Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 636 mobile platform

Qualcomm Technologies has unveiled the Snapdragon 636 mobile platform, touting “significant” improvements across performance, gaming, and display.

The new mobile platform, announced during the 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong on Tuesday morning by Qualcomm Technologies VP of Product Management Kedar Kondap, utilises the Qualcomm Kryo 260 CPU with a 40 percent device performance increase in comparison to the previous Snapdragon 630.

The Qualcomm Adreno 509 GPU increases gaming and browsing performance by 10 percent, and integrated into the Adreno Visual Processing Subsystem are Qualcomm’s TruPalette and EcoPix features to improve the display. It additionally supports ultra-wide FHD+ displays and Assertive Display.

It features the Snapdragon X12 4G LTE modem, enabling peak download speeds of 600Mbps.

“The Snapdragon 636 Mobile Platform uses a 14nm FinFet process, and is pin and software compatible with the Snapdragon 660 and 630 mobile platforms, allowing original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) already using these platforms to quickly and efficiently add Snapdragon 636 to their device line-ups,” Qualcomm added.

“It features … the 14-bit Qualcomm Spectra 160 ISP, which supports capture of up to 24 megapixels with zero shutter lag while supporting smooth zoom, fast autofocus, and true-to-life colours for outstanding image quality; and the Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec supports Hi-Fi audio on the go, with up to 192kHz/24bit support and the ability to play back lossless audio files with low distortion and high dynamic range.”

The Snapdragon 636 is expected to ship next month, and follows the introduction of the Snapdragon 660 and 630 mobile platforms in May.

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Qualcomm had adjusted its Snapdragon branding back in March, saying it would only apply to premium processors while those in the 200 tier were relabelled as “Qualcomm Mobile”, with the chip giant also moving away from processor branding towards “platforms”.

According to Qualcomm, the rebranding allows it to better demonstrate the acquisitions it has made to improve its place as a semiconductor player, as well as to express that it has expanded from mobile devices to such sectors as connected cars, mobile PCs, servers, IoT, wearables, drones, VR, and AR.

“The word [processor] is an inadequate representation of what the technology actually is, and the solutions that tens of thousands of Qualcomm Technologies innovators have worked on,” Qualcomm said at the time.

“Snapdragon is more than a single component, a piece of silicon, or what many would misinterpret as the CPU; it’s an anthology of technology, comprising hardware, software, and services.”

Qualcomm has been attempting to keep competitors’ mobile chips out of the United States market, with the International Trade Commission (ITC) announcing in August that it would be launching an investigation into whether various Apple devices, including the iPhone 7, infringe on Qualcomm patents.

Qualcomm asked the ITC in July to investigate whether the importation of the iPhone 7 and device components including baseband processor modems violates the Tariff Act 1930, and to ban Apple from importing iPhones using cellular baseband processors not supplied by Qualcomm’s affiliates.

The case is set to be heard by an ITC administrative law judge, with the determination then subject to review by the ITC and a final decision “at the earliest practicable time”.

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Apple had originally filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm in January, accusing the semiconductor giant of overcharging for chips and withholding $1 billion in contractual rebate payments.

Qualcomm was last week also asked by the Taiwanese Federal Trade Commission (TFTC) to pay a NT$23.4 billion ($773 million) fine for violating competition law in the mobile communication standard baseband chip market, following similar legal troubles with the South Korean Fair Trade Commission and with BlackBerry.

According to the TFTC, Qualcomm used its patents, which are standard essential patents for CDMA, WCDMA, and LTE mobile technologies, to force rivals to agree to various contractual clauses that had the effect of driving up prices and maintaining its dominance in the Chinese cell phone market.

The chip giant was also asked by the TFTC to stop including clauses in its contracts that require information from competitors on chip prices, sales targets, sales volumes, and product models; clauses that refuse to provide chips to cell phone manufacturers; and clauses that mandate exclusive trading concessions with specific businesses.

Qualcomm president Derek Aberle will be stepping down at the end of 2017.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Qualcomm 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong as a guest of Qualcomm

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