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Smartphones, smart chips, mobile browsers and augmented reality will be reality at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
Mobile World Congress is the mobile industry’s biggest global show, unfolding the week of Feb. 25 in Barcelona, Spain. It’s rife with glitzy gadgets, arcane software and systems buried in the carriers’ core networks, deals, promises, and hype. Here’s some of the stuff that’s already been announced or is expected next week.
AMD’s juice booster
AMD announced what it calls Turbo Dock technology, which detects if a Windows 8 tablet or “hybrid PC” is running on battery or plugged into a dock, and then adjusts the clock speed and other parameters to optimize performance and power use. If docked, the next generation Temash mobile “accelerated processing unit” (or APU, which puts its Radeon GPU engine on the same die as its CPU) runs flat-out to approximate notebook PC performance. The user never sees a hiccup. Currently only the upcoming AR-1450 system-on-chip will use Turbo Dock but all future AMD tablet APUs will include it.
Broadcom’s power-saving GPS chip
Broadcom’s BCM47521 can power all kinds of location-based apps without draining your phone’s battery through frequent, constant location checks. The trick: the chip handles a bunch of tasks on its own, instead of calling for help from the phone’s main processor and memory. The chip cuts the power needed for location-based services, such as geo-fencing or turn-by-turn navigation, but up to 60T, according to Broadcom. It will start appearing in smartphones by mid-2013.
Canonical tabletizes Ubuntu
Canonical has introduced a tablet UI for its Linux-base Ubuntu operating system. On the heels of its January announcement of Ubuntu for phones, the vendor’s tablet interface is aimed at devices with screen sizes from 6 to 20 inches and resolutions from 100 to 450 ppi (pixels per inch). Users can now start testing the interface with the release of the Touch Developer Preview of Ubuntu, with installation instructions for the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets and for smartphones such as the Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus. The first tablets are expected to arrive at the end of 2013, according to the vendor.
HTC’s Onederful new smartphone
HTC’s just-announced, redesigned HTC One is getting good reviews, like this one from PC World’s Kevin Lee. The solid-aluminum bodied phone sports a 4.7-inch screen, 1920 by 1080 resolution, and 468 pixels per inch. It’s powered by a quad-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.7 GHz.
Also: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, with the newest version of the HTC Sense UI, which incorporates a feature called BlinkFeed to automatically add updates to your homescreen with a series of tiles. The redesigned 4-megapixel camera can capture sharper images and deeper colors than comparable rivals, according to the vendor. There’s a front-facing 2.1 megapixel camera. Dimensions are 5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches, 5 ounces in weight, with 32G or 64GB of storage.
LG’s prime Optimus smartphones
LG launched the Optimus F5 and F7 smartphones, intended to bring LTE to a "mass audience,” according to the vendor. No prices were disclosed but the specs suggest LG is aiming for widely affordable phones. The Optimus F5: 4.3-inch screen, 256 ppi, a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, with 1GB of RAM, and a 2,150 mAh battery, 5 megapixel rear facing camera. Optimus F7: 4.7-inch screen, at 312ppi, dual-core 1.5 GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, 2,450 mAh battery, 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera. Both run Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.
The F5 ships first starting in Q2 in Europe, then the F7 in selected markets.
Metaio augments reality with silicon
Best known for its augmented reality software (which lets you view a street scene or other location and have it layered and flagged with information tags, distances, and other data) Metaio has spent the last year designing silicon for AR. The result: a chip that can be integrated with a smartphone CPU to do for AR what a dedicated graphics processor does for gaming and video: speed things up, and deliver “drastically reduced” power demands. You can use AR frequently all through the day without worrying about draining your battery.
New NVIDIA CPU integrates LTE for smartphones
The chipmaker announced a new Tegra CPU aimed at low-power smartphones and embedded devices: the Tegra 4i chip, with an integrated LTE modem, the i500. It’s been described as a “cut-down” variant of the Tegra 4 announced in January. The 4i is different because it uses the less powerful ARM Cortex A9 cores (instead of A15) to reduce power consumption and die size; and because it incorporate NVIDIA’s Icera i500 LTE/HSPA+ baseband processor onto the same die. The result, as shown, is a dramatically smaller component that needs less power. The new chip was co-developed with ARM, according to an NVIDIA executive, representing “not a simple rev of [the] A9, but a pretty heavy improvement."
Samsung takes Note
Samsung is widely expected to release the Galaxy Note 8.0, apparently “growing” the popular Note 2.0 from a screen size of 5.3 inches (1280 x 800 pixels), to an iPad mini-like 8 inches. Details and purportedly leaked images were posted on the French language site Frandroid. The rumors: quad-core processor, Android Jelly Bean, 2GB of RAM, and a 1,280-by-800 pixel display (compared to 1024-by-768 resolution for iPad Mini). Rumors this week say Samsung may price it slightly above the iPad mini, which starts at $329.
LG goes wide
Besides the new lower-end additions to its Optimus smartphone line, LG Electronics also announced a big-screened, premium smartphone, the 5.5-inch Optimus G Pro, apparently a direct challenge to Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note 2. But the LG rival boasts a much higher resolution: 1,920 by 1,080, or 400 pixels per inch, on an IPS (in-plane switching) screen with stronger colors and wider viewing angles, according to LG. By contrast the Note as 267 pixel-per-inch Super AMOLED screen with resolution of 1,280 by 720.
It has a removable, 3,140 mAh battery; supports wireless charging; a 13-megapixel camera; and a 1.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with Android OS 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.
Opera’s next big step in browsing
Opera Software will demonstrate a new browser for Android smartphones at MWC, one that replaces its proprietary Presto rendering engine with the widely used open-source WebKit engine. The company will also be using code from the open-source Chromium browser project. Shown is the existing Opera Mobile 12 for Android, which runs the full browser on the device. WebKit will be phased into the entire Opera product line. A scoop by PocketLint last month says the new browser, codenamed Ice, will hide as much of the browser technology as possible, use gestures to control navigation and actions, and focus on rich applications.
Sony readies Experia SP smartphone
Sony is expected to demonstrate if not formally announce the mid-range Android phone, Experia SP, details of which have been appearing on various tech sites. This includes the German site Android-Hilfe.de, which is the source for this photo, showing what is claimed to be the Experia SP at left with the existing 4.3-inch (diagonal screen) Experia V at right. Rumored details: 720p display, memory card slot, LTE, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro MSM8960T chipset with a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, Adreno 320 graphics.