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04-16: HiSense will release 5G smartphones in 2019; Xiaomi reported will apply for the Hong Kong stock as early as May 2018; etc.

Chipsets

China-based Unigroup Spreadtrum & RDA, a merger of IC designers Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics under China’s state-owned Tsinghua Unigroup, has set a goal of becoming a leading global 5G chip vendor over the next 3~5 years. Adam Zeng, global executive VP of Unigroup and CEO of Unigroup Spreadtrum & RDA, disclosed the company’s ambition to become the world’s leading 5G chipset provider in the next 3-5 years. (21SO, Laoyaoba, SEMI, Digitimes, press)

MediaTek Helio P65 is reportedly being adopted by OPPO R17 to be launched in Oct 2018. Helio P65 is reportedly an upgrade of P60, which is to prepare for next generation P65, also built by TSMC’s 12nm FinFET. (Laoyaoba, LTN, UDN)

NM500 is a product of nepes (Korea), manufactured under license from General Vision, which is claimed to be the first NPU that enters mass production. The Neuromorphic NM500 chip features include: 576 neurons, each one holding up to 256 bytes learned or loaded pattern signature; neither data, nor instructions displacement providing unmatched power efficiency; equivalent to 85 Giga operations/s at 37 MHz and 120 MW. (Laoyaoba, Sina, ScienceNet, General Vision, nepes, The Neuromorphic)

Touch Display

Japanese oil distributor Idemitsu Kosan will build a factory in China that turns out key materials for OLED panels, aiming to tap growing Chinese production of such displays for smartphones. Idemitsu will establish a wholly owned subsidiary in Chengdu by Jun 2018. Idemitsu expects output of OLED panels to more than triple in 2017~2022. The Chengdu subsidiary, Idemitsu Electronic Materials (China), will be capitalized at JPY1.3B (USD12.1M).  (Asia Nikkei, Laoyaoba)

CEC Panda’s 8.5G  production line with be transformed into a smart production line. With 300,000m2 factory equipped with 500 automaton robotics production equipments, the company can produce 93.93M units of LCD panels, with revenues of CNY26.71B yearly. (Laoyaoba, CEC Panda, Kaixian, Digitimes, press)

Storage

The market for equipment to make chips just keeps getting better and better, according to Keybanc analyst Weston Twigg, who reiterates Overweight ratings on shares of Applied MaterialsLam Research and KLA-Tencor, among others. Twigg raises his outlook for how much chip makers will spending on capital equipment in 2018 to an increase of 8% from what he had thought would be 5%, and “demand is tracking even higher in 2018, potentially over 10%”. DRAM chips are an area where there is more spending popping up, he notes, by Samsung Electronics in particular. (Laoyaoba, Barron’s, press)

The NAND Flash market has witnessed a slight oversupply in 1Q18. The growth momentum remains weak in 2Q18 although the demand increases, according to TrendForce. It is expected that the slight oversupply in NAND Flash market will remain and the prices will continue to decline. In the 2H18, the overall demand will increase due to the peak season. (TrendForce[cn], TrendForce, press)

Sensory

In 2018 Anroid vendors including Huawei and Xiaomi are exploring 3D sensors. Topology forecasts that by 2020 the global smartphone 3D sensor module production value would reach USD10.85B. Currently 3D sensors critical component VCSEL is reportedly under supply. However, in 2019 at the earliest Android smartphones with 3D sensors would appear. (Laoyaoba, HQEW)

Biometrics

Face recognition on smartphones is 5 times easier to spoof than fingerprint recognition, stated ABI Research Industry Analyst Dimitrios Pavlakis. Pavlakis further states that despite the decision to forgo Apple’s trademark sapphire sensor in the iPhone X in favor of face recognition (FaceID,) Apple may be now forced to return to fingerprints in the next iPhone. (ABI Research, Mobile ID World, Planet Biometrics, Laoyaoba)

Battery

According to TrendForce, cobalt prices continued to rise in 2018 and soared by more than 20% in 1Q18. The rise of raw material prices results from short-term capital speculation and high supplier concentration. The price of cobalt metal hits new highs, from USD32/kg in early 2017 to USD75/kg at the year end, an annual growth of 114%. In 1Q18, the price went up by another 26% quarterly, reaching USD95/kg. (TrendForce, press, TrendForce[cn])

Phones

U.S. iPhone users spent 23% more on in-app purchases (IAP) and premium apps in 2017 than the year before, Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data reveals. The average amount spent per active Apple iPhone increased to an estimated USD58 in 2017, up from USD47 in 2016.  (CN Beta, Sensor Tower)

According to Fang Xueyu, the general manager of Hisense Communications, Hisense has been researching and developing 5G technology for about 3 years now. The company will release 5G smartphones in 2019. (Gizmo China, CNMO)

Xiaomi reported will apply for the Hong Kong stock as early as May 2018, with a valuation of USD65B~70B. Xiaomi reportedly made about CNY7.58B (about HKD9.5B) profit in 2017. (CN Beta, 36Kr, EE Focus, HKET, HKET, Gizmo China)

PCs / Tablets

Worldwide shipments of traditional PCs (desktop, notebook, and workstation) totaled 60.4M units and recorded flat (0.0%) year-on-year growth in 1Q18, according to IDC. (Laoyaoba, IDC, press)

Wearables

vTime, one of the first ever VR social networks, appears to still be going strong; the team behind the app just raised USD7.6M in a series A round of funding. The investment was led by Deepbridge Capital and also included UK-based loan and equity provider, MSIF.  (Upload VR, PR Newswire, Sohu)

Internet of Things

Waymo, Google parent Alphabet’s self-driving vehicle unit, submitted an application to begin testing autonomous vehicles without a backup driver present in California. (Android Headlines, The Verge, SF Chronicle, Business Insider, Tencent, iFeng)

Alibaba confirms that Alibaba AI research lab has been conducting research for self-driving technology. Alibaba’s self-driving technology is based on L4 full-autonomous driving. Alibaba has been chosing customized Lincoln MKZ (as been using by Baidu) for their trial vehicles. (CN Beta, East Money, 36Kr)

Ford plans to operate its own robo-taxi network “at scale” in 2021 to transport people and goods in the most ambitious details yet revealed by a carmaker for a driverless service. Jim Farley, global markets president and joint-number two at the US carmaker, said the business planned to operate a network of custom-built vehicles itself, rather than sell its technology to a ride-hailing operator. (CN Beta, Financial Times, Digital Trends)

Samsung and LG allegedly may be forced to shut down their LCD TV plants in China because of the brewing trade war between US and China. The plants produce 40”~50” TVs that are exported to the US. The two firms are said to be close to reaching a decision on this move as the tariffs expected to be slapped on Chinese products would be too steep for them to handle.  (CN Beta, Chosunilbo, The Investor)

Commerce

Tech companies claimed the top 5 spots in the U.S. for research and development spending again in 2017, investing a combined total of USD76B. Amazon was at the top of the list, spending USD22.6B in 2017, 41% more than in 2016. (CN Beta, Recode)

JD.com officially announces AI open platform “NeuHub”, with 3 main bodies, 7 big applications, 5 AI industry roadmap be the pillars of JD.com’s AI eco-system. In particular, the 3 main bodies include AI research institute, AI platform division and AI+ innovation division. JD.com’s VP and AI responsible leader Zhou Bowen indicates that the new AI will have 3 development phases – narrow AI, generalized AI and general AI.  (My Drivers, JD.com, Leiphone)

Samsung Electronics is considering a blockchain ledger system to keep track of global shipments worth tens of billion of dollars a year, according to Song Kwang-woo, the blockchain chief at Samsung SDS Co., the group’s logistical and information and technology arm. The system could cut shipping costs by 20%, according to SDS. (Laoyaoba, Bloomberg, Gizmodo)

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