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What will tomorrow's smart phones look like?

Posted: 20 Mar 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart phone  applications processor  cell phone business  iPhone 

The next-generation smart phone will project HD movies, replace digital still cameras, pack more than 100GB memory and be more user-friendly. That was the prediction of Marcelo Vieira, general manager of the smart phone business at Texas Instruments Inc.

Vieira, who oversees TI's OMAP applications processor group, was speaking at Wireless Ventures. Just down the road at its Cupertino headquarters, Apple Inc. gave a more short term picture of the smart phone's future as it previewed its iPhone 3.0 software.

Smart phones remain the fastest growing segment of the cell phone business, but the downturn has revised the definition of what that means.

"A year ago I would have said more than half a billion (50 crore) smart phones will ship in 2011," said Vieira. "Now the reality is at the close of 2008 about 160 million (16 crore) smart phones shipped, and we may see that double by 2012," he said.

Asked to describe the smart phone of 2012, Vieira said TI's recently announced 45nm application processor could power such devices. The OMAP4 will support 1080-progressive video encode and decode at 30fps, 20Mpixel still images and graphics an order of magnitude better than what's available today.

He also demonstrated TI's miniature digital light processing module that lets a mobile device project a half VGA image at 6- to 7lumens. Samsung has said it will ship a cell phone in Korea this year using the component. TI was one of a handful of companies showing mobile projectors at Consumer Electronics Show.

"As we pack more and more features in these handheld devices, you are still limited by the small screen, so I predict this [projector] will appear in a majority of phones over time," he said.

The roll out of mobile projectors will parallel the earlier integration of still cameras into cell phones, he added. "Today, I still carry a digital camera, but a few years from now I will not," he added, referring to some phones that are already including 12Mpixel cameras with one-second shot-to-shot delays.

iPhone 3.0
The Apple iPhone has pointed the way for tomorrow's smart phones in two ways, Vieira said. Desktop-class browsing experiences and ease of use will also become common in future handsets, he said.

"To use a smart phone today, you have to be pretty smart but that will change as the level of intuitiveness grows. Apple has set the bar," he said.

Raising that bar a few inches, Apple released to registered developers a beta version of its iPhone OS 3.0 March 17.

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