Xperia Z5 Thermal dissipation

Although it was known in the Android community from other high-end smartphones already released this 2015 year that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 suffered of overheating in their first die revision (you can take a look to my previous article) it seems that Sony decided go ahead with it in their latest high-end Xperia Z5 family.

Although not mentioned, it is most than probably that Sony is using the die revision 2.x of it, which suffers lower over heating but anyhow noticeable by the user if you use the SoC at maximum throttle (as gaming).

However, it looks like Sony decided to introduce some extra thermal dissipation techniques coming from higher size consumer electronics equipment or computers; more complex but also efficient to spread the heat along the phone, instead of a single heat sink point above the SoC.

In next pictures you can see how Sony added a couple of thermal copper heap pipes connected to a bigger heat sink and even thermal paste on top of the SoC, which makes more complex (and expensive) the inners and assembly of the Z5 phones family, but less noticeable to the user when the SoC warms up:

Sony_Xperia_Z5_Dual_Heat_Pipe

And for the Z5 Premium:

Sony_Xperia_Z5_Premium_Dual_Heat_Pipe

Of course, these kind of techniques are not very usual in high integrated smartphones due the higher manufacturing costs, labor time and lower reliability at long term. I assume that Sony Mobile R&D team had to make some trade-off’s this year to be able to release a newer Z family member with higher specs (currently 810 v2.1 is the highest, while the 820 is ready to be released) able to compete with the strong competition coming from China (as the OnePlus, Huawei, Meizu, Mi, Lenovo/Motorola), Korea (Samsung/LG) and for sure, Apple with their iPhones.

Apple Watch S1 – Looking inside its entrails

We didn’t need to wait long to be able to take a look in the entrails of Apple Watch S1, which as Apple says “An entire computer architecture on a single chip“:

Apple_S1

But after open it, we can say that it is more than a ‘single chip‘ as you can see here: Apple_S1_Decapped

It is a whole minituarized board containing all kind of sub-systems (IC’s and passives) which we would expect to find in a portable wrist computer:

  • CPU: Apple APL 0778 (with GPU PowerVR SGX543) (based on Samsung’s 28nm LP process) (not yet benchmark but already claimed to be as powerful as an Apple A5 at lower clock speed to save power).
  • RAM: 512MB from Elpida
  • FLASH storage: 8GB from Sandisk/Toshiba
  • WiFi/BlueTooth: Single stream BCM43342 from Broadcom
  • NFC interface: From NXP+AMS
  • Accelerometer/Gyroscope: Brand new 6-axis from STMicroelectronics
  • Touch Screen controller: AD7149 from Analog Devices
  • PMU: D2238A from Dialog Semiconductor

Following table is an aprox. breakdown cost of whole Apple Watch 1st gen:

Apple_Watch_Costs

As you can see, it nearly looks like an old iPhone4S (2011) (without cellular/GPS) but in a tenth of original size. Before finishing, just for your fun, you can see also a X-Ray shot of it, which shows you all the component PAD’s placed in the PCB:

Apple_S1_Xray

And also a collage containing the silicon DIE’s:

apple_s1_xray2

It is pretty impressive, and only the first step in Apple Watch miniaturization process.

Apple_Watch_BluePrint

So, I am really excited to see its evolution in the coming years. 😀

New Technology may Double RF data capacity

In a more and mover crowded radio frequency spectrum and higher bandwidth requirements by all kind of wireless technology users: WiFi, Bluetooth, Cellular 3G/4G/5G, a new chip (called as CoSMIC) developed at the Engineering Department of Columbia University by a team of researchers leaded by Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Harish Krishnaswamy, has proven up to now, it had been thought to be impossible: Transmitters and Receivers working at same time in the same frequency band.

Full_Duplex_Chip

[Photo of the CoSMIC (Columbia high-Speed and Mm-wave IC) full-duplex transceiver IC that can be implemented in nanoscale CMOS to enable simultaneous transmission and reception at the same frequency in a wireless radio].

You can see below how typical works a TDD vs. FDD vs. Full-Duplex Radio system:

Half_vs_Full_Duplex

“This is a game-changer”, said Krishnaswamy, director of the Columbia high-Speed and Mm-wave IC Lab. “By leveraging our new technology, networks can effectively double the frequency spectrum resources available for devices like smartphones and tablets.”

The biggest challenge the team faced with full duplex was canceling the transmitter’s echo. Imagine that you are trying to listen to someone whispering from far away while at the same time someone else is yelling while standing next to you. But, if you could cancel the echo of the person yelling, you could also hear the other person whispering far away.

“If everyone could do this, everyone could talk and listen at the same time, and conversations would take half the amount of time and resources as they take right now,” explained Jin Zhou, Krishnaswamy’s PhD student and the paper’s lead author. “Transmitter echo or ‘self-interference’ cancellation has been a fundamental challenge, especially when performed in a tiny nanoscale IC, and we have found a way to solve that challenge”.

In following video, they demonstrate the world’s first mm-Wave same-channel full-duplex wireless link using Tolga’s 60GHz 45nm SOI CMOS full-duplex transceiver IC:

.

The key innovation is that to cancel the transmitter self-interference with one part per billion accuracy, the chip needs to make a near-exact replica of the transmitter self-interference. This is hard to do especially because the transmitter self-interference or echo will distort and change as it reflects off objects in the nearby environment.

Krishnaswamy and Zhou plan next to test a number of full-duplex nodes to understand what the gains are at the network level. “We are working closely with Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Gil Zussman and his PhD student Jelena Marasevic, who are network theory experts here at Columbia Engineering”, Krishnaswamy mentioned.

This work was funded by the DARPA RF-FPGA program, and successfully shown with  in the Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2015 at San Francisco.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 could suffer overheat [Updated x1]

Some months ago there were some rumors saying that the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 thought for this 2015 year high-end smartphones had some overheating issues.

snapdragon_processor_810

This was also one of the reasons why those rumors suggested the decision of Samsung to disregard this processor and use only their own Exynos in their Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge new 2015 series.

Well, today Tweakers.net (Dutch specialized site) was evaluating the HTC One M9 (which uses this 810 CPU), and discovered that when high-performance games as Asphalt 8 and Assassin’s Creed are running, the temperature of the M9 case gets much warm that the HTC competitors, in fact, up to 55,4°C.

You can see it in their thermal picture that they made:

CPU_Thermal_Image

It is true that the test was not done with the final SW Android OS build for the HTC One M9, but anyhow it doesn’t show very good perspective. There will be more high-smartphones using this high-end CPU on 2015, so if it is a real issue, we will see more reports like this one and users complaining in the coming months.

[Update x1: 26 March 2015]

After the shocking results shared by Tweakers.net couple weeks ago, HTC released a new Android OS build (claimed to be more stable and closer to the final release) where the temperature of the HTC One M9 is reduced by -13,7°C down to 41,7°C, something closer to its competitors:

cpu_thermal_image_updated

The official details of what was exactly changed has not been officially disclosed by HTC, but pretty sure HTC reduced the processor performance (freq. clocks in some domains) in extreme cases as high demanding 3D games.

Now, we will have to wait for newer HTC One M9 benchmarkings using the tweaked new Android OS build, which still is not the final one, to see if it still can compete face-to-face against latest Samsung Exynos 7 or Apple A8.

Why next iPhone6s could come with 2GB RAM

Since the iPhone5s launch, many users have been waiting a boost in the inner iPhone 1GB RAM, so when iPhone6 series where launch with still 1GB LPDDR3 RAM there was a big letdown in most of them, even more for the iPhone 6 Plus users.

Anyhow, Apple doesn’t boost their devices specifications due market trending, but following a well progressive thought plan behind.

Then, taking into account the next facts, which I will describe, I really think that next iPhone6s series could come finally this year with that 2GB RAM boosting long time waited.

  1. A9 CPU based on FinFET 14nm: This new ASIC process technology would allow Apple chip designers to make a smaller die and more power efficient CPU; reducing the overall battery power consumption.
  2. LPDDR4 RAM: This newer RAM technology is also faster and more power efficient, so together with the new A9 based on 14nm would allow Apple to keep the average usage hours even if the RAM is doubled (and therefore its consumption). Remember that Apple always keeps (or increase) the average usage battery lifetime in every new iPhone.
  3. LPDDR4 newer RAM technology will be already tested in millions of smartphones during several months (remember that Samsung Galaxy S6 series use it) ensuring its quality and reliability in the field. In addition, this will ensure that the LPDDR4 vendor memory factories are at full capacity without any fault that may have.
  4. iDevices roadmap: Taking into account that Apple already introduced the 2GB size RAM on last 2014 iPad Air2, bringing this bigger RAM memory footprint to the other iOS devices would setup a common development field to the thirty apps developers. In this case, Apple was able to do it because the A8X has not the RAM embedded inside the same SoC package, but in chip-on-board mounting (look picture below of iPAD Air 2 mainboard PCB).
  5. Doubling the RAM memory size would allow to keep more process running in RAM, allowing Apple to add more services running in background, as all those which will come with the Apple Watch (think also in next iOS9 and iOS10).

iPAD_Air2_A8X_CPU

Then, taking into account my above five argumentation points, and that even then Apple would need to be able to integrate the double RAM size die in the same PoP package size as today (if they don’t want to lose PCB space and therefore, internal space for other IC’s or battery). Because remember that Apple integrates in the same package the CPU + RAM silicon dies using Package-on-Package technology to save space and improve performance:

iPhone6_A8_CPU

I think that this year could be finally the year where 2GB RAM memory size could arrive to the iPhone 6s series, or at least to iPhone 6s Plus if Apple would decide to keep it as a Key feature differentiator between the next iPhone 6s and iPhone 6S Plus.

Samsung closes the loop in high-end smartphones production chain

Until this year, all the high-end Samsung smartphones came with an in-house CPU design (Exynos) or Qualcomm performance equivalent; depending of market and sales volumes.

Q810_Exynos7

But on top of moving to Glass + Metal materials, it seems Samsung game rules changed also this year for CPU, and the newest Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will come only with Exynos 7 CPU flavor inside.

Mr. Shin Jong-kyun (Samsung CEO) argued:

Samsung previously used more Qualcomm mobile processors; But we are flexible. If Qualcomm chips are good enough, then we will use them. Samsung always uses the best-quality components and materials to differentiate our products from those by rivals.

But I don’t think that current Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 is not good or powerful enough. My view is that Samsung wants to have a closer control in the supply chain and full Bill Of Materials costs, reducing overall production costs and improving margin benefits avoiding paying any kind of IP to Qualcomm (which are not negligible).

If Exynos performs well and Samsung doesn’t suffer production bottlenecks, I doubt that they will come back to Qualcomm and probably they will begin to introduce their Exynos in medium range, increasing the visibility of Samsung Semic. R&D division.

Basically they are following the steps made by Apple: to have a closer control up to the last dollar cent of the BOM to achieve bigger benefits.

This was done some decades ago until most companies began to outsource progressively everything, focusing only in branding; but I think the tech business trend is changing again, having in-house control even up to lower ASIC design level.

Samsung Galaxy S6 points the way to iPhone6s

Today was the official day, after many rumors and leakages the new Samsung Galaxy S6 was finally unveiled on MWC 2015 in Barcelona:

650_1000_sm-g920fzdaphe-16-0

It’s definitely a turning point in the high-end smartphone strategy, no more battery replacements, no more microSD card access, that is gone. Now is a single block with metal frame and Gorilla Glass 4 in front and cover. I find the design beautiful, but I find quite excessive the protruding back camera. It is something that I didnt like it so much on iPhone6/6Plus, even they had only 0.76mm protruding back camera. I am not sure about how much is on the S6, but from the media looks like something between 1.5 and 2mm; but we will see once one of the first units reach our hands.

This change of strategy (“Bye-Bye Plastic cover…”) means that Samsung accepted that users expect much more from Premium devices, and not only looking in inner specs (CPU, RAM, Screen resolution, Camera Mpxls); but also in the outside. And that is why Samsung also increased the price to match iPhone6; will be able to sell tens of millions as Apple did on 2014Q4?

But I will not discuss so much about comparison specs, or which is better, we can leave it for another post. What I really want to point out are the inner newer chip technologies implemented, which point the way for the next iPhone6s:

1) First one is the new Exynos 7420:

img_24

while latest Apple A8 processor was based on TSMC-20nm process:

Cell-SizeComparison

The new Exynos is a 64-bits processor based on the latest and more leading manufacturing technology: the 14nm FinFET.

Samsung_Analyst_Day_13_3D_FinFET_14_nm-640x349

This technology points the way for the future processors and has a much lower consumption compared with processors based on 20nm. I am fully sure that next A9 for the iPhone6s will be based on that and will provide an unparallel performance to the next iPhone6s generation at the end of 2015.

2) Secondly, we have its RAM, but not only because it is 3GB size, but because is based in the latest Low Power DDR4 standard:

smart_LPDDR4_chart1

Some expected it for iPhone6, but it seems that Samsung keep the ace on the sleeve for their 2015 first devices (S6 and S6 Edge; and also for next Note5).

This memory reduces in aprox 37% the power consumption and is much faster than the LPDDR3 implemented in current iPhone6/6Plus.

smart_LPDDR4_chart2

So, I am also quite sure that this will be the second biggest internal improvement in the coming iPhone6s, maybe with an increased size to 2GB (many iPhone users dream on it since couple of generations ago), and the back camera OIS as today iPhone6Plus already has.

We will have to wait few months more, but I am pretty sure that next iPhone6s will come with 14nm processor, 2GB? LPDDR4, OIS and few surprises more. We’ll see

😉