Samsung Gear 360 (Looking inside)

It looks like 2016 will be the year of Virtual Reality explosion phenomenom and general availability for everybody, and not only for consumption of contents (glasses), but also for creation.

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_000a

And being a market that nobody wants to neglect, Samsung seems that will present they first product, interballly called as “Proyect Beyond” (started at 2014) but commertially as Samsung Gear 360 (SM-C200) in the next MWC 2016.

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It looks like very promising although the price is still not disclosed.

And we look inside, we can see the level of complexity that this “16 Full-HD + 1 Top camera” implies:

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In the next images you can take a look of how it is build and all its inners parts. It looks like its assembly/dis-assembly will not be easy:

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Being though as portable system, Samsung engineer’s had to add up to 3 battery packs at bottom side:

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And thermically speaking, a big aluminum plate on top of the PCBA and cameras to dissipate the heat:

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We can also see the Ultra Wide-Angle Optics, composed by several lens, in each of the cameras:

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Then, after last year first aproach to VR from vendors, proposing their high resolution high-end smartphones screens to main screens for the VR glasses, this year, many user will be able to create their own VR videos and share them all over the world.

Ad here a prototype used for first Samsung field tests:

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Let’s see how the people surprises us with their inner VR creativity! 🙂

Smartphones, Premium Materials,… and Cases?

Since the first smartphones with premium materials were released in the market with Glass, Metal, Leather, Wood, … I realized that something was changing, making these devices more personal, more human, and less commodity parts.

But since then, many smartphones models and manufacturers have joined the party, but most of them still have the same problem.

We still need to use (or are adviced to do it) a case or protector in case we can keep our daily devices as new as first day:

Samsung_S6_case

This is something that I really don’t understand and don’t like at all; which is the purpose of adding strengthen Glass front or back panels, Metal frames of even full metal unibody housings if at the end the feeling that I will have in my hands will be the touch of a soft, and common plastic?

Well, the good thing, is that I am not the only one realizing this situation, and some market players, as Apple and Jony Ive team, already began to solve it. But how, simply using more robust materials in their creations, as the latest iPhone 6s, which uses the strongest 7000 Series aluminum alloy for metal body and the strongest cover glass used on any smartphone in the world; using a special dual ion‑exchange process, which makes it stronger at a molecular level and the most durable in the smartphone industry.

iPhone6s

Of course, the research is still not over. I believe that current metal alloy is strong enough to avoid scratches and floor impacts, and even the screen is already strengthen to don’t worry anymore about having your keyrings and iPhone’s in the same pocket. Anyhow, even if I am not fully convinced about the total reliability of the front cover glass against floor fallings, I believe that Cupertino guys are going in the right direction and next iPhone generations (as the next iPhone 7 – 2016) and next ones, will be even more roboust enough to avoid using no more cases neither screen protectors at all in normal user cases.

But, of course, not only Apple is working in that direction, also Moto by Lenovo did it with their first Moto X Force with Shattershield display:

moto_x_force_0

And Motorola is so proud and convinced about it that the company will offer 4 years warranty on the screen of the device, and claimed they have spent 3 years developing this shatterproof screen; which has five layers to ensure its durability and are designed to absorb shock and protect the display from breaking:

moto_x_force_1

Basically, the first layer is an exterior protective glass which Moto says comes with a proprietary hard coat designed to guard against dents and abrasion, followed by an interior glass in the second layer to provide a clear protective shield. Then, there is a dual touch layer, which ensures that in case of an impact where the primary touch sensitive layer is damaged, the second one takes over to maintain touchscreen performance. The fourth layer is the AMOLED display, which Moto says can absorb shocks. And finally the fifth layer is the aluminum chassis, which provides structural integrity and durability.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – Looking Inside

Some users have already got their first Samsung Galaxy S6 final samples and disassembled them to take a look inside.

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Time ago there were a leakage of its user manual, suggesting that its internal battery could be exchanged easily:

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_User_Manual

But the point is that after the first disassembly reviews it seems that it is not so easy as above looks like, neither took in mind for regular users but only for Samsung technicians, as the back glass panel is strongly glued to the chassis of the smartphone and its removal is quite tricky, needing a Heat gun and good skills.

Here we can see the back cover once removed:

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And also what you can see below it, basically its Qi wireless charging system attached to the metal frame:

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Disassembly_1

There is also another sub-chassis where the battery and the main board are screwed:

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And both side-by-side, including its two cameras took a part:

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For the most curious of the electronics, the RF shielding on top the chips were removed, and we can see the main CPU and memory in the main board (very compact and integrated, allowing maximize the inner space for other components and bigger battery)

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This is its famous new metal chassis based on Aluminum 6013 alloy, claimed to be stronger than the one used in the Apple iPhone 6 series:

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So, as you can see, disassembly the new Samsung Galaxy S6 is not easy and even with patience and skills, could lead to break any component or inner flex cables:

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Personally, I would not suggest to try it to anybody without enough experience removing glued parts and high integrated micro electronics, as it is quite dangerous and you could break the glass bottom cover or you could damage any of other parts of the phone during the heating or disassembly process. Not only trying to unglue it, but also due the heat. That heat not well managed (overheating) could damage partial or totally some electronic inner parts.

Samsung Galaxy S6 will use different Aluminum 6XXX series alloy than iPhone6

After few weeks of iPhone 6 market release some users highlighted what was called as “Bending gate” case, basically they claimed that iPhone 6/6Plus were weak enough to blend easily in their pockets, and after so much fuss, Apple showed couple of videos of their internal Testing & Qualifying housing process (also against ‘bendings’) and made the following official statement:

Our iPhones are designed, engineered and manufactured to be both beautiful and sturdy. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature a precision engineered unibody enclosure constructed from machining a custom grade of 6000 series anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength. They also feature stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations and use the strongest glass in the smartphone industry. We chose these high-quality materials and construction very carefully for their strength and durability. We also perform rigorous tests throughout the entire development cycle including 3-point bending, pressure point cycling, sit, torsion, and user studies. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure every day, real life use. With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of sale, a total of nine customers have contacted Apple with a bent iPhone 6 Plus. As with any Apple product, if you have questions please contact Apple.

I will not open the iPhone 6 ‘Bending’ housing debate again here, as I want to talk more about the new aluminum alloy that Samsung will use in their newer Galaxy S6 series high-end metal unibody smartphones:

Galaxy_S6_Frame

Samsung will use the Aluminum 6013 alloy, which as the other aluminum alloy 6XXX series is an alloy of Aluminum-Magnesium-Silicon. Moreover, the second number (a “zero”) denotes that the alloy purity is maximum without any kind of the change on it.

SiMgAl

Samsung claims this aluminum alloy is sturdier than the regular used in automotive industry and most of current days smartphones, also they say “that is an alloy used in aircraft industry”, but I want to highlight that 6013 alloy is not used in the inner structural parts of an airplane but in the external and visible parts.

Moreover, Samsung Mobile officially assured that “this alloy will not bend” (making an obvious nod to Apple), (at minute 1:18 of next YouTube video):

Which is something we need wait to test/see until first units are market released and some users begin playing with them and uploading videos in YouTube of their experiments.

I will also mention that even it is not officially stated in Apple iPhone 6 specifications, we think Apple used Aluminum 6003 alloy (at least in the beginning iPhone 6 batches of last year).

In Wikipedia, these alloys are not detailed described, but you can find some technical data of both these two alloys here:

  1. Aluminum 6003 Alloy
  2. Aluminum 6013 Alloy

Where if you look in the Applications section of each one, you will notice that 6013 alloy is used in harshest environment products than 6003 version.

I don’t know why Apple exactly selected 6003 iso 6013 (or other from 6XXX series), but they should have their good reasons: Technical limitations, Manufacturability issues (DFM), Costs or Production capability from their vendors?

Only Apple knows, but looking the figures, it seems that 6013 is an sturdier alloy than 6003, so probably Samsung is right using 6013 in their newest high-end smartphones.

Anyhow, I am pretty sure that Apple will improve the strength of their current/coming iPhones doesn’t matter the way:

  1. Maybe also moving to 6013 alloy without letting us know (and if the change is impossible to be noticed by end user, maybe it is already done in latest iPhone6 batches without being officially announced; if not maybe reserved for coming iPhone 6s as new feature).
  2. Maybe keeping 6003 alloy but changing the Temper grade used (we also don’t know which one is currently used by Apple housing manufacturing process).
  3. Or simply strengthening the weak area where the housing was blending (near the volume buttons housing hole) with more/bigger/thicker steel/titanium insertions, as it is already done in other sides of the housing to keep it slim, lightweight and robust as Apple stated.

I.e. You can see below where are those inner metal inserts located inside iPhone 6 Plus (first 2014Q4 batch) in these photos:

iPhone6_Inserts1

(The blue highlight is the Volume area where even having an insert, it seemed to be the weakest against pressure exerted)

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You can see those inserts are basically steel/titanium flat metal pieces directly screwed in the housing of iPhone 6/6Plus.

In any case, this time I am sure of the good & high housing quality of both products: Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6.

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.

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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:

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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:

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

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

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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:

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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.

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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

😉