Qualcomm Launches Smart Audio Platform that Makes Developing Smart Speakers Easier

Qualcomm has announced a reference “smart audio” platform for manufacturers that want to develop a smart home speaker like Google Home, Amazon Echo, or the newly announced Apple HomePod. The company says its new smart audio platform chipsets will reduce development time for manufacturers as they have the necessary hardware, software, and tools.

The chipmaker introduced the new audio platform at its Voice and Music Developers conference in Shenzhen, alongside the all-new Qualcomm DDFA audio amplifier technology and new USB Type-C audio SoCs. Qualcomm at the conference also talked about few of the trends in audio industry including streaming of music, removal of headphone jack, and emergence of smart assistants and speakers.

Under the company’s new Qualcomm smart audio platform, it will be offering the APQ8009 and APQ8017 chips; these SoCs will come with a range of software configurations designed to allow OEMs to create smart speakers across various product tiers and categories. The Qualcomm smart audio platform is planned to be available Q3 2017, though the company says that the timelinecan change. These new Qualcomm SoCs support capabilities like advanced far-field voice capture, wake-word detection, AllPlay multi-room audio streaming technology, and support for major voice ecosystems in a single solution.

The far-field voice capture will allow the smart speaker to pick up the user’s voice even from afar, while the wake-word detection will enable to wake up from sleep when the hotword, for example “Hello Google,” is said aloud by the user. Qualcomm’s AllPlay multi-room audio streaming technology will allow users to configure multiple speakers to play the same or different songs in each room of the home from streaming services, local playlists on their devices, or DLNA media servers; moreover, the open nature of the AllPlay ecosystem will enable users to link together speakers from different brands, such as Panasonic, Hitachi, House of Marley, Magnat etc, in their home using this platform.

The Qualcomm APQ8009 and APQ8017 chips also beamforming and echo cancellation; barge-in and voice capture in noisy environments; software supporting virtual assistants, and support for hands-free voice calls over both VoIP and HFP. Qualcomm has confirmed that the new smart audio platform will receive support for Amazon Alexa Voice Service and Google Assistant later this year, as well as Android Things and Google Cast for Audio.

Qualcomm’s Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Voice and Music, said, “This platform is ideal for traditional speaker manufacturers wanting to make the move to a connected platform as it is designed to bring together all the necessary hardware, software and tools needed to reduce development time. It also offers a great degree of flexibility for those manufacturers who want to push the boundaries when it comes to possible future applications for smart speakers.”

Qualcomm Launches Smart Audio Platform that Makes Developing Smart Speakers EasierAdditionally, the company at the event announced a new addition to its audio system-on-chip (SoCs) platform, namely CSRA68100, which is designed for premium wireless speakers and headphones. The company says it is “designed to provide OEMs with significantly more programming resources and freedom to develop use cases with unique and differentiating features.” A highly integrated platform, it also supports several connectivity, system processing, audio processing and power management resources.

Qualcomm also announced QCC3XXX series of entry-level, flash-programmable audio chipsets. These are aimed at developing entry-level products at competitive price points for Bluetooth headsets and speakers. There’s also the new WHS9420 and WHS9410 single chip USB audio SoC platforms, designed specifically for USB-C connected audio devices. With smartphone brands doing away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, this platform is aimed at users who want to continue to use wired headsets and speakers on their phones by means of transfer of audio via the USB Type-C port.

At the event, Qualcomm also revealed its next generation Qualcomm DDFA audio amplifier technology for audio devices like wireless speakers, soundbars, networked audio, and headphone amplifiers. The next-generation DDFA tech will be available on Qualcomm’s CSRA6620 SoC, and will include a DDFA controller with eight channel inputs, two channel outputs, microcontroller and configurable audio processor. Qualcomm says the chip will “help OEMs to integrate best-in-class amplifier performance in a lower complexity, more cost effective way than was previously possible.”

ZTE Small Fresh 5 With 4GB RAM, Dual Rear Cameras Launched

ZTE launched its Small Fresh 4 last year and the company has now the launched the smartphone’s successor – Small Fresh 5 – in China. The most interesting feature in the new iteration of the smartphone series is its rear camera setup, which now comes with two sensors for capturing images with depth of the field. The phone will be available in colours including Dark Grey, Grass Green, Elegant Gold, and Glacier Blue.

The ZTE Small Fresh 5 has been launched by the company in two RAM/ storage variants, i.e 3GB RAM/ 16GB storage and 4GB RAM/ 32GB storage, priced at CNY 999 (roughly Rs. 9,400) and CNY 1399 (roughly Rs. 13,200) respectively. The smartphone will be made available for purchase in the country from July 5 onwards.

ZTE Small Fresh 5 With 4GB RAM, Dual Rear Cameras LaunchedThe dual-SIM Small Fresh 5 runs MiFavor UI 4.2 based on Android 7.1 Nougat out-of-the-box and sports a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) display. The smartphone is powered by a quad-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC coupled with either of the RAM variants mentioned above.

In terms of optics, the dual rear camera setup on the ZTE Small Fresh 5 comes with a 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor as well. At the front, the smartphone features a 5-megapixel camera for clicking selfies. The phone comes with a fingerprint scanner, located at the back, as well.

The storage on the ZTE Small Fresh 5 is expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB). The connectivity options on the smartphone include 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, and GPS + GLONASS. The smartphone houses a 2500mAh battery, measures 145×70.7×7.9mm, and weighs 132 grams.

Moto X Force Gets a Massive Discount on Flipkart, Available for as Low as Rs. 12,999

While Amazon is hosting its smartphone sale till June 21, Flipkart is now offering a lucrative discount for Moto fans. The Moto X Force that was launched last year in February has received up to Rs. 22,400 price cut, and is available to buy for as low as Rs. 12,999.

The 32GB and 64GB variants of the Moto X Force are up for grabs for Rs. 12,999 and Rs. 15,599 only. For the 32GB variant, there is a further exchange discount up to Rs. 12,000 applicable, while the 64GB variant offers up to Rs. 14,500 off on exchange. If the maximum ceiling limit of these discounts is applied, you can buy the Moto X Force for as low as Rs. 999 only from Flipkart.

On the 32GB variant, there is a flat Rs. 22,000 discount, while on the 64GB variant offers a flat Rs. 22,400 discount. Furthermore, on both the variants, you can get an additional 5 percent off if you purchase using an Axis Bank Buzz credit card.

Moto X Force Gets a Massive Discount on Flipkart, Available for as Low as Rs. 12,999When launched last year, the Moto X Force was priced at Rs. 49,999 for 32GB storage variant and Rs. 53,999 for the 64GB variant. The smartphone was launched as a Flipkart exclusive at that time, and the biggest highlight is pegged to be the ‘ShatterShield’ display. The company says the display is made of an aluminium rigid core, flexible AMOLED screen, and dual-layer touchscreen panels (redundancy in case one goes bad) – wouldn’t break into pieces even when dropped on a slab of concrete. Additionally, the smartphone comes with water-repellent nano-coating.

As for specifications, the Moto X Force runs on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out-of-the-box and features a 5.4-inch QHD (1440×2560) display. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core SoC clocked at 2GHz with 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM powers the smartphone under-the-hood. It supports expandable storage via microSD card (up to 2TB) and is backed by a 3760mAh battery.

In the camera department, the 4G LTE supporting Moto X Force houses a 21-megapixel rear-camera with an f/2.0 aperture and dual-LED flash and Phase Detect Autofocus, along with a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter with flash and an f/2.0 aperture.

Coolpad Defiant With Android 7.0 Nougat, 4G LTE Support Launched at $100

Coolpad has unveiled its new budget smartphone, the Defiant, in the US. Priced at $100 (roughly Rs. 6,500), the new Coolpad Defiant will be exclusive to T-Mobile where consumers can buy it at just $4 monthly instalments for 24 months.

One of the biggest highlights of the new Coolpad Defiant smartphone is it runs on Android 7.0 Nougat out-of-the-box. The budget smartphone features a 5-inch display with a screen resolution of 480×854 pixels (FWVGA). It is powered by 1.4GHz quad-core processor coupled with 1GB of RAM. It packs 8GB inbuilt storage, and supports expandable storage via microSD card (up to 32GB). The Coolpad Defiant also supports LTE connectivity apart from Bluetooth 4.2. There’s 5-megapixel rear camera and a 20megapixel front camera as well. The phone is backed by a 2450mAh battery and the company claims the Defiant can deliver talk time of up to 16.5 hours and a standby time of up to 288 hours.

Coolpad Defiant With Android 7.0 Nougat, 4G LTE Support Launched at $100Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, GPS, HSPA+ with download speeds of up to 42Mbps and VoLTE. As of now, there’s no word whether the entry-level Coolpad Defiant will be available in more markets apart from the US market.

Last month, Coolpad launched the Cool Play 6 smartphone priced at CNY 1,499 (roughly Rs. 14,000) in China. One of the biggest highlights of the Cool Play 6 is its mammoth 4060mAh battery.

As for specifications, the Coolpad Cool Play 6 runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, sports a 5.5-inch (1080×1920 pixels) display, and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 653 chipset coupled with 6GB RAM. It offers 64GB internal storage on board with the option to expand further with the help of a microSD card slot. It sports a dual camera setup – with two 13-megapixel Sony sensors for monochrome and depth of field functions and an 8-megapixel sensor at the front.

ARM Cortex-A75, Cortex-A55, Mali-G72 GPU Launched at Computex

On the eve of Computex, ARM has unveiled a new generation of mobile CPUs and GPUs at an event in Taipei. This includes the ARM Cortex-A75 meant for flagship level devices, and the ARM Cortex-A55 claiming to be the ‘most versatile high efficiency processor’ catering to the mid-range smartphone segment. There’s a brand new and ‘more efficient’ Mali-G72 GPU launched alongside as well.

The biggest highlight this year is ARM’s new Dynamiq technology embedded into both the CPUs. This technology allows for greater flexibility of cores, allowing companies like Qualcomm to mix and match up to eight cores in a single cluster enabling them to tweak performance, design, and energy, and overall more customisation. Cores can be tweaked into pairs of 4 plus 4, 2 plus 6, 1 plus 7, 1 plus 3, and many more. So for example, makers can embed seven Cortex-A55 cores and one Cortex-A75 cores in one single cluster to tweak battery performance and save on cost.

ARM claims to be on a trajectory to deliver 50x AI performance increase in the next 3 to 5 years. The company claims that the ARM Cortex-A75 is 22 percent better than the predecessor Cortex-A73. Both the ARM Cortex-A75 and Cortex-A55 are built on latest ARMv8.2-A architecture. The CPUs are designed to specifically handle challenges of artificial intelligence and machine learning, both a rising trend seen among smartphones. On the software side, the CPUs can take advantage of the ARM Compute Library that boosts AI and ML performance by 10x to 15x.

ARM Cortex-A75, Cortex-A55, Mali-G72 GPU Launched at ComputexThe Cortex-A75 claims to offer 16 percent more memory throughput than its predecessor as well. It can deal with 2W of power consumption offering up to 30 percent of extra performance on large screen devices. The Cortex-A55 claims to offer 2x more memory efficiency than Cortex-A53, 15 percent more power efficiency, and 10x more scalability than its predecessor.

At the event, ARM also launched the Mali-G72 GPU which is built on the new Bifrost architecture to provide better performance in a smaller area and on a budget. There’s an expected 1.4x rise in in-device performance compared to the Mali-G71 GPU. It brings 25 percent higher energy efficiency, and 20 percent better are efficiency as well. There’s also 17 percent better machine learning efficiency as well. ARM claims that the new GPU is designed for the new and demanding use cases of ML, High Fidelity mobile gaming, and mobile VR. It claims to bring 40 percent more performance on premium mobile devices. ARM claims that all these latest designs will be seen on mobile devices in the first quarter of 2018.

LG, Qualcomm Working to Integrate Snapdragon 845 SoC in LG G7: Report

This year, LG had to make a tough decision of going with the Snapdragon 821 SoC for its G6, as Qualcomm appeared to have signed an exclusive deal with Samsung to debut its latest Snapdragon 835 SoC on the Galaxy S8. Even though LG G6 is top notch on paper, the difference in chipset is distinct and may be the reason for users to change their purchase decision. To make amends for this year’s mishap, LG has reportedly started working with Qualcomm already to integrate the next-gen Snapdragon 845 SoC in the LG G7.

According to the Korea Herald, LG has already started working with Qualcomm to ensure that the LG G7 has the latest chipset integrated in it. LG does not want to fall behind in the flagship battle next year, and looks to integrate the Snapdragon 845 SoC in the LG G7. The report does not say whether this is an exclusive deal like Samsung’s was reported to be, but it only states that work on the chip integration has already begun.

The report cites Aju Business Daily to also claim that the next generation SoC will be built on the 7nm process, and is expected to be 30 percent more powerful than the current generation Snapdragon 835 SoC. Apart from this, there is little else that we know about the Snapdragon 845 SoC as of now.

LG, Qualcomm Working to Integrate Snapdragon 845 SoC in LG G7: ReportA recent leak suggests that the SoC maker will follow the same pattern as last year, and will debut on the Galaxy S9 next year. If this is true, then LG will likely release its G7 after Samsung’s unveil next year. This year, smartphone launches were delayed as Samsung launched the Galaxy S8 a little later than its scheduled timeline. This forced LG to release the G6 with an old chipset. Hopefully, next year, Samsung will launch the Galaxy S9 on time, not delaying other launches as well.

A separate report also states that the new 7nm process has been started by TSMC. The 7nm process can also be housed in a smaller frame, and will improve performance by up to 25 to 30 percent, when compared to the current 10nm process.

Asus ZenFone Live (ZB501KL) With Live Beautification Feature Launched at Rs. 9,999: Release Date, Specifications

Asus on Wednesday launched the ZenFone Live smartphone in India. First unveiled in February, the Asus ZenFone Live price in India is Rs. 9,999, and it will go on sale in the country from Wednesday itself, via offline and online retailers. The biggest highlight of the Asus ZenFone Live, one that its name also reflects, is the presence of the ‘world’s first live streaming beautification technology’. It features the BeautyLive app, that lets users remove blemishes and the like when live streaming to social media sites. Asus is also touting the inclusion of Duel MEMs microphones for clearer voice quality, and a new 5-magnet speaker for better audio performance.

Asus ZenFone Live specifications and features

The dual-SIM (Nano+Micro) Asus ZenFone Live (ZB501KL) runs ZenUI 3.5 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It bears a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) IPS display with a Bluelight filter for eye protection and 2.5D curved glass. It is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (model unspecified) coupled with 2GB of RAM.

Image result for Asus ZenFone Live (ZB501KL) With Live Beautification Feature Launched at Rs. 9,999: Release Date, SpecificationsThe Asus ZenFone Live bears 13-megapixel Pixel Master rear camera with an f/2.0 aperture and dual-LED flash. On the front, it bears a 5-megapixel camera with a 1.4-micron pixel sensor, f/2.2 aperture, 82-degree wide angle lens, and a soft-light LED flash.

The smartphone comes with 16GB of inbuilt storage that’s expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB) in a hybrid dual-SIM setup. The ZenFone Live’s connectivity options include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.0, FM radio, and GPS/ A-GPS.

It bears a 2650mAh battery that’s rated to provide up to 158.8 hours of standby time, up to 24 hours of 3G talk-time, and 17.1 hours of Wi-Fi browsing. Sensors on board include accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, and a proximity sensor. The ZenFone Live measures 141.18×71.74×7.95mm, and weighs 120 grams.

Oppo R11 Plus With 6-Inch Display, 4000mAh Battery Launched

Chinese handset maker Oppo this week unveiled the R11 smartphone in China, and now details of the R11 Plus variant is out. The Oppo R11 Plus is expected to go on sale in China this month, but there is no word on the availability of the handset outside China as of now. We can expect to hear more about price tags of the Oppo R11 Plus and the Oppo R11, which was launched recently, soon.

On paper, the Oppo R11 Plus has a lot of difference in terms of specifications when compared to its smaller sibling, the Oppo R11. To start with, the biggest attraction of the Oppo R11 Plus is its massive 6-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) AMOLED display. The handset packs 4000mAh battery with the company’s in-house VOOC fast charging. The exact details of fast-charging haven’t been announced so far. The all-new Oppo R11 Plus and Oppo R11 are among the first few handsets to sport Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 660 SoC. The dual-SIM handset runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat based ColorOS 3.1. It packs 6GB of RAM and comes with 64GB inbuilt storage. The handset supports expandable storage via microSD card. To recall, Oppo R11 has been launched with 4GB RAM.

Oppo R11 Plus With 6-Inch Display, 4000mAh Battery LaunchedMuch like its smaller sibling, the Oppo R11 Plus can be also considered as a selfie-focused smartphone. It sports a 20-megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture.

Oppo’s all-new R11 Plus sports dual cameras at the back, and pack a 16-megapixel sensor with f/1.7 aperture as well as a 20-megapixel sensor. It also comes with 2X optical zoom, Qualcomm Spectra ISP, Portrait Mode, bokeh effect, and more features. The all-metal body of the Oppo R11 Plus measures 7.8mm thick and weighs 188 grams. The Oppo R11 Plus launch was first reported by GSMArena.

Qualcomm Launches Smart Audio Platform that Makes Developing Smart Speakers Easier

Qualcomm has announced a reference “smart audio” platform for manufacturers that want to develop a smart home speaker like Google Home, Amazon Echo, or the newly announced Apple HomePod. The company says its new smart audio platform chipsets will reduce development time for manufacturers as they have the necessary hardware, software, and tools.

The chipmaker introduced the new audio platform at its Voice and Music Developers conference in Shenzhen, alongside the all-new Qualcomm DDFA audio amplifier technology and new USB Type-C audio SoCs. Qualcomm at the conference also talked about few of the trends in audio industry including streaming of music, removal of headphone jack, and emergence of smart assistants and speakers.

Under the company’s new Qualcomm smart audio platform, it will be offering the APQ8009 and APQ8017 chips; these SoCs will come with a range of software configurations designed to allow OEMs to create smart speakers across various product tiers and categories. The Qualcomm smart audio platform is planned to be available Q3 2017, though the company says that the timelinecan change. These new Qualcomm SoCs support capabilities like advanced far-field voice capture, wake-word detection, AllPlay multi-room audio streaming technology, and support for major voice ecosystems in a single solution.

The far-field voice capture will allow the smart speaker to pick up the user’s voice even from afar, while the wake-word detection will enable to wake up from sleep when the hotword, for example “Hello Google,” is said aloud by the user. Qualcomm’s AllPlay multi-room audio streaming technology will allow users to configure multiple speakers to play the same or different songs in each room of the home from streaming services, local playlists on their devices, or DLNA media servers; moreover, the open nature of the AllPlay ecosystem will enable users to link together speakers from different brands, such as Panasonic, Hitachi, House of Marley, Magnat etc, in their home using this platform.

Qualcomm Launches Smart Audio Platform that Makes Developing Smart Speakers EasierThe Qualcomm APQ8009 and APQ8017 chips also beamforming and echo cancellation; barge-in and voice capture in noisy environments; software supporting virtual assistants, and support for hands-free voice calls over both VoIP and HFP. Qualcomm has confirmed that the new smart audio platform will receive support for Amazon Alexa Voice Service and Google Assistant later this year, as well as Android Things and Google Cast for Audio.

Qualcomm’s Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Voice and Music, said, “This platform is ideal for traditional speaker manufacturers wanting to make the move to a connected platform as it is designed to bring together all the necessary hardware, software and tools needed to reduce development time. It also offers a great degree of flexibility for those manufacturers who want to push the boundaries when it comes to possible future applications for smart speakers.”

Additionally, the company at the event announced a new addition to its audio system-on-chip (SoCs) platform, namely CSRA68100, which is designed for premium wireless speakers and headphones. The company says it is “designed to provide OEMs with significantly more programming resources and freedom to develop use cases with unique and differentiating features.” A highly integrated platform, it also supports several connectivity, system processing, audio processing and power management resources.

Qualcomm also announced QCC3XXX series of entry-level, flash-programmable audio chipsets. These are aimed at developing entry-level products at competitive price points for Bluetooth headsets and speakers. There’s also the new WHS9420 and WHS9410 single chip USB audio SoC platforms, designed specifically for USB-C connected audio devices. With smartphone brands doing away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, this platform is aimed at users who want to continue to use wired headsets and speakers on their phones by means of transfer of audio via the USB Type-C port.

At the event, Qualcomm also revealed its next generation Qualcomm DDFA audio amplifier technology for audio devices like wireless speakers, soundbars, networked audio, and headphone amplifiers. The next-generation DDFA tech will be available on Qualcomm’s CSRA6620 SoC, and will include a DDFA controller with eight channel inputs, two channel outputs, microcontroller and configurable audio processor. Qualcomm says the chip will “help OEMs to integrate best-in-class amplifier performance in a lower complexity, more cost effective way than was previously possible.”

ASUS ZenFone Live Review: Good device for live content creators

New Delhi: With live streaming on the rise, a majority of consumers are shifting towards interactive content to share stories on social platforms. And why not? Having other people involved in a story is fun and engaging. ASUS has launched its ZenFone Live smartphone in India given this increasing demand.

Priced at Rs 9,999 ZenFone Live incorporates the “BeautyLive” app that automatically beautifies faces when live-streaming on social networks like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Here is what works for the device.

Weighing 120 grams, the device is slim, compact and has rounded edges, making it comfortable to hold. Topped with 2.5D arc glass, the sandblasted matte body finish feels smooth to touch and is also resistant to fingerprint smudges.

The “BeautyLive” app functions wonderfully, correcting blemishes on the face and making you look better on video. Users can also adjust the beautification level on a scale of 0 to 10. The feature can also be applied to selfe videos that you can record and store in the phone.

The 5-inch HD display is rich enough for a phone this size and projects vibrancy in colours. Viewing content and playing games was pleasant and the colour temperature of the display is also on the warmer side. The text is also sharp and the screen readability is also good in sunlight.

Running on the ZenUI 3.0 on top of Android Marshmallow, the phone functioned smoothly between menus and opened apps instantly, thanks to its 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor along with 2GB of RAM and the Adreno 305 graphics chip. However at times, the smartphone took longer to load graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 8: Airborne.

ASUS ZenFone Live Review: Good device for live content creatorsThe camera department is where most smartphones struggle and so does ZenFone Live. However, the 13MP rear camera captured good landscapes with average amount of contrast and detail.

ZenFone Live also equips a pair of MEMS (MicroElectrical-Mechanical System) microphones tuned to reduce noise. Thus even if you are live streaming from a noisy environment like a pub, a party or from a music festival, your voice will be heard clearly.

Not only does the ZenFone Live make you look and sound great in live video streams, it also sounds great for audio utilising a “Five-Magnet” speaker.

The 2,650mAh battery ran for approximately a full day. However, users hooked to the screen are advised to carry a power bank.

What does not work?

Most of the time the auto-focus works nicely, focusing on the intended shot within milliseconds — but it struggles with moving objects.

The camera performance is average in low-light and we would not recommend the phone for night-time photography.

Conclusion: ZenFone Live offers a nicely-balanced display, decent battery life, reasonable performance and a capable live stream camera.