It seems that every new high-end mobile phone is powered by a Qualcomm chip, but there’s a new name in town, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
The typical cellphone user doesn’t care who makes the insides of that cool new handset, but it’s a major selling point for manufacturers and resellers. For several years, it was a badge of quality to claim a Qualcomm processor as the heartbeat of the device.
Now the San Diego-based chipmaker is facing growing competition from the other side of the world.
MediaTek, headquartered in Taiwan, has quietly risen to number three in the world, with 2016 revenue of around US$8.6-billion. That’s still less than half of Qualcomm’s $23.5-billion, and some way behind number two, Broadcom Limited, at $13.2-billion. But, for a brand that has been primarily known as a chip supplier for cheap feature phones, its rise should send warning signals to the market leaders.
It also powers some of the best-selling entry-level smartphones in the world, and is beginning to rise up the value chain.
“We consider ourselves number one in the world in feature phones, so that’s still a very strong focus of the business,” says Dominique Friedl. “In smartphones, our biggest strength exists in the entry smartphones, from the Vodacom Smart Kicka, and other 3.5-inch display smartphones, pushing all the way up into the mid-tier smartphones, like the Sony Xperia XA, Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime Plus, and brands like TECNO, Infinix and Itel.”
The latter three are all owned by Transsion Holdings, which has become one of the most successful smartphone businesses in West and East Africa, and is slowly entering the South African market.
“Each of its brands is positioned to serve a particular segment of the market, with Infinix at the top, TECNO in the middle, and Itel as the entry-level brand,” says Friedl. “All use MediaTek.”
He points out that South Africa is very different to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, where retailers dominate cellphone sales, whereas this country’s market is driven by operators. That makes it more difficult for new brands to enter the market, unless they are able to build a good relationship with operators.
Nevertheless, home-grown brands Mint and Mobicel, Latin American entrant Azumi, and Transsion are all making inroads into the South African market.
“It’s quite a rainbow nation of brands that MediaTek supports. Our strength was traditionally in the Chinese market, and then supporting regional brands.”
In South Africa, it is already a dominant player. With some estimates putting annual smartphone sales as high as 16-million, MediaTek has a market share of
about 45%, or just under 8-million. For the entire Sub-Saharan Africa, it is forecasting 120-million smartphones, and 100-million feature phones.
“South Africa and Nigeria remain the two biggest markets,” says Friedl. “Growing rapidly behind them, we see the East Africa countries, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and now also Ethiopia. That’s a unique market because it has one mobile network, which drives the market in a specific direction.”
The ability to address the opportunities as well as the complexities of global markets has grown MediaTek to 15 000 people globally, and more than 30 global offices. It has grown turnover between 20 and 30 percent a year for the past few years, almost doubling revenue in three years.
Yet, this may be just the beginning. As more and more consumers decide that mid-range phones meet their needs just as well as expensive flagship devices, a new category is emerging, says Friedl.
“We’re starting to see the New Premium. You saw a decline in flagship phone sales in 2016 as people started questioning the diminishing returns of upgrades. The result is the trend towards the New Premium tier.
“It’s really by demand from customers and what their expectations are of phones. They want quality technology, performance, and power, all the things that were flagship features, but they want them now in mid-tier devices. That’s where the exciting stuff will happen in the next two years.”
The result is that the features that are currently associated with top-of-the-range smartphones, like dual cameras, edge to edge display, and fingerprint and biometric sensing, will arrive in mid-tier phones in the next year or so.
“You can equate it to Formula 1 racing, where advanced technology is developed in Formula 1 cars and then finds its way into commercial vehicles down the line. That’s the trend in 2017 and 2018 in smartphones.”
Acer gaming beast escapes
Acer this week unveiled two notebooks that take portable gaming to new extremes.
Acer unveiled two new Predator Helios gaming notebooks this week at the next@acer global press conference in New York. They include the powerful Predator Helios 500, featuring up to 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processors, and the Predator Helios 300 Special Edition that includes upgraded specs from its predecessor and a distinctive white chassis. Both feature VR-Ready performance, advanced thermal technologies, and blazing-fast connectivity.
“We’ve expanded our Predator Helios gaming notebook line in response to popular demand from gamers seeking extreme performance on the go,” said Jerry Kao, President of IT Products Business, Acer. “The Predator Helios 500 and Helios 300 gaming notebooks feature Acer’s proprietary thermal technologies and powerful components that, coupled with our award-winning software, deliver unparalleled gaming experiences.”
“The 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processor for gaming and creation laptops is the highest performance Intel has ever delivered for this class of devices; purpose built for enthusiasts who demand premium gaming experiences whether at home or on the go,” said Steve Long, Vice President and General Manager, Client Computing Group Sales and Marketing, Intel. “Intel and Acer’s long relationship has produced amazing products over the years, and the new Acer Predator Helios gaming notebooks are powerful examples of what’s possible with this unprecedented level of performance.”
Predator Helios 500 is a gaming beast featuring overclocking, 4K 144 Hz panels
Designed for extreme gamers, the Predator Helios 500 is a gaming beast. It features up to overclockable 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processors and overclockable GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. Intel Optane memory increases responsiveness and load times, while ultra-fast NVMePCIe SSDs, Killer DoubleShot Pro networking, and up to 64GB of memory keep the action going, making the Helios 500 the ideal gaming notebook for graphic-intensive AAA titles and live streaming.
Top-notch visuals are delivered on bright, vibrant 4K UHD or FHD IPS 17.3-inch displays with 144Hz refresh rates for blur- and tear-free gameplay. NVIDIA G-SYNC technology is supported on both the built-in display and external monitors, allowing for buttery-smooth imagery without tearing or stuttering. For those looking for maximum gaming immersion, dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, and display and HDMI 2.0 ports support up to three external monitors. Two speakers, a subwoofer, and Acer TrueHarmony and Waves MAXXAudio technology deliver incredible sound and hyper-realistic 3D audio using Waves Nx.
The Helios 500 stays cool with two of Acer’s proprietary AeroBlade 3D metal fans, and five heat pipes that distribute cool air to the machine’s key components while simultaneously releasing hot air. Fan speed can be controlled and customized through the PredatorSense app.
A backlit RGB keyboard offers four lighting zones with support for up to 16.8 million colors. Anti-ghosting technology provides the ultimate control for executing complex commands and combos, which can be set up via five dedicated programmable keys.
Acer’s PredatorSense app can be used to control and monitor the notebook’s vitals from one central interface, including overclocking, lighting, hotkeys, temperature, and fan control.
Predator Helios 300 Special Edition brings a sophisticated design twist to gaming notebooks
Acer’s budget-friendly Helios 300 gaming line sees the addition of a Special Edition model featuring an all-white aluminum chassis accented with gold trim, an unusually chic design for gaming notebooks.
The Helios 300 Special Edition (PH315-51) allows for ultra-smooth gameplay via its 15.6-inch FHD IPS display with an upgraded 144Hz refresh rate. The rapid refresh rate shortens frame rendering time and lowers input lag to give gamers an excellent in-game experience. It’s powered by up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7+ processor, overclockable GeForce GTX 1060 graphics, up to a 512 GB PCIe Gen 3 NVMe solid state drive, and up to a 2 TB hard disk drive.
The Helios 300 Special Edition also comes equipped with up to 16 GB of DDR4 memory, and is upgradable to 32GB. Intel Optane memory speeds up load times of games and applications, access to information and improves overall system responsiveness. In addition, Gigabit Ethernet provides fast wired connections, while Gigabit Wi-Fi is provided by the latest Intel Wireless-AC 9560 that delivers up to 1.73Gbps throughput when using 160 MHz channels (2×2 802.11ac, dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz).
The Helios 300 Special Edition also includes two of Acer’s ultrathin (0.1 mm) all-metal AeroBlade 3D fans designed with advanced aerodynamics and superior airflow to keep the system cool. They can be controlled with Acer’s PredatorSense app, which offers three usage modes:
1. Coolboost mode:
For heavy loading games, rendering, streaming, and extended video consumption
2. Normal mode:
For productivity tools like Microsoft Office
3. Silent mode:
For web browsing and online chatting
Price and Availability
Predator Helios 500 will be available in South Africa in June starting at R34 999.00
Helios 300 Special Edition will be available in South Africa in August 2018. Exact Price will be communicated closer to the time.
LG G7 arrives in SA
LG this week introduced South Africa to its latest premium smartphone, the LG G7 ThinQ, focused on bringing useful and convenient AI features to the smartphone experience.
Powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform, the LG G7 ThinQ offers 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage to run demanding tasks and apps with. It is equipped with a 6.1-inch Super Bright Display, but the LG G7 ThinQ remains compact enough to use with one hand.
Sporting a new design aesthetic for the G series, the polished metal rim gives the LG G7 ThinQ a sleeker, more refined look, complemented by Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and the back for enhanced durability. Rated IP68 for dust and water resistance, the LG G7 ThinQ is also awarded MIL-STD 810 c certification, having been subjected to a range of extreme temperature and environment tests designed by the United States military.
The LG G7 ThinQ has an 8MP camera up front, rendering clear and natural selfies, with two 16MP cameras at the back that deliver higher resolution photos with more detail, as well as a Super Wide Angle configuration.
As with other leading brands, LG has evolved its signature camera by including AI functionality. The AI CAM offers 19 shooting modes for intelligence-optimised shots. Users can also improve their photos by choosing from an additional three effect options should the AI CAM recommendation not suit their taste.
The new Super Bright Camera captures images that are up to four times brighter than typical photos shot in dim light. Through the combination of pixel binning and software processing, the AI algorithm adjusts the camera settings automatically when shooting in low light.
Live Photo Mode records one second before and after the shutter is pressed for snippets of unexpected moments or expressions that would normally be missed. Stickers uses face recognition to generate fun 2D and 3D overlays, such as sunglasses and headbands, that can be viewed directly on the display.
New to the G series is Portrait Mode, which generates professional-looking shots with out-of-focus backgrounds. This effect can be generated using both front and rear standard lenses as well as the rear Super Wide Angle lens.
LG G7 ThinQ offers further AI functionality with the inclusion of Google Lens features. Google Lens is a new way to search using the AI and computer vision. Google Assistant and Google Photos allow users to access more information on objects such as landmarks, plants, animals, and books. It can identify text or visit websites, add business cards to contacts, events to the calendar or look up an item on a restaurant menu.
A button just below the volume keys launches the AI functionality. A single tap of this button launches the Google Assistant, while two quick taps launches Google Lens. Users can also hold down the button to start talking to the Google Assistant without the repetition of the OK Google command.
With Super Far Field Voice Recognition (SFFVR) and the highly-sensitive G7ThinQ microphone, the Google Assistant can recognise voice commands from up to five meters away. SFFVR is able to separate commands from background noise, making the LG G7 ThinQ an alternative to a home AI speaker, even when the TV is on. Commands for the Google Assistant have been increased in the LG G7 ThinQ so users can get more done with their voice alone.
“The LG G7 ThinQ is strongly focused on the fundamentals and its launch marks a new chapter for our company,” said Deon Prinsloo, General Manager for Mobile Communication, LG Electronics S.A Pty Ltd. “Through the combination of personalised and useful AI functionalities with meaningful smartphone features, this is LG’s most convenient and in the moment smartphone yet.”
- Mobile Platform: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform
- Display: 6.1-inch QHD+ 19.5:9 FullVision Super Bright Display (3120 x 1440 / 564ppi)
- LG G7 ThinQ: 4GB LPDDR4x RAM / 64GB UFS 2.1 ROM / MicroSD (up to 2TB)
- Rear Dual: 16MP Super Wide Angle (F1.9 / 107°) / 16MP Standard Angle (F1.6 / 71°)
- Front: 8MP Wide Angle (F1.9 / 80°)
- Battery: 3000mAh
- OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
- Size: 153.2 x 71.9 x 7.9mm
- Weight: 162g
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac / Bluetooth 5.0 BLE / NFC / USB Type-C 2.0 (3.1 compatible)
- Colours: New Aurora Black
- Others: Super Bright Display / New Second Screen / AI CAM / Super Bright Camera / Super Far Field Voice Recognition / Boombox Speaker / Google Lens / AI Haptic / Hi-Fi Quad DAC / DTS:X 3D Surround Sound / IP68 Water and Dust Resistance / HDR10 / Google Assistant Key / Face Recognition / Fingerprint Sensor / Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 Technology / Wireless Charging / MIL-STD 810G Compliant / FM Radio