FILE PHOTO: Qualcomm’s logo is seen during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
(Reuters) – Chipmaker Qualcomm Inc is lobbying the U.S. government to revoke restrictions on sale of components to Huawei Technologies Co [HWT.UL], after the Chinese company was blacklisted by the United States, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
Qualcomm is lobbying to sell chips to Huawei that the Chinese company would include in its 5G phones, according to the report, citing a presentation by Qualcomm.
With these restrictions, the U.S. has handed Qualcomm’s foreign competitors a market worth as much as $8 billion annually, the report said.
Qualcomm did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
The company resolved a licensing dispute with Huawei last month, which will pay Qualcomm a catch-up payment of $1.8 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter.
Reporting by Juby Babu in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft
Leaker Digital Chat Station says Oppo executives talked about ‘Lite’ versions of the upcoming Snapdragon 875.
Another unannounced chip, the Snapdragon 860, was also mentioned at the meeting.
OnePlus CEO Pete Lau was there as well.
Qualcomm may announce multiple variants of its next flagship chipset, according to Digital Chat Station. The leaker reports Oppo executives talked about “Lite” variants of the upcoming processor during a recent meeting. They say those same executives may have also mentioned the Snapdragon 860.
“If I didn’t hear incorrectly, the Snapdragon 860 was discussed during Oppo’s communication event,” said Digital Chat Station in a tweet we asked a native speaker to translate (you can see the Google Translate version below). “The Snapdragon 875 series could also have ‘lite’ versions.”
Digital Chat Station mentions two Oppo executives, Liu Bo and Li Zi Gui, were at the meeting. More interestingly, OnePlus CEO Liu Zuohu — or Pete Lau, as we know him here in the west — was also present. For those who don’t know, China’s BBK Electronics owns both brands.
There’s a lot to unpack in that single tweet. The more straightforward piece here relates to the Snapdragon 875. One significant issue with Qualcomm’s current flagship silicon is that it’s expensive for device manufacturers to include their phones because the chip doesn’t feature an integrated modem. If they want to include the 855 in their handsets, companies like OnePlus have to add Qualcomm’s 5G-capable X55 modem, making its phones cost more. If the report is accurate, more affordable variants of the 875 could help partly address that issue.
Less straightforward is the mention of the Snapdragon 860. We don’t know the context in which Lau and Oppo executives discussed the chip. Websites such as Gizmochina have interpreted the sentence as evidence Qualcomm may announce an 860 chipset, but there are a couple of reasons that doesn’t seem likely.
If Qualcomm sticks to its usual release cadence, it will announce its next flagship chip at the end of the year. That doesn’t leave much time for the company to push out another variant of the 865, particularly if it plans to release “lite” versions of the Snapdragon 875. Without specifics, it’s also hard to say how the 860 would differ from the 865. The model number suggests the 860 would be a more affordable version of the 865, but Qualcomm already offers the 765G as an alternative to its top-of-the-line chip.
As usual, take all of the above with an extra dose of skepticism. Digital Chat Station has a decent track record. They’ve shared some credible information in the past, but they’ve been wrong as well. Less than any of the specifics, what’s probably worthwhile to take from this report is that it seems Qualcomm is being reactive to the shortcomings of the 865. For what it’s worth, Qualcomm chose not to comment on the report when we reached out.
After years of repackaging the same basic smartwatch chip over and over again, Qualcomm has graced Wear OS with a modern smartwatch SoC. Meet the Snapdragon Wear 4100, a Qualcomm smartwatch chip that, for the first time ever, is faster than the previous chip.
The Wear 4100 uses four 1.7GHz Cortex A53 CPUs built on a 12nm manufacturing process, a major upgrade from the 28nm Cortex A7s that every other Qualcomm smartwatch chip has been up until now. It’s not the state-of-the-art 7nm process that Qualcomm’s high-end chip uses, and the Cortex A53 is an old CPU design, but for Qualcomm, it’s a major upgrade. Between the new CPU, the Adreno 504 GPU, and faster memory, Qualcomm is promising “85% faster performance” compared to the Wear 3100.
There are actually two versions of the 4100, the vanilla “4100” and the “4100+.” The plus version is specifically for smartwatches with an always-on watch face, and like previous Wear SoCs, comes with an extra low-power SoC (based around a Cortex-M0) to keep the time updated and log sensor data (like step counts). Qualcomm is promising a better display image quality in this low-power mode, with more colors and a smoother display.
There are also dual DSPs now, which Qualcomm says are for “optimal workload partitioning, support for dynamic clock and voltage scaling, Qualcomm Sensor Assisted Positioning PDR Wearables 2.0, low power location tracking support, and an enhanced Bluetooth 5.0 architecture.” There are also dual ISPs with support for 16MP sensors (on a smartwatch?). As usual, connectivity options are plentiful, with onboard LTE, GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11n, and Bluetooth 5.
Can Wear OS be resurrected? (No, probably not)
Qualcomm has been neglecting the smartwatch market for years, and while Wear OS has many of its own problems, the sorry state of Android smartwatches today is primarily Qualcomm’s fault.
It’s not that Qualcomm hasn’t been releasing any smartwatch chips at all—the company has just been investing as few resources as possible by selling the same basic chip for six years. In 2014, the first Wear OS (then called Android Wear) smartwatches came out with a Snapdragon 400 SoC, which used four Cortex A7 CPUs and was built on a 28nm process. In 2016, Qualcomm launched the “Snapdragon Wear 2100,” but it wasn’t much different from the previous chip, using four Cortex A7 CPUs and a 28nm process. In 2018, Qualcomm recycled the same basic design again, launching the “Snapdragon Wear 3100,” using four Cortex A7 CPUs and a 28nm manufacturing process. Qualcomm might point to tiny additional features available in each release, but the fundamentals like CPU speed and power usage have not improved for six years.
After standing still for six years, is anything left of Wear OS? The lack of viable hardware has devastated the ecosystem. Many hardware manufacturers—like Samsung, Huawei, and Asus—have walked away from the platform. Wear OS’s market share is at-or-approaching single digits and is so low that it doesn’t get separately called out in market share reports anymore. Without the hardware sales, developers can’t justify building apps.
As for Google, the company seems to have slowed Wear OS development. For the first few years of its life, (Android) Wear OS closely tracked the mainline Android release, but an Android 10 update never arrived. The last big update was to Android 9 (which Wear OS calls system version “H”) in 2018. Recently, Google has made some acquisitions supporting Wear OS that we haven’t seen the results of yet. In early 2019, it acquired an unknown technology and an R&D team from Fossil Group, the biggest Wear OS OEM, for $40 million. In late 2019, Google bought Fitbit, a pioneer of fitness tracking gadgets, for $2.1 billion. Fitbit wasn’t involved with Wear OS, but Google called the purchase “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market.” The deal—Google’s fifth-largest ever—is still winding its way through regulatory approval.
It’s not clear that there is an ecosystem left to purchase Qualcomm’s new chip. The company is usually all about touting the manufacturers it has lined up for these chip launches, but it couldn’t quote or name-check a single major OEM in its press release. The launch partner for the Wear 4100 is a company called “imoo,” the self-described “leading brand for kid smartwatches.” The company says its next-generation “Z6 Ultra smartwatch” will launch in the next 30 days with Qualcomm’s new chip.