally predicted 40-50 million units, the new figure is a lot lower than expected.

For now, it is very likely that there will only be a limited number of iPhone 5’s available when Apple announces the new smartphone. This is not necessarily the result of the end market consumer effect or the anticipated craze towards newly released Apple products. Factors such as Apple’s decision to use new in-cell technology, along with a variety of other component shortage issues, are also expected to limit the initial number of iPhones released.

Regarding the iPad Mini, TrendInsider has noticed that even though the tablet is cruising relatively smoothly throughout the production stage, the number of components received during August and September will not be particularly high, and may only be around 30 million units. Given this situation, it is predicted that upon mass release, the total units of iPad Minis will probably be less than that of the new iPhone.

Taking into account the fact that Apple’s two new products use components that sometimes overlap with one another and that the Cupertino firm is implementing various new hardware designs, a number of manufacturers have begun to also place a greater emphasis on production yield and manufacturing cost. In a way, this is likely to create an interesting new dynamic between buyers and suppliers following the release of Apple’s new iPhone and iPad Mini.

At the moment, TrendInsider believes one of Apple’s greatest weaknesses to be the time it takes to complete the design and production phase, which is evident in Apple’s habit of releasing only one new handset per year. This, in a sense, has made the 4-inch size of the new iPhone somewhat less remarkable than it could have been, given the number of 5-inch phones that already exist in the market. There is no denying, though, that the new screen size is a lot more impressive than that of the 4S.

Whatever happens, the release of the new iPad and iPhone should help us find out whether the new generation of Apple products are worthy of future consumer attention, and the whether Apple has what it takes to exceed expectations in the post-Steve Jobs era.

Component Shortage for iPhone 5 and iPad Mini to Contribute to Lower than Expected Shipments

20 Aug

From the news TrendInsider retrieved from various component vendors and suppliers, it appears that the new iPhone 5, aimed at a possible 3Q12 or 4Q12 release, may not reach the originally intended 40 million shipment target.

The reason for the less than expected shipments can be attributed to the shortage of various major components, which include in-cell panels, aluminum casings, and various other hardware parts. Given the situation, the OEMs responsible for assembling the new iPhones predict that by the end of 2012, only 30 million units of Apple’s new handset will be released within the market. Apple may still satisfy the needs of worldwide consumers in the short run, but the shortages of its upcoming products will more likely than not to be a major issue in the future.

It is predicted, at the moment, that the plummeting iPhone 4 & iPhone 4S sales will continue at a much faster rate than expected. As such, it remains likely that Apple will announce the iPhone 5 as soon as this September. At such a timing, the new handset will quickly replace the iPhone 4 during the October-December peak season, and in turn gain the necessary advantage to thrive within the market.

iPad Mini

Apple’s new 7.85 inch tablet, currently referred to as the “iPad Mini”, is likely to take a major hit from the component shortage as well. While the overall shipment quantity of the new tablet is expected to fall short of the originally planned 13 to 14 million units, the extent of the decline is not expected to exceed that of the iPhone 5.

At present, the quantity of iPad Mini units that are being supplied by manufacturing plants numbers in the range of millions. Aimed at the 2012 peak season, the tablet will likely see an official release date before the end of September or October.

TrendInsider believes that even though the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini are both affected by shortage issues, the two devices do not necessarily share the same set of components. What’s certain is that both devices’ supply quantities will definitely be affected one way or another.

Samsung to Introduce Projector-Embedded Smartphone between 3Q12 and 4Q12

13 Aug

From various sources within the industry, TrendInsider has learned that, beginning August, Samsung will be receiving shipments of LED sourced components designed specifically for pico projectors.

Taking into account the South Korean company’s production schedule as well as the nature of the shipped materials, it is predicted that Samsung may begin releasing projector-embedded smartphones sometime between the end of 3Q12 and 4Q12. From what we know so far, these handsets will be able to project images or videos up to the size of a poster. Under maximum settings, the projected image may reach up to 20-inches, or even greater.

Amongst the LED source materials that are utilized in Samsung’s projector-capable smartphones are RGB LED modules. For the moment, it remains unclear whether this component will be used in Samsung’s Galaxy Note series or in the company’s other set of mobile devices.

Being the first company to promote a handset with a built-in projector, Samsung’s product is likely to prompt a number of strategic moves from Google and Apple. The extent of the handset’s impact on the mobile phone industry, however, is open to much debate. On the one hand, one may argue that projectors are more suitable for laptops, given the amount of energy consumed and the intended use of a projector device. On other hand, a smartphone with an embedded projector does have a reasonable appeal, and may be gimmicky enough to arouse enough interest amongst consumers. Whether the interest will translate into tremendous amounts of revenue, however, is another question entirely.

A smartphone with a projector can be used in such occasions as powerpoint presentations, movie watching, and photo sharing.

Apple Furthers its Expansion with AuthenTec Merger, May Target Twitter Next

31 Jul

Seeing how an increasing number of competitors in the smartphone market are stepping up to challenge Apple’s once indomitable reign (with Samsung’s Galaxy S III apparently doing the most damage so far), the Cupertino based giant seems adamant about employing whatever means necessary to assert its dominant status. One measure the company seems to be particularly good at, as has been observed recently, is making major strategic investments.

Just last Friday, it was announced that Apple acquired AuthenTec, a company known for its fingerprint biometric technology, for an estimated $356 million USD. Representatives from Apple’s side have not officially commented on the matter, although the folks at the security tech firm, along with a number of major news sources, were quick to confirm the acquisition.

Established in 1998, AuthenTec is considered by many to be a leading provider of mobile and network-related security, having provided more than 100 million fingerprint sensors to PC-related products and smartphone devices. With the merger, Apple will not only have access to the company’s wide array of technological patents, it will also be able to strengthen its grasp on consumers who are concerned with mobile network privacy and safety.

Current rumors suggest that Apple may use AuthenTec’s resources to develop such iPhone features as the mobile e-wallet, customizable mobile commerce systems, and fingerprint access sensors. The company’s technology, above all else, could also be utilized to significantly complement Apple’s new “Passbook,” a passport-like feature that will allow users to buy travel tickets, movie passes, and business related coupons. Passbook is expected to appear on iOS 6 and may become a prominent feature of the iPhone 5.

Venturing into the Social Network Territory

In addition to offering potentially unparalleled security services, rumor has it that Apple is also contemplating about strengthening its hold on social networks. New York Times reported a few days ago that the Cupertino tech giant and Twitter have allegedly revived talks concerning a merger that would significantly increase the latter company’s value. While news sources like Wall Street Journal pointed out that the talks actually took place a year ago and believed the partnership negotiations to be temporarily off the table, many have not ruled out the possibility that the two may eventually join forces in the future.

Compared to Facebook, Twitter’s number of active users—approximately 140 million— may not be a monstrous amount, although its continuing growth can potentially help Apple assemble the strong social base that Ping, the Cupertino firm’s attempt at a music social network, had failed to establish.

As reported in earlier articles, companies like HTC is already partnering with Facebook to develop what some believe will be a potentially groundbreaking “social” smartphone. In a way, a stable, large social network is precisely what Apple needs if it wishes to maintain its grip in a smartphone industry that is growing more and more diverse.

iPhone 5 to Use In-Cell Touch Panels, Provided by Japanese and Korean Manufacturers

29 Jul

From Apple’s supply chain, TrendInsider has confirmed that the new iPhone will be utilizing a single in-cell touch screen panel rather than combining a traditional touch-sensor layer with an LCD panel. The approach will allegedly help reduce the touch display’s production cost by a significant amount, provided that in-cell panels become mainstream after undergoing mass production.

At the moment, TPK, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of traditional touch screen panels, has yet to receive any lamination orders from the Cupertino tech giant. This confirms TrendInsider’s earlier observation concerning Apple’s decision to try the aforementioned technology, and explains the company’s increasing orders for in-cell panels from Toshiba Mobile Display (TMD) and LG.

Given that in-cell technology allows a single layered panel to fulfill the roles of both a display screen and a touch sensor, a manufacturer avoids the hassle of having to attach an extra touch screen layer on top of a TFT LCD panel. This, in result, helps to trim off a portion of the thickness from the iPhone’s screen, in turn allowing the mobile phone’s display panel to be around 30% lighter and slimmer. The cost of in-cell touch panel technology will reduce in future.

Apple’s iPhone 5: Rumor Roundup

29 Jul

With the iPhone 5’s October launch date inching closer and closer, tech enthusiasts and casual consumers alike are no doubt anticipating the details that are set to be unveiled for the new handset. Unfortunately, considering Apple’s tendency to be extremely secretive about its unreleased products, little, if anything, can be reliably confirmed at the moment. What we have at the center of the whole iPhone 5 affair, instead, are a multitude of wild rumors, semi-plausible speculations, and suspicious photographs that may or may not be indicative of the final product.

To get a general idea of what to expect during October, we have assembled a list of possible rumors that have been reported by various sources. Due to the varying credibility of the speculations, the new iPhone’s alleged features have been ranked based on their validity and have been grouped into one of the following three categories: “Very likely,” “Somewhat likely,” and “Unlikely.”

Very Likely to Happen (80% to 100%):    

1. Bigger, taller screen
From what appears to be an authentic series of leaked photos, it seems that the iPhone 5 will sport a much larger display compared to the 4S, and will assume a somewhat elongated figure. The current speculation is that we will be seeing a screen that measures to 4-inches and features a 16:9 aspect ratio (which is the standard ratio seen in films, minus the bars). Considering the current trend in which smartphones are increasingly getting bigger, we are convinced Apple may indeed be serious about sizing up the new iPhone.

2. Light-weight, slimmer body
In addition to larger size, a series of reports from Wall Street Journal suggest that Apple will take advantage of an “in-cell display technology” and may attempt to create a smartphone body that is a tad thinner than its predecessors. Rather than using two different panels for the iPhone 5’s LCD and touch sensors, Apple will supposedly apply a single touch enabled LCD panel instead. With this component, analysts from KGI Securities predict that the overall thickness of the iPhone 5 will decrease by approximately 1.3mm, in result giving the device a slightly lighter mass. At the moment, that are a number of pictures out there –some showing convincing side by side comparisons of the 4S model and a suspected iPhone 5– that provide a lot of credibility to the speculations about the iPhone’s reduced thickness.

3. 4G LTE support
Though not officially confirmed yet, it is widely believed that the iPhone 5 will, similar to the new iPad, begin featuring 4G support. Such feature will allow for significantly faster download speeds in addition to a number of network related benefits. Since a handful of smartphones and network carriers out there are already taking advantage of 4G LTE, it is not unreasonable to assume Apple too will seize such an opportunity and provide iPhone 5 consumers a key network feature that was sorely lacking in the 4S model.

Somewhat Likely to Happen (50% to 80%):

1. Mini-dock connector
For the past couple of months, various sources close to Apple, along with a number of leaked online pictures, are suggesting that the dock connector on the new iPhone 5 may be a lot smaller than the ubiquitous 30-pin connector that appeared on all the previous models. According to CNET and ibiTimes, the smaller dock could either end up as a thunderbolt port or, as many are hoping, an industry-standard Micro USB connector. While a changed dock connector size is sensible for the purpose of redesign, the switch would be a risky move considering that much of the company’s existing accessories will end up being incompatible with the new iPhone. As such, even if shrinking the dock connector is a rational design choice, it is hard for us to be certain whether Apple will truly opt for such a risky, radical change.

2. A Liquidmetal Body
A particularly interesting rumor that has also been spreading around is that portions of the new iPhone will be composed of Liquidmetal (Vitreloy), an amorphous metal alloy known for its sturdy properties, corrosive resistance, and the ability to withstand extremely high temperatures. Years ago, Apple has been granted exclusive rights to Liquidmetal technology and, since then, has been toying with the idea of using the material in a “breakthrough product.” As it remains unclear whether the company has mastered the technology enough to apply it on a massive scale, many believe that it is only moderately likely that we will see a liquidmetal iPhone released this fall.

3. Quad Core Processor
By now, one might not perceive the use of the quad core CPU as anything new, considering that the processor has already appeared in a variety of mobile phone devices and tablet computers out there. In the case of Apple, though, things are a little less predictable. While it was expected the Apple would be working on its quad core CPU following the acquisition of PA Semiconductor, the Cupertino firm surprised a lot of people when it decided to release the new iPad using only the A5 dual core processor. While it is by no means impossible that the next iPhone will launch with an embedded quad core processor (allegedly called the “A6”), sources like 9toMac believe that we are equally likely to see just another variation of Apple’s A5 dual core CPU.

Possible, but unlikely (under 50%):

1. Significantly Increased Battery Life
“Dramatic battery life” is amongst the few phrases that will almost never appear in the same sentence as “iPhone.” To this day, unimpressive battery hours remain a nagging issue that continue to disappoint many casual users as well as loyal iPhone customers. Whether Apple will turn things around with its next iPhone and bestow upon the device a much needed long battery life remains highly debatable.

2. Flash Support
Like the case with battery life, flash support is a feature that Apple consistently avoids for its tablet and mobile phone devices. It seems some arduous supporters of the format are still somewhat hopeful that the Cupertino firm may one day include a flash-capable iPhone. Looking at Apple’s current record (along with its apparent dislike for the format), however, the chances of that happening are very low.

Related:

iPhone 5 Housings?