SAN JOSE, Calif. – Mobile systems are driving toward better graphics, better voice quality and quad-core processors, according to veteran market watcher.
Graphics seems to be key area of investment, as mobile systems become the game platform of choice,” said Linley Gwennap of the Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.) “I think we will see more game play on smartphones and less on dedicated devices like the Nintendo 3DS and Sony Playstation Vita—even tablets are taking away from game consoles,” he said.
Nvidia is trying to get console game titles ported to its Tegra3 chip as Apple courts developers to port games to the new iPad that packs twice the graphics capabilities of its previous model. Separately, Qualcomm recently launched its Snapdragon S4 Pro, mainly focused on enhanced graphics, he noted.
“The amount of silicon devoted to the GPU is starting to increase significantly as we look at die photos of mobile chips, he said.
Separately, mobile networks and handsets are gearing up for increases in voice quality through support of improved audio codecs, Gwennap said. “We see a business model where carriers implement higher quality voice for a fee,” he said.
Tensilica and Qualcomm are already offering such capabilities in silicon. Some of the work involves expanding support for broader audio frequency ranges from the traditional 200 Hz to 3.6 KHz of telephony to a range spanning 20 Hz to 20 KHz in the future, he said.
“People using Skype on a PC already get those good voice experiences, but once you go back to a mobile phone it sounds like tin cans and a string,” he said.
A slow move to quad core processors is the other major mobile trend in the works. Nvidia is there with its Tegra 3, Huawei announced a similar chip in February and Freescale is set to ship one later this year.
“I think it’s clear with the right software quad core is a better solution [but] most Android apps don’t take advantage of quad cores, and Apple hasn’t pushed the iOS infrastructure for more than two cores yet,” he said.
“Most of today’s mobile software is not really going to use three and four cores, but that will evolve over time and things will become more favorable for quad core over the year,” he added.
I remember the time when NVDIA/ATI and 3DFX companies use to have cut throat competition for graphics card for computers. Same is happening but for mobile computing devices now. New software and high resolutions are increasing graphics requirement. With compute power meeting the requirements, GPU is the differential between the products.
I do see a trend that as Linley Gwennap says in this story. "more game play on smartphones and less on dedicated devices like the Nintendo 3DS and Sony Playstation Vita—even tablets."
And yet, I am sure that I am not the only one totally frustrated. My iPhone's battery life barely lasts a whole day without plugging that in.
Mind you that I was reading NYTimes -- not playing the video game -- on my way to work yesterday on my iPhone. By mid day, my battery power was already used up!
My wife likes to play word games with friends and relatives, on Facebook. So, when her PC's hard drive crashed recently, she figured she'd try using her Kindle Fire as a substitute. With all the hype about tablets, you'd think that would be easy, right?
Wrong. Hype is still hype. and, it turns out, the iPad fares no better. Moving letters around on the tablet's screen is, in reality, impossible. For whatever reason.
On another topic raised in this article, the improved sound quality of Skype calls, compared with that of voice telephony (which is limited to about 3000 Hz actual), is one of its best features. I think the importance of voice quality in telephone calls and teleconferences, is not given enough emphasis. Almost like people don't realize its importance, until they hear something vastly better.
Even cell phones and VoIP phones dumb down voice quality to that same inadequate level of the old POTS service, if even that good. You really need something like Skype to break that barrier.
Interesting observations about your wife's experience with tablets. My wife too is a big fan of playing Words With Friends. I think she and her sister have taken up the long-distance version of those Scrabble matches they used to have as kids.
She will play it on her smartphone is she has to, but will complain that the screen is too small. She will play it on the laptop if she has to, but that has its drawbacks too. The tablet (iPad2) is by far her preferred platform for playing this game, or for that matter, looking things up online or checking email or just about anything else that used to require a PC. I hardly ever get to use the iPad anymore since it seems to have taken up permanent residence in her purse :)
This raises another interesting observation about the push for ever more advanced graphics on mobile devices. Yes, that makes them better gaming platforms, but in terms of the types of games most adults I know are actually playing on these devices, I don't think better graphics are all that important.
You mean, pushing intellectual property, or pushing Internet Protocols?
My observation with digital voice telephony is that the digital standards are written to limit the audio bandwidth to 4 KHz, same as it was in analog POTS telephony. This seems to hold true for straight PCM voice, or for perceptual coded compressed voice. The gold standard continues to be 4 KHz max.
With Skype, where voice is a small part of the total needed, they fortunately aren't so tied to the old 4 KHz convention.
Currently, I am the dominant iPad user in the house with my wife grabbing it when she can for games like solitaire, sudoku, etc. I agree that better mobile graphics aren't needed for the majority of casual games which will always likely be the dominant form of gaming on portable phones and tablets.
However, most mobile devices could still stand some improvement in the graphics department. I believe the latest incarnation of the iPad will show the world what mobile graphics are really capable of. The retina display may not be all that impressive on a 3.5 inch screen but once you see it on an iPad, it blows you away. In time, we'll see all devices (laptops, monitors, TVs, etc.) move to much higher ppi displays.
Some very interesting points and observations. Personally, I found the retina display impressive on the 3.5 inch screen compared to what I had before, and the iPad2 screen is quite good, but certainly doesn't match the retina display, and is the one disappointment with the iPad2. Now, I have to decide if I can justify moving to the iPad3.
The improved graphics capability should greatly improve even the word games experience for both Scrabble and Words with Friends on the iPad. And, of course, improved graphics on other games and apps will certainly be welcomed.
It will be interesting to see how quickly other tablet makers and game manufacturers follow suit with upgraded resolution screens.
Oh, and I solved the problem of my wife using the iPad all the time by getting her one of her own, so she doesn't need to try to use the much smaller screen of the smartphone.
With the sensors built into tablets and smartphones, these devices can be the new Wii-like controllers for any console or TV...or cloud system. But maybe they will need wireless power--or at least an extra battery peripheral jacket.
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