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Huawei: A Giant the Western World Should Look Out For

Posted by wicked March - 5 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

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The smartphone landscape is drastically changing its focus. What was once a North-America-centric monopoly of high-specification phones is now merely an afterimage of the past. The meat of the game is elsewhere now; emerging markets looking for good bang-for-buck are what OEMs are increasingly aiming towards, and in this new game the old players must adapt-or-die. Xiaomi has grown at one of the most notable rates in the industry, leading it to become the world’s most valuable start-up; and its expansion is marked and ominous.

We called it The Tech Giant the Western world never sees  for many good reasons, but even if this company is at the leading pack of the business revolution, they still are not the only ones that are growing thanks to the paradigm shift.

The gap between flagships and middle-range devices is shortening, and the gap between middle-range and low-range phones is too. With manufacturers opting for cheap-but-good phones like the Moto E 2015  or simply slashing their prices to stay competitive, it is clear that people want more for less, and those who don’t offer it are increasingly left out. Sony’s emphasis on flagship releases indicated by their 6-month release cycle, for example, failed them to the point where they had to change strategies in light of their company-wide decline that ran parallel to their struggle. At the same time, Samsung dramatically cut the number of devices they were producing for 2015, and is reportedly focusing their energy on a few line-ups, mainly the Ax and their newest Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

But the real competitors here are those who were already providing good phones for cheap prices, and these happen to be the Eastern-based companies like Chinese Xiaomi. Huawei is another Chinese company that offers very good products, often sporting good build-quality and decent performance on separate fronts. Their Ascend Mate 7, for example, was a staple of battery life for Android and it topped the charts and benchmarks in this regard, as did their Mate2 which also featured even better battery life and great value – just $300 for the best battery life in the market in a 6.1 inch phablet… it didn’t see the best treatment with software updates, but it is now back on track as well.

What does Huawei do?

Something worthy of note is that Huawei isn’t just a smartphone provider, but also one of the biggest Telecom infrastructure suppliers out there. This is important to note because, very much like the Korean tech conglomerate of Samsung, it allows them to dump more resources into in-house Research & Development. HiSilicion is a semiconductor manufacturer fully owned by Huawei, and many of their chips are present in their phones. Their KIRIN line of SoCs is particularly interesting, with their upcoming KIRIN 930 64-bit SoC featuring a big.LITTLE array of 8 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz, very much like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810. What’s more interesting, however, is that it has smaller process size at 16nm instead of 20nm. It also boasts a Mali-T628 GPU MP4, a variant similar to the one GPU in the Galaxy Alpha which was known to be a benchmark record holder. In this regard, they seemingly can hold their own. Huawei’s processors, very much like Exynos’, are coming of age – something one would naturally expect considering Huawei is a R&D-heavy company, with 46% of their employees allocated on that front.

But that’s not enough for Huawei. They have a clear emphasis on growing and expanding, and they aim to bring down 100 million sales – that’s a lot, isn’t it? Consider this: their latest Financial Performance Report shows that Huawei has sold 75 million in 2014, and that resulted in a 45% growth from the year prior – culminating in 30% sales revenue increase over the year-to-year, for a staggering $12.2 billion. That sounds like a company that can grow, and their strategy for 2015 is focusing on flagship devices and midrangers, with an aim of 100 million sales. How are they going to do that, you ask?

Expansion. Huawei is reportedly planning a big push to sell its products in the United States, one of the most important markets for flagships, the devices they want to focus on for the year. This is surprising because U.S. legislators branded it a national security threat, but much like with Lenovo and other controversial companies, that doesn’t seem to affect their plans much.  Their 2015 U.S. plans will include traditional advertising and online promotion, so you can expect Huawei to stop being as invisible to the general public as other Chinese giants. Once again, their flagship philosophy shows when Huawei’s U.S. spokesman Bill Plummer comments on their change of approach. Huawei wants to shake off the “cheap tech” prejudice that plagues Chinese companies. It already touted its Honor 6 Plus at Times Square, so who knows how far they’ll carry their advertising.

Then there’s the fact that they introduced us to what looks to be one of the best smartwatches in the market, the amazing-looking Huawei Watch. This phone brings premium to a whole new level in the wearables segment, and its unveiling is already causing a lot of buzz all over the internet. It turns out that Huawei’s emphasis on flagship quality is so high that it speaks for itself – and makes people do their marketing for them. This new product is one of the things that they truly need to shake off the “cheap” vibe, and it is evident they have succeeded… perhaps at the cost of quite a steep price.

For their U.S. penetration, Huawei will opt for stock Android as the software for their phones. This makes a lot of sense if they want to shrug off the bad reputation they had, as software spyware wouldn’t be present in a pure Google OS. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer division, put it very bluntly: “”In the US we have to do some compromise to avoid any concern, no excuse! If you have a problem you can check with Google. [American customers] trust Google so they can trust Huawei”. For those of you who are worried about adopting a Huawei phone in the United States, this might ease your paranoia a little bit – but remember that backdoors can be found in hardware too. Regardless, it is clear that Huawei is trying to re-brand itself as a worthy competitor to Samsung and Apple.

More Google? On a Chinese phone?!

But there’s more to this plan: a very recent report said that Google was considering a Chinese OEM for a Nexus device. Then we had more details that claimed that what would be inside the next Chinese Nexus might not be a typical Qualcomm chipset, but rather something else that was undisclosed. The same source revealed that there would be two Nexus devices and that one would be for LG, and it is speculated that the Chinese variant would be a cheaper variant. Now, as we’ve seen, Huawei has been developing what looks to be a competitive SoC (we’ll cover this chip in-depth soon) and is known for affordability, so they would fill right into these conditions.

Yet another follow-up report, however, had Kevin Yang from iSuppli, a leading market research firm, confirm that the next Nexus would indeed be one made by Huawei. Now this would have certain implications: first of all, Huawei has been known to speak against 4K resolution in phones due to its battery compromises. This would suggest that a Nexus by Huawei wouldn’t sport it, but at the same time 4K was expected to arrive this year, something Qualcomm itself touted as a capability offered by their products coming this year. So, in this sense, we don’t know exactly how flagship this flagship can be. Nonetheless, a Nexus phone is just what Huawei could use to maximize their incursion. It’s a stock Android phone, that is a flagship, popular in the U.S. with a strong online following, and has had a reputation of being affordable – these are all the things that we saw Huawei wanted.

At the same time, the Nexus program has been known to give various OEMs a chance to shine. One time I read a user call it an “all-stars” line-up where big OEMs show off what they can do with Google. I don’t think that is the case, but Huawei being a Western underdog (if you consider practically nonexistent as underdog) this could really open their chances up and empower their arrival into the U.S. More over, if they do decide to use HiSilicon’s chipset, Qualcomm would see another nail in the coffin of their U.S. flagship monopoly. Now that Samsung and others can effectively circumvent the previously-required Qualcomm LTE patents for the U.S., we see chips like the Exynos 7420 becoming NA-ready and not just an international option. These chips also support Cat 6 LTE which future-proofs them against the same nasty situation of the past. And finally, Qualcomm is supposedly under fire for their Snapdragon 810 performance. With their new core re-designs not hitting the market until 2016 with the Snapdragon 820, it is likely that Google wouldn’t opt for them for their Q3-Q4 release if these issues carry on – hence the rumors behind them looking for another SoC.

Watch out, West

So rounding up: Huawei is planning a very meticulous breach into the NA mobile party. Their flagship-centric approach is perfect for the job, but a more affordable Nexus can pave the way to consumer trust. At the same time, an affordable Nexus variant falls in line with Google’s vision of affordable phones for emerging markets, so it could potentially benefit Huawei’s expansion on other territories as well. What’s more important, I think, is the fact that Huawei is just another growing player: Xiaomi, Meizu (expect a report similar to this one on them very soon), Oppo, and others have been gaining traction and notability. If these and others enter the U.S. market in close succession, the game would change dramatically. The monopoly Samsung and Apple once battled is now an open war between many ambitious OEMs. Qualcomm’s dominance is also at stake due to many of these phones simply not carrying their chipsets inside, like Meizu’s Exynos guts, Huawei’s in-house, and the vast array of Mediatek.

The smartphone industry could be expecting some major revolutions, partially attributed to the fluctuation towards emerging markets and affordability. But at the same time, these invisible giants and their business strategies could be the sparks that ignite the process. Many have underestimated them, especially consumers: we now hear news about the amazing build quality and design feats of many Chinese phones,  like the button-less 7X. While we still hold a lot of flak to companies like Xiaomi, and we still are very concerned about the security compromises these companies are notorious for, the way the ecosystem is changing is rather fascinating from an analytical point of view. Hopefully the phones that come out of it are equally fascinating… and without backdoors.

 

What do you think about Huawei? Do you think they have what it takes to play in the U.S.? Let us know below!

The post Huawei: A Giant the Western World Should Look Out For appeared first on xda-developers.

Five New Forums for Latest Phones, Tablet and Smartwatch

Posted by wicked March - 3 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

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The Galaxy S6 Edge, Huawei Watch, Xperia Z4 Tablet, Moto E 2015 and Xperia M4 Aqua all have gotten new forums here at XDA. If you want the latest and greatest in hardware as of now, the Galaxy S6 Edge‘s top-tier processor, memory, and camera will most likely fulfill your everyday needs with blazing speed, and extra screen-space to boot. Huawei seems to have nailed the smartwatch with their new Huawei Watch, a classy-looking but also durable and powerful Android Wear watch that joins our set of wearable’s forums. There’s also one for a fantastic and powerful tablet alternative, the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet, which also boasts one of the best and brightest 2K displays, and the same company’s Xperia M4 Aqua waterproof-camera phone gets a spot too. The Moto E also got a yearly refresh, and now the Moto E 2015 gets a dedicated space at XDA as well for those who know true value when they see it.

We hope to see you all enjoy the new discussions and developments that are bound to arise in all of these forums. Whether you are planning on getting one of these devices for development, work or leisure, or not getting one at all, you are welcome to join the communities and contribute with original content or with feedback. Exciting things are coming to the Android ecosystem, and with these new forums for all of this new hardware, we can all be at the vanguard of news and development!

 

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Cross-Platform Encrypted Messaging with Signal 2.0

Posted by wicked March - 3 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

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Privacy and security are two increasingly important factors in today’s globalized world, and with the surge of internet spying by government agencies and third parties, wiretaps are an everyday thing that don’t just concern James Bond anymore. Encryption made its way to the semi-mainstream messaging world with the Telegram platform, but while millions flocked to it, it is still clear that convenience beats privacy for most of smartphone users. After all, with the huge user bases boasted by Whatsapp and the like, Telegram had its own growing pains.

Open Whisper Systems wants to provide an easier solution, and with its latest Signal 2.0 app for the iPhone in conjunction with Android’s Redphone and TextSecure, iOS and Android users can send each other end-to-end encrypted text messages for no cost. Redphone also allows you to encrypt calls, as its name suggests.

Cross-platform secure messaging apps are usually subscription based, but this one allows both the sender and receiver of the process to exchange messages without subscribing to a monthly payment service. The application is also open source, as is Redphone and TextSecure, so it is safe to assume that if any vulnerabilities or malicious functions were baked in, an expert or enthusiast would point them out. Its encryption protocol is, consequentially, open source too and can also be adopted by other applications, so if you are a developer that might be worth looking into. These services use your regular phone number, so there’s no additional third-party account hassle to deal with.

Open Whisper Systems’ solutions are easy-to-use and feature good interfaces, so like with Telegram, any user can feel at home when using it. Open Whisper Systems also has a reputation of its own, as even the IM giant Whatsapp adopted their security solution for their platform. With these interconnected offerings, however, cross-platform encryption is easier and cheaper than ever, without downloading a Facebook app (which, despite touted encryption, obviously don’t offer the privacy you’d like).

With the increase in privacy-invasion stories from culprits like the NSA, and the periodic leaks of information by whistle blowers  like Edward Snowden, these alternatives are becoming more and more valuable. While secure third-party IM and voice-calling services are often great, many of the more popular have ominous companies behind them. As apps like Skype and Whatsapp further fortify their monopolies, it might become harder for options like Open Whisper Systems’ to penetrate. But the demand for privacy is there, and it is allegedly growing; because of this, secure text messaging and phone calls could be the future standard. At least, we hope so.

Via ArsTechnica

The post Cross-Platform Encrypted Messaging with Signal 2.0 appeared first on xda-developers.

Best of Matias Duarte – “Ask Me Anything” Summary

Posted by wicked March - 3 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

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Matias Duarte, VP of Design at Google, is perhaps one of the most prolific software designers of recent times: Material Design, the highest exponent of Android beauty, is Matias’ own brainchild. Without him and his creation, the biggest Android update of all time wouldn’t have been what it was and our favorite platform would still carry a look that many deemed outdated even before Material Design was shown. With an internet following that spawned several internet memes and even a weird community, he is practically an Android star.

Today he hosted an “ask me anything” (AMA) event at Designer News where the community reached out and asked him questions about his inspirations, his do’s and do not’s of design, and about details and anecdotes of the creative process that takes place at Google. Here are some of our top picks of the user-submitted questions and the answers, shrunk down to the essentials so that you can get an organized look inside both Google’s developments and Matias Duarte’s mind.

 

  • I remember [one day] you said that you see android design finished for thirty percent. AFAIK it was in the times of honeycomb. What stage is this design currently?

 

M: With Lollipop we’ve tackled many of the things I’d wanted to get to when we first started (before Gingerbread) – the ability to do smooth animation between any screen in the system, lockscreen and actionable notifications, a document centric model for applications. The problem is that my ambitions have also grown, so… I’m moving the goal posts out on myself here!

 

  • When operating at the scale of the Android user base, how does that affect your design decisions?

 

M: Designing for an operating system changes how you think about design. You can’t optimize for one product, or even your company’s portfolio of products, but have to keep in mind the entire ecosystem that includes everything from one finger games to complex business collaboration tools. In some ways it’s harder because you have to test your decisions and systems more thoroughly, but in other ways it’s liberating because the ‘right’ answer is always what’s right for the users and developers. (…)

  • How big is your design group? How is it roughly structured and what is the most challenging thing about that scale?

 

M: Not as big as I’d like, but more than big enough to cause trouble. Scaling is the hardest thing for me. When it’s just a small group of you that can all sit together, it’s easy to stay in sync. As you get multiple groups, you can kind of fake it by checking in regularly, and doing crits on a strict schedule. However when you need to run dozen of projects you really need to focus on expressing your design ideas as goals, and your critiques as problems and considerations. (…) Actually this is a much better way to lead even at a small scale, but it’s a hard transition – at least it was for me!

 

  • How do you feel about the current state of prototyping in terms of software, workflow, and usability for designers? Did you use any of these when [working on the concepts of] Material Design animations and interactions?

 

M: Our team uses a wide array of tools (…) without them we never would have been able to put the focus on motion that we needed to in Material Design. That said, there are still some huge problems designers face in trying to make software. Prototyping interaction and navigation, designing complex and interactive motion, getting our designs into code without losing fidelity, and even basic collaboration and version management. We’re serious about all these topics and we want to see how we can help make a world where a designer will never have to export a redline or have the wrong icon in the build ever again.

 

  • Do you feel Material works (or can work) as successfully on desktop as it does on mobile and touch devices? And how important was that distinction when developing the language?

 

M: Not yet. We can do a lot better both with our apps that use material on desktop, and with formalizing good rules around desktop application. For example we know we need to do a better job of providing patterns for greater information and control density. That’s something else that we’re going to keep doing with Material – evolving and changing the system itself to make it better and more universal.

 

  • Do you ever get frustrated by OEM skins? (…) Are there any plans to reign these detracting modifications in, or is that at least something you’d like to see?

 

M: What I’d really like to see with Android is an ecosystem where there are customizations out there that can serve every different taste and need, but can hang together so that users can choose which device fits them without having to relearn anything. Think of driving a car – no matter whether it’s a Honda or BMW or a Tesla, it’s going to have a steering wheel, the brake on one side and the throttle on the other. They may have totally different dash configurations and styling – which is appropriate for their different needs – but you know how to drive them all, and frankly they’re all great cars.

 

  • [Regarding Google apps on other platforms using Material Design elements] Was it done intentionally? Or is there a technical constraint behind that like code sharing or something?

 

M: Material Design needs to be a cross-platform design, which makes this question of what conventions to adjust to when moving between platforms particularly important. (…) In most cases we’re absolutely intentionally applying patterns we think are universal to all our platforms. (…) With regards to iconography I’m actually personally frustrated about that. This isn’t a technical constraint, but perhaps more of a business or ecosystem constraint. (…) I’ve seen usability study after study that shows the glyphs we currently use cause confusion to first time users. The problem is exacerbated by the reality that our users use a mix of platforms during the day. Asking designers to use text is not an option – these common functions can take up too much space and are often hard to label meaningfully.

 

  • Is there anything in the world of design that’s a pet peeve of yours?

 

M: The freaking lack of consensus on universal iconography is my pet peeve!

 

  • Bonus: Are you sick of the whole Lord Duarte / #HOLOYOLO thing? Be honest with me.

 

M: [No comment.]

 

A Master of His Craft

Matias Duarte’s AMA shows us how complex of a process designing for such a huge platform is. With several teams working thousands of man-hours a week, Duarte did a remarkably good job at handling what is undoubtedly one of the biggest software redesigns in the history of mobile computing. Love it or hate it, Material Design marks a clear evolution towards a more unified ecosystem – beyond aesthetics. The inspiration behind Duarte’s design ideology seems to resonate with Google’s new campaign: “be together, not the same”. Material Design allows that: it gives developers enough creative freedom to make an app that is truly their own, while still remaining coherent with the rest out of the ecosystem, and at the same time giving users a simple, cohesive experience that they won’t have to relearn again. As shocking as Duarte’s stance is on OEM skins like TouchWiz, we believe that it falls in line with the spirit of Android: openness, where there is no “one-size fits best” solution, and anyone can find a phone, ROM or application that adjusts to their lives. Whether you like Material Design or not is a matter of personal opinion, but it is clear that the monumental work behind Matias Duarte’s eye-candy interface is worthy of Praise.

What do you think of Matias Duarte? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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Benchmark Results: S6 Obliterates M9, What Happened?

Posted by wicked March - 3 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

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Let’s start this with a disclaimer: I do not believe there is significant meaning behind synthetic benchmarks in correlation with real-world use. We’ve seen, time and again, some high-scoring phones output questionable performance. In this regard, Samsung is one of the usual culprits, and despite having opted for some of the highest spec configurations on each and every one of their flagships, many of them still managed to lag. Other top-tier devices, including the latest Nexus phone and tablet, managed to output inconsistent performance as well.

While hardware constraints, bottlenecks or throttling can all be causes, we all know Samsung’s mistake was in their software. In our MWC predictions discussion article I voiced my hunch that Samsung would make a big deal about performance on their S6 reveal, and I was right. During the Unpacked Event of yesterday, they mentioned performance enhancements multiple times, and the User Experience specialist of the event stated quite adamantly that there would be no lag at allThey did say that it was mostly because of their revamped TouchWiz and optimizations, but they didn’t make as big a fuzz as I expected them to about their new processing package powering up the S6. In fact, during the show they didn’t specifically utter the name Exynos 7420 nor its details, but a slide showing that the chip had 14nm FinFet processes made it very clear that it was in fact Samsung’s baby inside their S6.

Benchmarks

One of the first things many people, including reviewers and journalists at MWC 2015 grounds, is put devices to their paces to test their performance with synthetic benchmarks. This year’s round of flagships didn’t escape the lust for chip-measuring (and the post-measurement bragging) of the lucky ones who got their hands on the devices, and now we finally see the concrete (but early) benchmark results of both the M9, the insignia of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810, and Samsung’s Galaxy S6. The end numbers are as shocking as we had expected them to be:

The Exynos in the S6 Edge got an impressive AnTuTu output of close to 70,000, with the regular S6 sitting at a little over 68,000. What is more impressive about this is the fact that it is even better than what we had been expecting from the S6, as previous leaks placed the score at around 61,000. Where the extra 9,000 came from is beyond me, and it’d be nice to get to know why there was such an increase in performance compared to what we had heard of previously. The Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Alpha had been benchmark leaders for a while, as they approached the 50,000 barrier nearing the end of 2014, with the Note 4 Edge surpassing that with the Lollipop update. Phones released later did see better benchmarks, and the ones with the Snapdragon 810 show a marked improvement over these ones too.

But then we have the M9 which managed to score 55,333. While this is a a significant percentage boost over the latest of 2014 phones, and a big step-up from last year’s HTC flagship, we can’t help but wonder how come it is not as high as it was expected to be, and how come the Exynos inside the Samsung managed to output something much higher. What is most troubling is the fact that on-screen tests on the M9 benchmark were done at 1080p resolution, while as you can see on the side, the S6 renders those at 1440p. This means additional strain on the Mali GPU of the Exynos SoC in the S6, and a bigger workload too. With a higher pixel count typically comes higher GPU stress and lower framerate outputs… yet what we see would suggest an even bigger upperhand for the S6. Something to keep in mind, however, is that the S6 features better memory (LPDDR4 RAM as opposed to LPDDR3) and better storage (UFS 2.0 rather than eMMC2), which make it arguably superior in other aspects of the benchmark. Because of this, we can’t compare the two score outputs directly to determine the superior processor; instead, I urge you to consider the scores in comparison to previous iterations.

Snapdragon on Fire

Now there’s something else that bothers me about the M9’s benchmark output, and that is that the benchmark score is not much higher than that of the G Flex 2, which typically spits out around 54,000 from what I’ve seen around, and this score gets dramatically lower on subsequent benchmarks (I found a score as low as 37,000, but on another variant). The G Flex 2 was criticized for its benchmark output, in particular the subsequent throttled results, as they were indicative of bad thermal design which most likely prompted dynamic frequency caps to prevent overheating, something which was also rumored to be a flaw of the Snapdragon 810 but was reportedly fixed. Many analysts expected a delay yet to their surprise the chip fulfilled its schedule.

LG made the statement that performance improvements, especially regarding their “benchmark performance”, would come with future software updates for the G Flex 2. We still don’t know for sure if there were thermal constraints and if those were present in the G Flex 2; but if there were, not much was done to improve the performance in the M9, or the promised performance improvements didn’t make it through. It could also be that the Snapdragon does present inherent flaws in design that could cause it to have lesser performance than what was hyped for months. However, keeping in mind LG’s past G3’s overheating issues, it could very well be a design flaw, so we are compelled to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Design and Experience

The Snapdragon 810 and the latest Exynos had seen quite the leaked benchmark war these past months, and virtually all comparisons were in favor of the Exynos chipset. While synthetic benchmarks only tell half the story of UX, Samsung’s new TouchWiz seems to have gotten a revamp too, so we might be able to finally see the hardware in Samsung phones’ shine to the best of their ability, but also as the best in the industry. How come Qualcomm seemingly fell behind, when they were in such a good position?

If I had to guess, it was the radical change in their scheduling, and what they had been used to producing. They had relied on their Krait cores for a good few years, and the formula worked really well for them. More over, it allowed for the conservative strategy of incremental updates to core frequency and count to keep the marketing numbers easily apparent of the upgrades they provide – consumers intuitively infer that the 2.5 GHz in the Snapdragon 801 beats the 2.3GHz in the 800, even if there’s no absolute law that states that higher frequencies necessarily mean better performance: and this is something Samsung knows by heart, as their Exynos chips saw the same 1.9GHz maximum frequency for their past 3 flagships (Note 4, S5, Note 3) yet their performance improvements were noticeable each time.

From a design standpoint, I personally believe that Qualcomm was forced to radically change their game in order to account for the increasing demand for 64-bit chipsets introduced by Apple’s A7 and perpetuated by their A8 chipset – their schedule was altered and they had to rush forward to a 64-bit SoC. Moreover, the Snapdragon 810 dramatically changed their typical architecture to that of an octa core big.LITTLE arrangement of 4 powerful cores and 4 power-efficient ones for low-level tasks. So they had to change to big.LITTLE, they had to change their types of cores, from Krait to the ARM Cortex ones. That added to their incursion into flagship-level 64-bit. Moreover, Samsung’s new chipsets have 14nm processes as opposed to Qualcomm’s 20nm ones, which would give Samsung a clear advantage off the bat. Let’s not forget that Samsung was also the pioneer of big.LITTLE, and the first 64-bit smartphone chip on Android was also found on a Samsung phone (albeit the functionality wasn’t supported back then); Samsung has had manufacturing experience in the segment that Qualcomm suddenly jumped into, and during Qualcomm’s 32-bit days they were pushing technology forward with hardware innovations and refining their own strategy, all of which culminate on this chip.

Conclusion

While both phones will offer unprecedented performance, it is pretty clear that the Snapdragon 810 failed to deliver on the hype that it built for itself. Samsung’s Exynos, on the other hand, kept it subtle and showed the engineering prowess of the company. We covered the Exynos’ chipset history before and our conclusion was that Samsung had undoubtedly gained steam in the processor game, and that they were becoming a force to be reckoned with. At the same time, I believe that Qualcomm is becoming stagnant, even if momentarily so. The monopoly they once held over flagship chipsets is dissipating as more competitors join the top-game with new offerings. Samsung’s Exynos is a good example, but so is Intel  and Nvidia’s tablet-focused chips are also quite the game-changer on that front. With a higher emphasis on mid and low range devices, the dominance of Qualcomm’s flagship game takes hits on many fronts, and their royalty decline is a bit alarming, so we expect them to step their game back up soon anyway.

The S6 looks to be a promising device, and now with an AnTuTu score just 5k below the highest scored – by the Tegra X1, no less – and fervent promises of better performance, I think we can expect something really interesting on April 10th. I still remain skeptical, however: these are not release units, and the S6 in particular is still a bit away. There could be software cheating going on behind the scenes, as many OEMs have done it before, but we can’t know for sure and we can’t know who is or isn’t doing it as of now. At the same time, despite all the talk about no stutters nor lag, I managed to spot some anyway in some hands on videos, so that thesis was a little too ambitious and easily brought down with an early counterproof. And let’s not forget that Qualcomm’s Krait will see a 64-bit successor with their Kryos CPU in the Snapdragon 820, so that custom-design coupled with the experience they were missing might once again tip the scales in their favor – and whoever laughs last, laughs the best. It just so happened that this time Qualcomm couldn’t laugh loud enough, and Samsung CEO JK Shin commented that this was the reason they didn’t opt for a Snapdragon this time. Regardless of who wins, we consumers benefit, and so does technology. In the grand scale of things, it’s a win-win for us.

The real question here is: will we even get any good custom ROMs and ROM variety on this latest Exynos? My SM-N900 is skeptical.

 

 

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Intel at MWC 2015: New Chip Branding and Details

Posted by wicked March - 2 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

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Intel showed its face at MWC 2015 to give the world a yearly update on their upcoming line of chipsets for mobile. While last year the company focused on gathering partnerships and strengthening up their services, architectures and production, now they are revamping their Atom line of SoCs for mobile with a new brand name and a distinctive category format much like that of their i3/i5/i7 line of personal computing processors.

The new scheme will be naming the chips x3, x5 and x7 to represent their target segments in typical Intel fashion. The x3 is the bottom-tier exponent, comprised of Bay Trail SoCs. This package features 28nm nodes that were previously part of the SoFIA program for emerging markets. Three x3 parts will be available: dual core, quad core and another quad core with integrated LTE modem. The three x3’s will feature Mali GPUs instead of Intel’s own IPs, and the core frequencies vary from 1.0GHz, through 1.2GHz to 1.4GHz, respectively, all being 64-bit ready. The Mali GPU will further help their aim of bringing down costs for market competition.

The Atom x5 and x7 chipsets are of higher tiers and run on 14nm processes. Cherry Trail, the next generation of Atom processors meant to replace their older Bay Trail chips, make an appearance here. The chips are also 64-bit ready as one would expect, and their goal is to have them featured on devices ranging from mainstream to premium. There aren’t many details regarding these chips and it is expected that we’ll learn more later on.

While the x3 seems like a good entry showcase of Intel’s new rebranding, it is clear that it is aimed towards smartphones where as the higher-tier processors are meant for tablets. Intel reportedly addressed the lack of high-level Intel SoCs for phones, and they are allegedly working on one with the Braxton project which will have further details revealed in the near future.

Source: AnandTech

 

The post Intel at MWC 2015: New Chip Branding and Details appeared first on xda-developers.

Samsung Unpacked Coverage: All About the S6

Posted by wicked March - 1 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

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Samsung’s Unpacked Event has now come and gone through Mobile World Congress 2015, and we’ve got a good look at what could be the most advanced phone of the year thus far. The event started shortly after its scheduled time at 12:30PM today and the only devices shown were the Galaxy S6 and its Edge variant, both of which pack an impressive amount of features, spectacular internals and an all-new beautiful design.

The show began with a quiet voice whispering to the audience: “what’s next inspires us to bring tomorrow into today: metals will flow, beauty will be powerful borders will disappear, reflections will be free, colors will live… the future will be the present”.

The room lit up and Head of Global Marketing for IT and Mobile Division Young-Hee Lee entered the stage in an interesting outfit. “Let me tell you, tonight is big” she told everyone as the anticipation intensified. She continued by saying that what we were about to see was “the most significant team effort in this company’s history”, and teased how it was something “entirely new”.

CEO JK Shin took over the event, told us about how exciting of a day it was, and joked about how it was one with “no more internet rumors”. He began explaining that Samsung’s success, and its position as the leading smartphone company, all came from the same simple philosophy which comes down to two words: “relentless innovation”. JK Shin’s self-proclaimed first language is engineering, and this is why he is confident that these will be new technologies and new ideas to make better products. They reminded us what innovations they brought to the mobile space with their AMOLED screens, LTE technology adoptions, the Galaxy Note and the Gear. While some companies have set themselves apart through design or practicality, Samsung claims to aim for both.

Samsung’s team worked from the ground-up to create their most beautiful phone in their own history, but also what they confidently label as “the most advanced in the world”, with capabilities no other phone can match. He then added that “it also looks really cool”. They focused on three key areas: the most beautiful display, the fastest processor, and the best camera. They also made security a priority, with a better KNOX platform that gives government and enterprise the safety they need with their smartphones. Samsung Pay is also looking to compete against alternatives, but in the world of mobile payments by providing flexibility, access and choice.

Samsung once again remains at the vanguard of connectivity, by offering the best LTE technology so that when carriers are ready to deploy their new, more advanced network services, users will be ready to access to them off the bat.

“We believe in design with a purpose, Shin stated, “we set out to build something better than anything we’ve ever built before; next is now – next level of enterprise, new design, best performance”. Now it was time to explain these bold and ambitious claims further.

Design

“The most advanced smartphone in the world, with a design to match” is the mission statement of the Next Galaxy. At the core of it all, Samsung claimed that the S6 and S6 Edge reflect their energy in designing purposefully. The Edge is the first dual curve smartphone in the world, and it took years of innovation to produce what they all thought was a thing of the future, and what they consider a level of craftsmanship only they can achieve. And while it looks better and has a more comfortable grip, Samsung seems to want the Apple audience to take a dive towards it, something that was clear when they stated that “the best part is that your friends will think it’s very cool”.

The Glass that surrounds the S6 has a micro-optical layer to give off the impression of added depth and richness. To make it durable, it is also coated with Corning Gorilla Glass 4, which they claimed was the strongest and toughest in the market – a dubious claim given sapphire panels are a reality. They did reassure us, however, that “this thing will not bend”.

Hyun Yeul Lee took the stage as a UX Specialist, to share details about the new interface of the Galaxy S6. She stated that Samsung focused on the essentials, and with the help and feedback of reviewers and “their friends on the internet” they gathered information on what needed improvement in TouchWiz… and from what they have shown, they realised that it was a lot. The new interface has a better color consistency, and a much newer and richer set of animations. It looks a little flatter than Material Design, but good enough to make itself useful and attractive. They swapped out abstract icons, and replaced many of them with concise text. Many other nuances and annoyances were removed. She summarized it as “no more struggling with hard to use and hard to find features”.

They also made a big announcement of something that the public has been waiting for what feels like forever: there is no more lag, no more stutters. Samsung claims it is all gone for good, and even the smallest gesture is smooth and responsive. They also adopted a new coloring scheme that will be consistent from now on, with colors associated with apps and formats: green for phone, purple for video, yellow for text messages, etc. There is also a brilliant new camera interface that is direct, with no scrolling for easier access to the modes you want whenever you want them.

Hardware

The new Galaxy S phones are designed with a purpose, and that carries onto the hardware. The experience begins with Samsung’s latest Exynos processor, with 64-bit support and built on 14nm FinFet processes – the world’s first in a smartphone. Not only is this chip more powerful, but it is also smaller and easier on the battery: the result is a 20% increase in speed and performance, and 35% more power efficiency, than what was seen in the Note 4’s chipsets. The phone features DDR4 RAM, which can deliver 80% faster memory processes. There’s also a revamped SSD & eMMC flash storage solution that is faster and uses less power.

Their display is reportedly outstanding, and while the S5’s and Note 4’s were some of the best we’ve seen, Samsung claimed this one will be “the best screen we’ve ever seen”, and that it raises the bar even higher with its 5.1 inch 1440p AMOLED panel, which results in a 577 pixels-per-inch screen density. That’s 77% more pixels than what was found in last year’s Galaxy S5, and with the Edge’s curves you’ll see the stunning panel wrap around the device seamlessly. The display will also do wonders for their new Gear VR that will have a 11% increase in image fidelity and the higher quality content will be wirelessly provided and supported, for what Samsung touts to be an “out of this world immersive experience”.

The battery life is also said to be excellent, with 12 hours on WiFi, 11 hours on LTE, 13 hours of video playback or 49 hours of music. But what Samsung considers most important is that you’ll be able to charge the S6 faster than any other phone in the industry – 10 minutes of charge will give you 4 hours of use. And it will go from 0 to 100 in half the charging time of an iPhone 6. The battery is built-in, which is sad news for every removable battery lover. However, they feel users will be “absolutely comfortable” with the battery life provided by this new phone, and the S6 will also have built-in wireless charging for both major solutions, ensuring that your odds of finding a charger wherever are as high as they can be. Samsung promised that this will keep you going until they invent that “never-ending battery” – quite the ambitious claim, but we love the drive.

All of the scenes that followed, and many of what we had already seen, were taken entirely with the S6’s camera. Samsung said that “as a camera, smartphones get the job done for the most part: key challenge is creating camera that excels in all camera conditions” – and they believe they have achieved that. Their new sensor offers a F1.9 lens with real time HDR, and also comes with a special low-light feature that combines multiple photos to create the best, most accurate one. It also can bring in 60% more like than previous modules… and this is the front 5MP camera.

The main one also features the same technology plus IOS on a 16MP sensor. They showed some picture and video comparison between the iPhone 6 Plus and the S6, and the clear winner was Samsung’s new phone. To make things better, the camera is constantly cached to launch as fast as possible by holding the home button; we really hope we can disable this, though. And finally, Samsung is also introducing object-tracking autofocus so that you can make the best out of your home-made media.

Services

Samsung talked about the need for universal acceptance in mobile payments, and how NFC and circumventing solutions cut users out of 90% of U.S. retailers for payments. Samsung Pay, however, allows you to pay anywhere that accepts credit cards, debit cards or NFC. Their ecosystem is expanding to adopt more institutions, and those on board already include Visa, Master Card, Chase, Bank of America, Citi Bank, US Bank and more. Samsung made it clear that their service is accepted by far and away more merchants than any other offering, in their attempt to “get mobile payments right”.

When it comes to security, Gregory Wade of Samsung Electronics’ Security talked about how the KNOX platform makes for some of the most secure devices today, with defense-grade security built into Galaxy phones. Many consider it the best for business and consumers alike, as it grants great protection against malicious attacks and viruses. With the enhancements in security, the S6 is reportedly ready for enterprise, and it has received approval from government agencies from all around the world for its security standards.

Next is Now

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will become available on April 10th in 20 countries, and the release will continue to expand all over the world. The device will come in various colors and in 32gb, 64gb and 128gb versions, with no expandable storage, alongside a vast array of Samsung accessories.

We are very excited for this device and cannot wait to see how it’ll unfold. Most importantly, we are eager to experience all the amazing things our developer community at XDA will bring to it. The Next Galaxy is here, and it looks better than ever.

The post Samsung Unpacked Coverage: All About the S6 appeared first on xda-developers.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Cameras

Posted by wicked March - 1 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

Galaxy S6 Camera

Each year, smartphone makers attempt to one-up each other in features and specs, but time and again these improvements feel incremental rather than revolutionary. Samsung hopes to break this trend with a new hardware and software design philosophy, and press details of the new-and-improved cameras shared by the S6 and S6 Edge show that they are off to a great start.

Once you get past the curved displays and wraparound Gorilla Glass 4, the most striking feature on these slabs is the protruding square camera. This is not a coincidence. Samsung has gone all out on a massive overhaul of camera experience, targeting low-light stills, videos, and selfies with a larger front facing sensor and improved F 1.9 aperture on both front and back.

Front facing camera

  • 5 MP F 1.9 lens
  • Real-time HDR
  • Improved low-light shots through image stacking
  • 60% more light (than the Galaxy S5)
  • 43% less noise (than the Galaxy S5)

 

“The key challenge is creating a camera that excels in all lighting conditions”

The Samsung Unpacked event took direct aim at the low-light abilities of the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, bringing larger pixel sizes, an improved F-stop, and blazing fast processor to bear on their competitor from Cupertino. These hardware advances allow for astounding software-enhanced abilities like real-time HDR on the front facing camera – an industry first. At 5 MP, the selfie shooter even out-strips HTC’s newly announced 4 MP UltraPixel camera which was itself borrowed from the back of the One M8. Side-by-side comparisons of viewing angle and true low-light performance have yet to be conducted by the press, but the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge appear poised to dominate the selfie market.

Primary Camera

  • 16 MP
  • 3456 x 4608 pixels
  • Optical image stabilization
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR)
  • Object-tracking auto focus that follows your subject around the frame.
  • Pro features like manual ISO and shutter speed adjustment in a separate mode
  • 4K Video recording: 2160p @30fps, 1080p @60fps, 720p @120fps
  • Blazing fast 0.7 second delay to pull up the camera.

 

Galaxy S6 CameraLow-light performance is the marquee feature of the primary camera as well, and both photo and video comparisons with the iPhone 6 Plus appear as starkly contrasted as night and day, though spec sheets have a harder time differentiating the two. Maintaining focus on moving objects is another standout, and is something no other manufacturer can match to date. If the hype is to be believed, the days of videos blipping every five seconds to refocus are behind us and the S6 launch can’t come soon enough. Add to this a tiny 0.7 second delay from double-tapping the home button to snapping shots, and this is a pocket shooter that will see daily use.

On paper, the primary camera has the same number of pixels as last year’s Galaxy S5 and Note 4, but these were both industry-leading sensors with a long life ahead of them. For example, the Galaxy S5 held its own against to the Xperia Z3 – a 20 megapixel beast. With an improved low-light aperture and the focus enhancements we have seen thus far, pixel numbers may take second stage to overall experience yet again.

User Experience

Camera UIBorrowing from Android Lollipop’s Material Design language, the new camera app focuses on simplicity and ease of access. A single column of features adorns the left side, each of which opens a stripped-down grid of icons and titles filling the display. Under settings, a second column of advanced features like manual ISO and shutter adjustments can be brought into frame to unleash the power of Lollipop’s new Camera2 API.

From specs to UI, the camera shared by the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are sure to take the smartphone world by storm… provided the hype holds up to the rigorous testing that is sure to come.

The post Samsung Galaxy S6 Cameras appeared first on xda-developers.

The Battery Behind the Samsung S6 and S6 Edge

Posted by wicked March - 1 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

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Samsung has stated that with the new S6 and S6 Edge you will “not have to worry about battery life again” with their new faster charging. Just ten minutes of charging will allow for four hours of basic usage and a fully charged device should last you for 13 hours of video viewing.

During the unpacked event, Gregory Wade said, “we didn’t want to have a built-in battery until we were absolutely sure users would be comfortable.” Well, it appears that Samsung has gained that confidence, as both the S6 and S6 Edge come packed with non-removable batteries.

Both models will come with built-in wireless charging as well, “to keep you going until we invent that never ending battery”. They believe that this will result in wide-spread implementation of their charging plates, with them being integrated in household furniture, cafe tables and other popular places. As we saw earlier, even IKEA is going to start combining these features in to their products.

You can see a close up of the stock charging plate below

 

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Samsung S6 and S6 Edge Performance

Posted by wicked March - 1 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

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Samsung has announced their two new flagships, the S6 and the S6 Edge. Both devices will run using Samsung’s new 64 bit 14 nm Finfet processor which is a worlds first for a smart phone. It is smaller more powerful and easier on the battery.

The performance is 20% faster, consumes 35% less power and sees a 30% productivity gain over the chipset in the Galaxy Note 4 which is running at 20nm. The ram is DDR4 which should boost running memory by 80%. The new flash storage available in 32Gb, 64Gb and 128Gb is a combination of SSD and eMMC which means it is also faster and uses less power.14nm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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