[CEATEC Preview] Smartphone Evolution Driven by iPhone, 3.9G Handsets

Sep 24, 2008
Toshiyuki Oomori, Nikkei Electronics

"Smartphones" will definitely be focused on in the area of mobile devices at CEATEC JAPAN 2008.

The environment surrounding the Japanese mobile phone market has drastically changed in the last one year, with mobile phone shipments making a downturn due to the diffusion of the installment payment method. There is also a sense that the sustainable advancement of mobile phone functions has completed its first stage.

On the other hand, smartphones have emerged, represented by the "iPhone," which was developed by Apple Inc and is being marketed by SoftBank Mobile Corp in Japan.

Although neither Apple nor SoftBank Mobile are exhibiting at CEATEC, other mobile phone carriers and handset manufacturers are expected to showcase their smartphones that are targeting the iPhone. In addition to NTT DoCoMo Inc, which is marketing Windows Mobile handsets and the US major BlackBerry phones, KDDI Corp will present its first smartphone "E30HT" (manufactured by HTC Corp of Taiwan).

For smartphones, which transmit a large volume of data via their networks, faster communication speeds are important. There are now prospects for the realization of LTE, mobile WiMAX and other 3.9 generation (3.9G) communication technologies.

At CEATEC, relevant manufacturers will surely reveal the latest statuses of LSIs and measurement tools to realize such technologies. Attention must also be paid to technologies such as "femto cell" small base stations, which are expected to drastically expand a service area.

Touch panel is the most significant component in a smartphone. In addition to the variation of resistive, capacitance and optical touch panels, other qualities such as multi-touch capability and permeability, which is directly related to the quality of the display screen, also vary by product.

The LSI-related big topic is the fact that Tensilica Inc of the US has licensed its "Xtensa LX" configurable CPU core to NEC Corp for application to mobile phone LSIs. In this manner, more configurable CPUs and FPGAs might be applied to mobile phones with the view to reducing the development load.

Among the other components, focus should be placed on embedded projectors. As the size reduction of a module has advanced, their introduction to mobile phones and smartphones will become possible before long.

In addition to mobile phones, the mini notebook PC area, which was sparked by the "Eee PC" of ASUSTeK Computer Inc of Taiwan, is likely to draw interest as well. Attention will be focused on how the manufacturers are responding to the conflicting requirements for a smaller size and a lower cost.