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New Tech Drives Gadget Goodness

As audio, video, telephony, camera phones, and location-based services converge, engineers and designers are working to pack as much capability into mobile handsets as they can, without blowing their power consumption budgets.

Multimedia access is hot. Consumers in mature markets are buying the latest, fully-loaded replacement phones and those in emerging markets are going wireless at record rates. According to Gartner, Inc. worldwide mobile phone sales surpassed 674 million units in 2004, which was a 30 percent increase from 2003. Analysts believe phone sales will continue to grow, with Gartner forecasting worldwide mobile phone sales to exceed 730 million units in 20051.

As audio, video, telephony, camera phones, and location-based services converge, engineers and designers are working to pack as much capability into mobile handsets as they can, without blowing their power consumption budgets. Fortunately, there are new devices, ICs, and processes that were designed with an eye on high functionality, integration, low power, and small size.

Functionality
One of the coolest products to enter the multimedia scene is a tiny Infrared transceiver from Agilent that is designed to add remote control capability to mobile phones. The on-chip software incorporates profiles for TV, DVD, VCR, air conditioning, CD, audio, LD/VCD (laser disk/video compact disk) and other home appliances; up to 80 home appliance devices can be stored.

The convergence of voice, data, and mobility was underscored with the release of Texas Instrument's Voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) chip . Still on the design board, these enticing new devices are set to begin sampling later this year (3Q 2005).

A new GSM/GPRS/EDGE device from TI is sampling now which was deigned to bring multimedia functionality to mid-range wireless handsets. The IC supports mega pixel digital still camera, color LCD, interactive 2D/3D gaming, and QCIF 30 frames per second video capture, playback, and streaming.

For Global Positioning System (GPS) services, SiGe Semiconductor introduced a receiver system that is designed to enable cellular handset manufacturers to support location-based functionality at a price below $5.00.

In the category of interesting product add-on, a tiny biometric fingerprint sensor from AuthenTec was designed for security, navigation, and personalization in cell phones. Boasting a 33% smaller footprint than comparable sensors, the device provides speedy fingerprint imaging and motion.

Process
Jazz Semiconductor has been busy developing a specialty CMOS process that enables high levels of integration for analog and RF products, which resulted in a new 17-GHz vertical PNP (VPNP) module on its 0.18um RFCMOS platform. According to the company, the addition of the VPNP module to its RFCMOS platform enables the design of analog circuits that require high voltage, complementary drive, or amplification beyond the capability of standard CMOS.

Power & Efficiency
TI garnered a lot of attention recently when it announced the first 65-nm device to hit the wireless market: a wireless digital baseband IC. Optimized for low power, the devices use dynamic power management to scale power supply voltage based on user performance demands. They are expected to be in production later this year.

ANADIGICS, Inc. recognized the need for power conservation in the latest mobile handsets, so it developed family of 4 mm x 4 mm High-Efficiency-at-Low-Power (HELP) wideband CDMA (W-CDMA) power amplifier (PA) modules . These devices are using proprietary mode switching techniques to enable high efficiency operation over a wide range of output power levels.

Size
Minimizing the number of external components and shrinking footprints are key design criteria for designers today, and the team at Analog Devices is no exception. Earlier this year they announced an entire GSM/GPRS radio that fits into 1.5 sq. cm. With this device, the design team achieved a 75% reduction in component count from its previous generation and 30% smaller area.

As the "cell phone" of the past becomes the multimedia device of the present and future, designers have a wide range of choices to help speed them on their way.

Reference
1. "Gartner Says Strong Fourth Quarter Sales Led Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales to 30 Percent Growth in 2004 ," Egham, UK, March 2, 2005

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