Future smartphones will need even more integration

May 18, 2011 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Future smartphones will need even more integration
Silicon integration will be the key differentiator in smartphones which could grow to 600 million units in 2014, driven by expansion in low-cost handsets, according to a presentation at the inaugural Linley Tech Mobile Conference by Linley Gwennap, principal of The Linley Group.

Much of the integration will come from combining application and baseband processors. By 2014 nearly 70 percent of all smartphones will use such integrated chips, up from 40 percent in 2010, Gwennap predicted.

Mobile phones got to their level of sophistication today through extensive integration, even at the Front End. GaAs has been successful in mobile phones partly because designers were able to integrate functionality using a GaAs process. For example, one company that has been very successful with this approach is TriQuint.

Needless to say, even more integration is needed. There are two main drivers here, the first being cost, the second power consumption.

Power has always been an issue in any mobile platform due to battery and heat dissipation constraints in a small form factor. Consequently, as smartphones look to “do everything”, power management is a key requirement.

The other reason is cost. The mobile phone market is geared to selling very high volumes and the top end phones with all the features are, typically, over a period of a few years, driven down in cost through innovative integration at the silicon and GaAs level. This trend is most likely to repeat itself with the smartphone and emerging tablet market. It might take longer due to the high complexity of these devices, but the trend has already been set with the latest generation of Android smartphones and tablets, a direct response to Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

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