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01-31: SMIC is expected to enter volume production of chips built using 14nm FinFET process technology in 1H19; Foxconn is reconsidering plans to make advanced LCD panels at a USD10B Wisconsin campus; etc.

Chipsets

Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) is expected to enter volume production of chips built using 14nm FinFET process technology in 1H19, fulfilling the first orders coming from the handset sector. SMIC has managed to improve its 14nm process manufacturing yield rate to 95%. (CN Beta, TechNews, Digitimes, press)

According to Qualcomm Financial Chief, George Davis, Huawei will pay Qualcomm USD150M each quarter. Huawei has signed a short-term licensing agreement with Qualcomm. The deal, reached in Qualcomm’s fiscal first quarter that ended 30 Dec 2019, runs through the company’s fiscal third quarter.  (CN Beta, Sina, CNET, Qualcomm)

DMS (design and manufacturing services) provider Universal Scientific Industrial (USI), a member of Taiwan’s ASE Technology Holding, plans to build a new plant in Huizhou in southern China with total investment of up to CNY1.35B (USD200.2M). USI expects to invest up to CNY1.35B in the new sub-subsidiary establishment, including the acquisition of fixed assets and the required registered capital.  (Digitimes, press, Yahoo, PRN Asia)

Vanguard International Semiconductor (VIS) and Globalfoundries (GF) have announced that the former will acquire the latter’s Fab 3E in Tampines, Singapore. Fab 3E currently manages a monthly capacity of about 35,000 8” wafers. The transaction amounts to USD236M and the transfer of ownership is set to be completed on 31 Dec 2019. (Digitimes, press, EE Focus, UDN)

Touch Display

Foxconn Technology Group is reconsidering plans to make advanced LCD panels at a USD10B Wisconsin campus. Foxconn has initially planned to manufacture advanced large screen displays for TVs and other consumer and professional products at the facility, which is under construction. It later said it would build smaller LCD screens instead. According to Terry Guo, Foxconn Chief Executive, indicates that those plans may be scaled back or even shelved. (Apple Insider, Reuters, Wallstreet CN, VOA Chinese)

Camera

Apple plans to launch iPhones with a more powerful 3-D camera as soon as 2020, stepping up Apple’s push into AR. The rear-facing, longer-range 3-D camera is designed to scan the environment to create 3D reconstructions of the real world. It will work up to about 15ft from the device. Apple has been in talks with Sony about testing sensors for the new system. (Engadget, Bloomberg, Sina, Wallstreet CN, CN Beta)

Sony Xperia XZ4 is reportedly equipped with a rear tri-cam—The first is a 16MP telephoto camera with an f/2.6 aperture lens. The middle camera is the 52MP camera with f/1.6.The last camera at the bottom is a 0.3MP ToF sensor with an f/1.4. (GSM Arena, Suma, Sina, My Drivers)

Phone

According to Counterpoint Research, global smartphone shipments declined 4% annually in 2018. Smartphone shipments for 4Q18 recorded a decline of 7%, marking it the fifth consecutive quarter of smartphone decline. For 4Q18, Huawei, OPPO and vivo continue to dominate with strong performances in China, India, Asia and parts of Europe. The trio have multiple regions to enter and grow moving forward into 2019. (Android Headlines, Android Authority, Counterpoint Research, press)

According to IDC, smartphone vendors shipped a total of 375.4M units during 4Q18, down 4.9% year over year and the 5th consecutive quarter of decline. The challenging holiday quarter closes out the worst year ever for smartphone shipments with global smartphone volumes declining 4.1% in 2018 with a total of 1.4B units shipped for the full year. With challenging market conditions continuing into 1Q19, the likelihood of a declining market in 2019 becomes more of a reality. (IDC, press, CN Beta, Apple Insider)

Robotics

MIT robot combines vision and touch to learn the game of Jenga. The robot is equipped with a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff, and an external camera, all of which it uses to see and feel the tower and its individual blocks. (CN Beta, MIT, TechCrunch)

Artificial Intelligence

IBM has released a trove of data containing 1M images of faces taken from a Flickr dataset with 100M photos and videos. The images are annotated with tags related to features including craniofacial measurements, facial symmetry, age and gender. IBM hopes this will help developers train their AI-powered facial recognition systems to identify faces more fairly and accurately. (TechCrunch, IBM, CNET, VentureBeat, CNBC, CN Beta)

Automotive

Argo AI, the tech company building Ford Motor’s self-driving system, will soon test autonomous vehicles in California. The company has received a testing permit Tuesday from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test on public roads. (CN Beta, CNET, Auto Home, Auto News, TechCrunch)

Waymo met with more than 12 carmakers including Volvo in 2016 as the Alphabet unit sought manufacturing partners for its autonomous vehicle technology. (CN Beta, CCIDNet, Bloomberg)

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