MediaTek's Lin added that its Aster is even capable of offering a "viewfinder function" on a wearable device, when wirelessly connected to a smartphone's camera. By reducing the image size, the picture can be transferred via Bluetooth from a camera in the smartphone to a small display of the new smartwatch. It allows a user to remotely frame a picture right on a smartwatch display, instead of awkwardly tilting a bulky phablet in the air.
Although MediaTek displayed Aster at its suite during the International CES earlier this month, the company is not giving out any more details of the SoC. When asked about its price, Lin noted that Aster is "suitably priced for end-products ranging from $20 to $50." The SoC's mass production is slated for the third quarter of 2014.
Mediatek's Aster vs. Freescale's WaRP
At a time when wearable devices are expected to come in various shapes and functions, how could a single SoC platform such as Aster, which doesn't even come with sensors, address its diversified requirements?
For example, Freescale's wearable reference platform, dubbed WaRP, is at least designed for a flexible form factor, extended battery life, and expandable architecture. Freescale's platform comes with two boards. The main board is built on Freescale's i.MX 6SoloLite ARM Cortex-A9 apps processor as the core processing unit. A replaceable daughter card offers a hub sensor, wireless charging, and motion sensing pedometer.
When asked to compare MediaTek's Aster with WaRP, Lin said, a reference design like Freescale's WaRP is good for "testing functions and building a prototype." But when it comes to bringing it as a commercial mass-production product, Aster will be right there to help customers, he asserted.
Although Aster is a standalone SoC, Lin said, "We offer our own turnkey solution" to go with it. MediaTek provides customers with everything from firmware to drivers and a qualified vendor list. The list will allow OEMs to pick and choose necessary components, already pre-qualified by MediaTek, that are made sure to work together with Aster. No additional design work will be needed.
MediaTek's turnkey solution is what led the Taiwanese company to its wild success in the Chinese smartphone market over the last few years. By taking a page from the same playbook, the company plans to secure a strong foothold in the wearable market.
The initial phase of the wearable market, enabled by MediaTek's Aster, promises to be substantially simpler than the current Western perception of the next big wearable device. And at a price point under $50, Aster might be just what the doctor ordered to get things moving in a still nebulous market.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times