Smartphone users will be able to watch broadband television and snap high-resolution photos on their handsets in 2007, thanks to new processor and memory chips launched at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona on Monday.
Together with dropping prices, these chips will help spread smartphones from high-end business users to a larger mass market audience, according to hardware component manufacturers attending the 3GSM show.
Camera phones will get a boost in power by using high-resolution image sensors from Micron Technology. The company's new MT9-series sensors use a 1.75-micron pixel design in resolutions of up to 5 megapixels. The top-shelf version, MT9P012, captures video at 60 frames per second at 720p resolution or 30 fps at 1080p, and will be ready for sampling in the second quarter of 2007, with mass production by the middle of the year.
Likewise, OmniVision Technologies announced a 5.17-megapixel camera module for mobile handsets, using the OV5623 CameraChip sensor. That sensor will help high-resolution cameras to enter the mainstream mobile handset market, the company said.
To store those large photo files, SanDisk announced it had developed a high-capacity version of its iNAND embedded flash drive, capable of holding up to 8G bytes of data. The new drives are now compliant with JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council) standards, allowing phone vendors to use them in designs that demand enough storage for mobile TV, multimedia downloading, digital audio players, gaming and global positioning systems (GPS).
Also supporting mobile television, Qualcomm said that its Universal Broadcast Modem (UBM) chip would ship ahead of schedule, delivering mobile TV capability to mass-market handsets. A single UBM chip contains three technology standards, including FLO technology, digital video broadcasting-handheld (DVB-H) and integrated service digital broadcasting-terrestrial (ISDB-T).
Qualcomm also said it would boost mobile broadband by the end of 2007 by launching the Mobile Data Modem (MDM) 8200, a chipset supporting the next generation of WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access). A smartphone using that chip could support mobile Internet browsing, real-time location services and multimedia sharing, the company said.
To support these capabilities without driving up retail prices, vendors say they need to increase the market size, so another feature of many chips launched at 3GSM was low cost. Broadcom launched its EDGE processor, integrating a radio frequency transceiver, baseband functions and multimedia connectivity support on a single chip. That design lets phone vendors create slimmer designs, reduce power consumption and control costs, Broadcom said.
Likewise, Qualcomm said its Mobile Station Modem (MSM) 7225 chipset would allow vendors to sell broadband-capable smartphones for less than US$200. The chipset uses a dual-processor architecture for high speed HSDPA (highspeed downlink packet access). The company will ship samples in the third quarter of 2007, and expects vendors to bring it to market by the first quarter of 2008.
Microsoft said it had another way to open up larger markets for smartphones, adding desktop-quality features to handsets, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calls and faster e-mail traffic with higher-quality graphics. Microsoft launched Windows Mobile 6, its latest OS for mobile handsets, and said it expected a crop of smartphones using the OS to reach market in March or April.
Marvell Technology Group pledged to help that migration by announcing it would support the new OS on its PXA300-series processors. Those chips were formerly known as "Monahans" until Marvell bought the division from Intel in 2006.