Industry News March/April 2014 Issue 2

Qualcomm Halts 4K Chip Production

CES 2014 featured a large number of developments from the 4K landscape, and one of the most prominent was Qualcomm’s new system-on-a-chip for smart TVs, the 4K-ready Snapdragon 802 (Fig. 1).  The Snapdragon 802 was a 1.8-GHz quad-core processor with a 4K-capable Adreno 330 graphics processor and integrated Wi-Fi.  It was scheduled to start shipping in the second half of 2014, but less than 6 weeks after its introduction at CES in January, Qualcomm announced that it would not be producing the chip after all.

Fig. 1: Development of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 802 4K-ready chip stopped in February 2014, but the company’s other Snapdragon processors are still in production.

According to Qualcomm, the demand for smart TVs is not yet strong enough to warrant building the chips.  In a press release1 the company said: “Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., has decided not to commercialize the recently announced Snapdragon 802 processor as the overall demand for processors uniquely designed for smart TVs has proven to be smaller than anticipated.  This decision is specific to the Snapdragon 802 processor and does not affect other products we are currently shipping in this segment.”

Many online bloggers point to the slow advent of smart TV as a legitimate reason for the company’s decision, but question how development proceeded as far as it did until now.  Qualcomm did not comment further after the announcement.


Tactus Announces Series B Funding

Tactus Technology, Inc., a developer of on-demand tactile surfaces, recently announced that it has closed the first portion of a Series B funding round with new investors from Asia.  Tactus designs electronic surfaces that use microfluidics to transform a flat touch-screen interface to a physical three-dimensional one – with raised keyboard buttons, for example.  This technology was the winner of SID’s first Best Prototype Award for its demonstration in the Innovation Zone (I-Zone) at Display Week 2012.

The new investors include Ryoyo Electro Corp. (Tokyo), one of Japan’s leading electronics suppliers and other financial entities in Asia.  They join Thomvest Ventures and other initial corporate investors who have reinvested in the Series B funding.  As part of the Series B round, Ryoyo will become the exclusive sales partner and distributor for Tactus components and display technology subsystems in Japan.  The Series B round is expected to raise between $10 and $15 million when completed.

Tactus reports that products utilizing its “disappearing keyboard” technology will be commercially available the second half of this year.  Specific partners have not yet been announced.

Smartphone Trends

The recent Mobile World Congress (February 2014 in Barcelona) prompted a flurry of announcements from smartphone manufacturers. Here are some updates on new and upcoming devices:

LG Electronics has three new models: the LG G Pro 2, the LG G2 mini, and the LG L Series III.  The G Pro 2 has an impressively large 5.9-in. full-HD IPS display and an enhanced 13MP camera.  The LG G2 mini is LG’s first “compact” smartphone and comes with a 4.7-in. IPS display.  The new L Series III is the company’s budget line and is aimed especially at emerging markets.  Series III models are available in 3.5-, 4.5-, and 4.7-in. sizes.

Russian smartphone maker Yota Devices has announced a new version of its two-sided Yotaphone.  The first generation had a touch-screen LCD on one side and an e-paper display on the other.  The phone was designed so that users could save battery power by employing the e-paper side for simple tasks such as checking dates, viewing texts, etc.  The new Yotaphone has a 4.7-in. touch e-paper screen so users can now open and respond to notifications, not just read them.  The LCD side has been replaced by an AMOLED version (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: The two-sided Yotaphone features a monochrome touch e-paper display on one side and a colorful AMOLED display on the other.

Samsung recently introduced the Galaxy S5, which comes with a 5.1-in. display, a fingerprint scanner, a heart-rate sensor, and the Android 4.4 KitKat OS.  It is run by the Snapdragon 801 processor and backed by 2 GB of RAM.  Continuing the tradition of powerful cameras in the Galaxy phones, the S5 has a 16MP version.

Finnish smartphone maker Nokia has come out with the Nokia XL, a great-looking and extremely affordable 5-in. model costing around €109.  It features a customized version of Google’s Android OS (streamlined so as to work more efficiently with the Snapdragon 1-GHz dual-core processor), and a 4MP camera

Radiant Zemax Adds New Imaging Colorimeter

The ProMetric I2 from Radiant Zemax is the company’s latest imaging colorimeter.  It is designed for high-volume production lines and uses a scientific-grade 2MP (1600 × 1200) CCD sensor that is thermoelectrically cooled to provide accurate, repeatable 12-bit measure-ments (Fig. 3).  The device is suited to applications such as color and luminance uniformity testing in flat-panel displays (FPDs), light measurement and characterization of LED products, and other test and measurement applications requiring speed, flexibility, and seamless operation.  According to Radiant Zemax, it combines the benefits of automation – speed, flexibility, and repeatability – with the relevancy and accuracy of human visual perception.

Fig. 3: The Prometric I2 colorimeter from Radiant Zemax has a thermoelectrically cooled sensor to provide accurate, repeatable 12-bit measurements.