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What to expect from smartphone hardware in late 2014 and into 2015

Posted by wicked July - 18 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Smartwatches, software, and Android L may have been grabbing all the headlines recently, but smartphone hardware is also poised for its own shakeup in the not-too-distant future.

Handset manufacturers have been attempting to keep stagnation at bay with water resistance devices, new build materials, and various gimmicks this generation, but late-2014 and 2015 flagships could take us back to a more traditional hardware arms race.

Snapdragon 808 and 810 – ARMv8, 4K video, and faster data

We’ll start with something quite close on the calendar, the next generation of mobile processors.

One complaint that can be leveled at the current generation of flagship devices is that they haven’t given us any major boosts in processing performance. In terms of CPU processing power, nothing changed from the Snapdragon 800 to 801, and even the Snapdragon 805, which is starting to appear in a small number of high-end smartphones, only offers up a slight boost in graphics performance.

One complaint that can be levelled at the current generation of flagship devices is that they haven’t given us any major boosts in processing performance

Fortunately, the drought in Android CPU advancements is coming to an end, as the new Cortex-A50 range and ARMv8 architecture is almost upon us. Some of the first fully integrated SoCs to utilize this new CPU core technology will be the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 and 810 SoCs, which will arrive towards the end of the year. As with this generation, we can expect a large number of next-gen flagship phones to make exclusive use of Qualcomm’s processors.

qualcomm snapdragon 810 2

The new Snapdragon processors will be dropping Qualcomm’s modified Krait architecture to make way for ARM’s big.LITTLE technology and ARMv8 architecture, which is likely destined to arrive on tablets first. If you want to learn about what to expect from ARM’s new processor designs, we’ll have a more indepth look soon. The Snapdragon 808 will be a six core beast, with dual-core Cortex A57’s for high end performance and four lower power Cortex A53 cores for improved energy efficiency. The chip will also come with an Adreno 418 GPU, which falls just behind the Adreno 420 graphics chip found in the Snapdragon 805.

The Snapdragon 810 is an even more powerful piece of kit, with four Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores running in a big.LITTLE configuration. The 810 will also feature a beefed up GPU, the Adreno 430. Performance and energy efficiency will also receive another boost as Qualcomm moves production over to the smaller 20nm manufacturing process. This is notable considering Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors have been stuck on 28nm for a number of years.

Qualcomm is not just known for providing high performance processors, the company sees such wide adoption of its SoCs because it provides integrated solutions for modems and digital signal processing, which is useful for image and video processing. With the Snapdragon 808 and 810, Qualcomm will be bringing over its new CAT 6 LTE-A compatible modem to the new chip designs, which will allow for theoretical peak data speeds of 300 Mbps, through 3x20MHz carrier aggregation. This technology has already found its way into the Snapdragon 805-powered Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE-A, and should be heading to the next generation of flagship smartphones too.

snapdragon carrier aggregation

Qualcomm is already prepared for even faster data speeds, and has already rolled out its latest technology in South Korean handsets.

Speaking of data speeds, Qualcomm is also planning to offer high speeds gigabit wireless speeds over short distances in the Snapdragon 810, which will be powered by WiGig 60GHz wireless technology.

Compared with the current generations Snapdragon 801 processors, the 808 and 810 provide a noticeable step forward in many different ways

Compared with the current generations Snapdragon 801 processors, the 808 and 810 also bring new support for higher resolution content. Ultra high resolution video content will continue to be supported with the H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HEVC) formats, and 4K capture has been added with the H.264 format. These SoCs can also output content to 4K displays too, so you can play back your UHD content easily, if you have a compatible TV.

Camera support also increases up to 55 megapixels, thanks to the first 14-bit camera dual image signal processors (ISP) for smartphones. This is a big improvement compared with the 21 megapixel limit found on the Snapdragon 801, which Sony has been pushing up against for a while.

snapdragon 4k resolution

We can expect better support for 4K content playback and creation with future smartphones and tablets.

Not only will the new Snapdragon 808 and 810 bring another hop forward in terms of performance, but these chips will open the door for manufacturers to provide supped up data speeds, higher resolution image sensors, and will allow them to push the boundaries of high resolution content. There’s plenty to look forward to here.

Better Battery life at last?

Swanky new processors are all well and good, but battery life is probably the biggest complaint to be had with modern smartphones, as you are lucky to get more than a days’ worth of use out of a flagship on a single charge. Capacity is the real crux of the issue, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to squeeze more capacity out of the same materials, in the limited amount of space that there is to spare in a smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 jet black battery aa 1

Research is being conducted into new materials, but it’s a slow and steady process. One of the most promising pieces of research has been conducted at Northwestern University. Researchers have developed a lithium-ion electrode that will apparently allow conventional Li-ion batteries to hold a charge 10 times greater than current batteries. The design uses a compressed silicon and graphene sandwich layer to avoid contractions and expansions during charging, which result in battery fragmentation and reduce the charge held.

the groundwork is being laid for a future where battery life is much better, though this revolution could still be many years away

Highly conductive materials, like graphene, are also being used to try and improve the charging speed of our devices, via the user of supercapacitors. Supercapacitor technology has some potential, but so far they have only ever found use in heavy electrical applications. The upsides of supercapacitors include faster recharge times, improved temperature performance, long life times, and the potential for 2-4 times the energy density of the best Li-ion batteries current available.


Supercapacitor power is closing in on traditional batteries, but medium term energy output remains subpar. Source: ExtremeTech

The typical cycle life of Li-ion battery is somewhere between 400-1200 load cycles, while supercapacitor can reach 500,000 load cycles. This means supercapacitor batteries could last a lot longer before charging starts to degrade.

The problem is that, at the moment, the technology sits somewhere between traditional capacitors and batteries, offering up discharge times that are too quick for most consumer grade electronics, and a capacity that is not up to scratch with modern Li-ion batteries. Unfortunately, supercapacitor sales are only expected to reach 10% of Li-ion sales in the next ten years, and the technology is still a long way from reaching the required energy density to act as a viable alternative for smartphones.

Capacitors vs Batteries

Capacitors can charge efficiently and have a long life cycle, but discharge too quickly to be useful and are rather expensive. However, a hybrid technology might offer a decent compromise. Source: Tecate Group

Te good news is that efforts are being made to combine the best of both worlds, allowing for super-fast charging times and acceptable battery life. Eesha Khare, a Harvard student, has already demonstrated a working supercapacitor battery built from carbon fibre and metal oxides, which retrains the capacitors’ quick charging attributes, while managing to maintain its charge. But again, we are in for a bit of a wait before such a technology would make it to the smartphone market.

Other weird and wonderful explorations into improving mobile battery life include sand (or silicon) replacements for graphite anodes in Li-on batteries, which could extend battery life by up to three days. Microsoft also recently talked about its plans for multi-sized batteries to look after more and less performing tasks, which can improve battery life up to 50 percent in its prototype. Perhaps the most sci-fi sounding idea yet is the prospect of solar charging displays, but sadly this technology, if it ever comes to market, only looks to be able to extend battery life by 20 percent, providing that you’re somewhere that the sun is shining.

Sadly, battery capacity doesn’t look like it will be taking any major steps forward over the next year. On the bright side, the groundwork is being laid for a future where battery life is much better, though this revolution could still be many years away.

More efficient components

It doesn’t look like we’ll have a reprieve from being shackled to the wall charger anytime soon, but hardware developers are attempting to find ways around the issue. If batteries are struggling to pack in more juice, then other hardware developers are going to have to find ways to make their technologies more efficient.

Kaneka LCD panel filmMobile displays are the most power consuming components in modern smartphones, especially as flagship devices start making the move towards 2K display resolutions and 600 plus PPI. More pixels require more power, but a lot of effort is also being spent to try and offset this power drain.

Developments in both LCD and OLED technologies look to be leading towards more power efficient displays, with some technologies claiming up to 50 percent energy savings over existing displays, thanks to a new film layer for LCD displays.

For OLED panels, currently only about a quarter of the energy supplied to the LED is converted into light. However, research conducted at the University of Bonn has found that replacing the expensive platinum OLED layers with a new organic layer will reduce the amount of energy wasted as heat, generating more light and improving efficiency.

LCD vs MEMS shutter

Research into entirely new display technologies is also being conducted, which will both compete with and work alongside existing LCD and AMOLED displays. IGZO, and other up-and-coming, backplane technologies are aiming to offer the necessary brightness, and therefore power consumption, of mobile displays, while allowing OEMS to continue to push the pixel count higher.

Qualcomm’s and Sharp’s investments into MEMS display technology are looking to become more commonplace in the mobile market towards the end of 2014 and into 2015. Sharp has already shown off the technology working in a 7 inch tablet. MEMS’ benefits include lower power consumption, due to fewer backlight components and more light reaches the surface of the display, compared with LCD, as there are no filter layers in the way. Instead, MEMS uses tiny mechanical switches to filter different coloured light.

Research into entirely new display technologies is also being conducted, which will both compete with and work alongside existing LCD and AMOLED displays

Displays aren’t the only big power drainers though, and we have already mentioned Qualcomm’s new processors. However, one feature, which some other manufacturers are already using, is the more energy efficient big.LITTLE processor layout, which combined with ARM’s new energy efficient Cortex-A53 processor, could offer up more efficient SoC packages than this generation.

Cortex A50 performance chart

As a solution for high performance CPU power consumption, fully heterogeneous big.LITTLE designs, combined with new energy efficiency CPU cores, should help to reduce power consumption for basic tasks, only drawing the maximum power when you really need it.

Advancements in GPU compute, which will also be making its way to devices in the next year, should help to further optimise processors for the most suitable tasks, further improving processing efficiency.

Maximize your memory

With the 64-bit Android L set to arrive later in the year, we can’t ignore one of the other hardware benefits that a 64-bit address brings, and that’s larger maximum memory capacity. More than a year ago, SK Hynix announced its work on 8Gb (1GB) LPDDR3 memory modules, and Samsung has since announced its own 8Gb module based on faster LPDDR4. LPDDR4 also promises a 50 percent performance boost in a package that is 40 percent more energy efficient. By combining four of these modules, smartphones will be able to reach the 4GB mark.

SanDisk Ultra 128GB microSDXC card

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 already has 3GB of memory, and it’s not much of a stretch, or expense, to add another GB or more when the time comes. ARM itself has acknowledged that we’re approaching the time of 4GB memory smartphones and tablets.

Storage space also looks set to continually creep up over the coming years. Although Google doesn’t seem to be a fan of the SD card, some OEMs continue to include expandable storage with their handsets and tablets, and MicroSD card capacity has recently reached the 128GB mark. Processors which now support eMMC 5.0 will also help to speed up memory interface speeds, reaching peaks of 400MB/s compared with eMMC 4.5’s speeds of 200MB/s.


The next year of smartphone technology has a lot to offer us, although mostly we can expect continued, subtle improvements to hardware rather than off-the-wall innovations that will shake up the market. That being said, 2014/2015 flagships could offer up more of a generational leap than the 2013/2014 batch, with better graphics power, higher resolution displays and more efficient technologies bringing improvements across the board.

There are plenty of other technologies being worked on as well, although the time these technologies might take to make it to market is a little out of the scope of this article. For a glimpse at what smartphones could look like in two or three years’ time, we could also see optical zoom smartphones become the norm, flexible display technology continues to move forward, and we might eventually all be using our smartphones as 3D scanners too.

What technologies are you most looking forward to over the next 12 months, and will any of them be influencing your future purchases?

Verizon’s LG G3 has a removable battery

Posted by wicked July - 14 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

verizon g3 battery

Verizon mistakenly listed their LG G3 as having a non-removable battery, but it looks like that’s not actually the case. Thanks to a picture on Twitter, we know the battery and back cover are completely removable. Since every other version of the G3 has a removable battery, this really shouldn’t be surprising, but it’s good to see Big Red not purposely butchering out any functionality from the device.

Are you planning on picking up a G3 on Verizon soon?

source: VZW Albert

Come comment on this article: Verizon’s LG G3 has a removable battery

Yes, Verizon’s LG G3 has a Removable Battery

Posted by Kellex July - 14 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Shortly after Verizon’s variant of the LG G3 went up for pre-order last Thursday, just as we said it would, potential owners of the device grew concerned over the idea that it may not feature a removable battery. I’m not actually sure where this got started, but I can confirm for you today that the device does indeed have a removable battery. When asked by us, Verizon’s media contact for devices, Albert Aydin, sent over the picture below along with a note mentioning that it is “100%, definitely removable.”

He also Tweeted it, in case you don’t believe us.

Feel better? 

verizon g3 battery

Yes, Verizon’s LG G3 has a Removable Battery is a post from: Droid Life

Thanko portable solar-powered battery hangs back and takes in rays

Posted by Tom July - 11 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Thanko has introduced a new portable solar-powered USB-charging battery that’s built to hang on backpacks while strolling in the sun.

The two most important things are covered: it’s light at 123g and fairly small at A5-size.

It’s a pretty small battery, 1,000mAh, but if it does the job of sucking in sun so phones stay alive, it’s a pretty good solution and at a nice price: 4280 yen (US$40).

Via akihabaranews

Deal: Tylt battery packs and battery cases are 50% off

Posted by wicked July - 4 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

tylt promo

This summer, don’t let battery life anxiety ruin your holiday. Power packs are one solution, and the web is full of options, though few are as nicely designed as Tylt’s.

If you were mulling buying a Tylt battery pack or battery case, now may be the right time to do it. Until July 9, the company is taking 50 percent off the price of select portable power products if you use the promo code “fireworks”.

Here are the products that you can get on the cheap (er) by applying the promo code at checkout:

  • ENERGI Power Case for Galaxy S III
  • ENERGI Sliding Power Case for Galaxy S 4
  • ENERGI Power Case for iPhone 5/5s
  • ENERGI Sliding Power Case for iPhone 5/5s
  • ZUMO Portable Battery Pack
  • POWERPLANT Portable Battery Pack
  • ENERGI Battery Pack
  • ENERGI Travel Charger w/ Built-in Battery

Happy shopping!

Project Volta to test out Android L’s battery use

Posted by wicked July - 3 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Hearing the name Project Volta brings to mind a hardcore metal band or a top-secret effect on the battery life defense project by the US Military. But the reality is much simpler, but also that important. It’s the codename for the Google team’s exhaustive project to test the upcoming Android L’s effect on the batteries of Android devices and ensure that it will not cause too much drainage.

One of the most important aspects of this project is the new API that they developed called JobScheduler. In their studies of the previous releases, they have found out that one of the things that contributes to battery drainage in gadgets is that waking it up for even just a second already burns two minutes of standby time. In order to lessen that, the JobScheduler, well, schedules together those not so important housekeeping jobs like database cleanup and log uploading. The OS will also not conduct network tasks when the device has no network connectivity. There is also the possibility of doing these housekeeping items only when the device is plugged in so that there won’t be any battery loss.

Battery Historian is another tool being tested out in Project Volta, and it is basically a battery stat tracker that puts all the data in a visualised chart that should make reading all the stats much easier. The analytics is helping the developers into tweaking Android L so that it will bring better battery life to devices that will be using it. Project Volta has also allowed the switch from Dalvik to ART, which compiles the apps once, instead of every time they are run, which takes up memory and battery as well.


The guys over at Ars Technica decided to try out their Android L developer preview on their Nexus 5 to check if the guys over at Project Volta really did their work. They found out that the new OS can give up to additional two hours of runtime. The preview also has a built-in “battery saver” that will lower brightness and cuts background activity to a minimum when the device hits 15% battery, but they didn’t use this during their test run, so the final Android L might be able to give users even more than two hours extra battery time.

VIA: Ars Technica

Benches in Massachusetts to charge gadgets through solar power

Posted by wicked July - 1 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

It’s a beautiful day outside and you want to just sit on a bench, marvel at nature and post on social media how wonderful it is to be not inside the four corners of your office or school. But alas, your mobile phone doesn’t have enough juice anymore to take a picture and post it on Instagram (#smartphonebatteryproblems). A project from Changing Environments, a company associated with the MIT Media Lab will help you avoid that kind of situation by building solar-powered benches that can charge your gadgets.

Called Soofa, the benches will be equipped with USB ports that can be used by benchwarmers to power their phones or tablets as they read a newspaper or book, whether physically or digitally. The first few benches will be installed in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is funded by Cisco Systems. But the company is looking at building a network of Soofas all over the state not just for the convenience of passers-by in need of a quick charging fix, but even more so, to encourage people to at least go outside, even while glued to their gadgets.

More than just a charging station, the benches will also become data hubs, to check on the noise and air quality levels of the places where they’re installed. People will be able to access the data online when they visit the Soofa website, so they know where is the perfect spot to enjoy a few minutes of quiet, away from the crowds and the pollution. Other data that will be gathered would be how many people go to each bench everyday and how many hours of solar power charging it was able to provide that day.

Screenshot 2014-07-01 17.45.55

According to Jutta Friedrichs, the co-founder of Changing Environments, they are looking at reversing the idea that computers “took people off the streets” and now using technology to actually make people come outside and play. “We want to reactivate the city and create a new shared social experience,” she said.


Android L Features: Battery Predictor Tells You How Long Until Your Phone is Charged

Posted by Kellex June - 26 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

The Android L Developer Preview has only been available for a little over an hour, yet we have already gone hands-on with it. But after whipping through a quick preview, it’s time to start really looking at the newest version of Android. What’s new? What has changed? Are there any awesome little tweaks that Google has made that you can’t live without? The first we want to talk about is Battery Predictor.

As the name suggests, your phone can now predict how long it is going to take to fully charge if it is running Android L. There isn’t much else to say, other than once you plug your phone in, the estimate will show up on the lock screen. You can also head into Settings>Battery to see the estimate as well.

The days of wondering about and stressing over how much longer you need to stick to a charger. Pretty sweet, right? 

android L-1 android L-2

Android L Features: Battery Predictor Tells You How Long Until Your Phone is Charged is a post from: Droid Life

GoPlug bags lets you charge mobile devices on the go

Posted by wicked June - 23 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Charging one’s devices while mobile is one of the major concerns of people in this age of smartphones, tablets and phablets. Powerbanks seemed like the ideal situation at first, but now, even those are not enough. An upcoming product in the market called GoPlug bags aim to be the solution to this problem of having power even when on the go.

Designed for business travellers, GoPlug lets you charge your phones, tablets, laptops and even cameras through the lithium-polymer battery pack that comes installed in each of their bags. Unlike a typical power bank which can give phones around 2 or 3 charges only, each bag lets you charge your phone up to 6 times, your tablet twice, and your laptop will be able to get two full charges on a single charge. The built-in cord that comes with the bag can also serve as an extension cord for those times when just one plug is not enough.

The GoPlug bags also come in different variants; a messenger bag (ERP $179), a backpack (ERP $179), a trolley (ERP $219), carry-on case (ERP $219), a camera backpack (ERP $259) and a camera carry-on case (ERP $319). All of the different bags are also fully functioning as luggage, aside from the built-in batteries that power them.

GoPlug bags is actually a start-up project looking for funding in crowdsourcing site Kickstarter. But it looks like there are more than enough people willing to support this project as they have already raised $144,049 as of this writing, and with 13 days to go until the campaign ends. They were only asking initially for $20,000 but the response shows that consumers are in need of this kind of product. The manufacturer is expecting the initial products to ship out to the donors as early as August this year.


SOURCE: Kickstarter

TYLT Energi 2K Smart Travel Charger review

Posted by wicked June - 18 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

You want to travel, but you don’t want to take a bunch of wall chargers and battery packs with you. do you need a battery pack, or a charger? How long will you be gone? Those questions have now become moot, as TYLT introduces their new Energi 2K Smart Travel Charger.

The device works by acting as both a wall charger for your device, or battery pack when you’re on the go. Prongs fold out of the rear, and a USB port on the bottom leaves it usable for any device. TYLT’s smart LED system is also neat, letting you know just how much battery life you have left.

We’ve been using this one ofr afew days, and we have to say — we’re impressed. It’s a touch larger than we’d have liked, but it keeps us running all day. We like that you can take a single pack with you, and use your phone as much as you like.

TYLT back-M

Charging time was swift, too. When we ran both down, TYLT’s Energi 2K Smart Travel Charger did the right thing. Via a smart method for charging, the device will charge your phone ahead of the pack, so in a pinch you’re getting what you need. When out and about, the pack charges devices quickly, and charges itself rather fast as well.

TYLT has just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter for this one, but you’ll be able to get it soon via their site. We’ve reveiwed all of TYLT’s chargers, and this might be our favorite. It’s not the biggest, but it might be the most versatile.