Qualcomm, HTC, chipsets and features: An Insider Q + A (backup)
lead me to a page on wmexpert.com. This page is not accessible on wmexpert anymore!? wtf! checked google cache and luckily it was still there. For internet backup reasons id like to back it up on XDA THIS IS NOT MY WORK
Qualcomm, HTC, chipsets and features: An Insider Q + A
* By Malatesta
Posted on February 13, 2008 2:15 PM
Filed under Editorials, Featured
Tags: chipset class action HTC insider msm7500 Qualcomm
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With the recent spate of Qualcomm info (they just showed a whole new lineup of next-gen chips, including an improved version of aGPS called…ready for it… gpsOneXTRA, I suppose tech companies have to pay for vowels) and frustration with HTC over the “missing driver controversy”, the community is wondering just what is going on here?
Was HTC just cheaping out (something yours truly has even said, ahem)? Is Qualcomm manipulating the numbers or do they have faulty chips? And what does this all mean for the future of WM devices?
Read on for some off-the-record information from someone "in the know" about what is going on with Qualcomm and HTC. The answers are quite fascinating…
At issue here are a few questions that frequently come up in our forums:
* Why is aGPS not frequently enabled?
* Who’s at fault in the HTC/Qualcomm driver class-action lawsuit?
* Why don’t we have ~5mp cameras on a lot of devices, especially CDMA?
Surely there are even more tech ponderings that can be asked and maybe in the future we’ll update this piece to reflect those, but for now lets see what our tipster has to say on these issues. For what I hope are somewhat obvious reason, their identity needs to remain anonymous.
(While the technical information is accurate, the questions and answers are paraphrased by the author for the flow of the article.)
Q: Why do a lot of overseas GSM phones have massive 5MP cameras, yet their sister (CDMA) versions seem to have a 2.1MP limit? e.g. Samsung SGH-F490 vs. Sprint M800.
A:Currently, the costs of 5MP sensors are somewhat prohibitive. But in addition, current Qualcomm chips lack certain features like jpeg hardware and the system can be over-taxed from transferring the sensor-data into memory for post-processing. In essence, multitasking with the OS, with an active radio and using the camera may be too much for the processor so the resolution of the sensor may need to be reduced..
Q: What’s the deal with aGPS (GPSOne) both on the earlier MSM-6500 platform and the newer MSM-7500, specifically why was it never activated on the earlier devices and just who decides?
A: When it comes down to modern aGPS, it is strictly a money issue: carriers are not keen to pay for the drivers and the OEMs (HTC, Moto, etc.) are not going to foot the bill (Edit: Although it looks like Sprint and some other carriers are finally eating the cost on their new 2008 devices). On older devices, the aGPS on the MSM-6500 chips may not have been as efficient or accurate, since they were developed back in 2002, hence why they may not have been used. And now for that million-dollar question: Who’s at fault in the HTC-Qualcomm debacle? Turns out it’s a lengthy answer and despite was some may want to believe, there really was no malicious intent from either side but the answer might point to a complicated system of pricing tiers, varying functions, promised performance gains not met and overall grayness where the only losers are the consumers…more on this issue after the Q/A. Quick technical note: the ARM9 processors are found on the MSM-62/6500 chipsets (PDF!) like in the PPC-6700 and Treo 7xx series; the ARM11 processors are found on the MSM-72/7500 chipsets like the Sprint Mogul, HTC Touch, etc. where it handles the OS, graphics and programs. Also on that chipset, a secondary ARM9 processor handles the phone-radio aspect—many thought this dual-processor system would result in superior performance, but instead we have the HTC class-action suit. Interestingly, Qualcomm has recently pulled all of their data sheets for some reason. Hmm.
Q: HTC, Qualcomm and the missing drivers—where do we send the angry mob with torches?
A: Qualcomm has a tiered pricing policy with their chipsets—so although you bought the chip, you have not bought all the features. So you have to pay additional fees per phone to get things like aGPS, graphic acceleration, etc. In the past, HTC had no problems when using the older MSM-6500 chips (ARM9 processors) without drivers hence their reluctance to pay for any or additional support with the new MSM-7500 chips (ARM11 processors), especially since the newer processors were advertised to match or outperform the older generation. Unfortunately, Qualcomm’s ARM11 performance does not match their previous ARM9 processor and is therefore, not quite as advertised. To get the proper performance out of the ARM11, one has to have knowledge of the processor’s implementation and design, but since that processor is not publicly available; the solution requires cooperation and assistance. HTC in this instance does not have this knowledge and is therefore unable to directly fix the problem, so they are put in a tough situation as they already have millions of these devices sold but they don’t want to pay Qualcomm more than they have to.
Q: So Qualcomm sort of pulled a shell-game here, much like the recent CES + “Snapdragon” controversy?
A: The shell game comment is a bit strong but somewhat understandable. When Qualcomm sets out to make these processors, the marketing information comes out way before the final design and chip does, so while Qualcomm had the intention of outdoing themselves, in reality they fell behind the mark. Due to the nature of the industry, by the time these performance issues became knowledge, it was too late to fix as they had already moved on to development of other chipsets and processors. No doubt Qualcomm behaves like a lot of companies and they don’t want to admit internally or publicly that their processors are underperforming, so this hampers any immediate resolution--the problem then becomes compounded as time goes on. Because of this, HTC is put in an odd position as they are selling devices based on Qualcomm’s marketing and information, not on their own knowledge of how those processors work and are designed since they are not privy to that information. Qualcomm is not being as straightforward with them and in turn, HTC is trying to work around the issue by trying to fix or enhance their software, even though they are unaware that it is not really their fault. It is in HTC’s best interest to of course try and fix this issue right away and if they know what they need to know perhaps they would foot the bill for those drivers, but unfortunately all the butt covering at all levels is preventing certain people who need to know from getting the job done
So there you go folks—judge accordingly I suppose. In hindsight, I have to revise my “HTC was cheap” line and instead sort of paint them as an unwitting victim who has been put in a tough situation by Qualcomm. Along the same line, Qualcomm didn’t exactly out right deceive anyone, but they seemed to have slipped up a bit on the MSM-72/7500 platform quite a bit.
The latest Qualcomm chipsets are promising everything under the hood: Wifi, WiMax 3g, 4g, BT 2.1, FM radio, VOIP, video out, aGPS,/GPS, 2D + 3D video acceleration, mobile TV, ad nauseum. But the caveat should be obvious by now: you are not entitled to all of those features and it is up to the OEM and carriers to pick and choose what they want, a la carte style.
In a way, this makes sense as it certainly allows device manufactures and carriers to offer a wide range of devices with varying functionality and pricing, from low to high.
But it also means that as the target audience, you are at the mercy of those OEMs, carriers and Qualcomm to sign up and pay for those features (it certainly doesn’t help when the promised performance of new-gen chips fall below their predecessors!). This sort of begs the question: what about Android devices? They too will have to pass through the labyrinth of carrier testing, OEM development and yes, paying Qualcomm for drivers to unlock those magical and prized features. Will that decentralized and somewhat chaotic software model work when we have these ongoing issues now?
So what do you think? Post your thoughts and comments below. And if you have some questions of your own about GSM/CDMA chipsets and functionality, ask away and maybe we’ll do a sequel article.
And a special thanks to our tech insider for all the info!
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