01-26: Apologize for absence yesterday, these 2 days – a series financial reports and a series of market share numbers; Starting 2018 5G competition will begin; etc.

Chipsets

Samsung is reportedly aiming to begin production of 7nm chips in early 2018. The managing director of Samsung’s LSI Division, Dr. Heo Kuk, stated that the company would introduce extreme ultraviolet exposure (EUV) equipment to aid its production. (Android Authority, ZDNet, Phone Arena, Kejixun)

Samsung is prepping for the Galaxy S8 launch and is reportedly buying up every Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip in sight. It seems even LG did not have enough pull to secure S835 chipsets for the upcoming LG G6, which will launch ahead of the S8; and so will the HTC U Ultra, powered by S821. (CN Beta, Forbes, GSM Arena)

Qualcomm has just posted their earnings for the FY 1Q17 (Oct~Dec 2016), and the company raked in USD6B in total revenues. That represents a 4% increase YoY, jumping from USD5.8B over the same period, a year earlier. Qualcomm estimates shipping of 331M~335M 3G/4G devices. With the average selling price being USD186~192. Shipments are up 8% YoY, but the average selling price has dropped by about 4%. (Android Headlines, Qualcomm, iFeng, China Times)

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According to Beijing’s Intellectual Property court, the latest lawsuit, Apple alleges that Qualcomm had failed to live up to its promises to license “standard essential patents” broadly and inexpensively. Qualcomm executive VP, Don Rosenberg has already defended the company’s position. (Ubergizmo, Reuters, WSJ, CS.com, Tencent, Phone Arena)

Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said Apple’s lawsuits, lodged in U.S. and Chinese courts, are less about finding justice than they are getting the best deal on parts. He said, “They want to pay less for the fair value that Qualcomm has established in the marketplace for our technology, even though Apple has generated billions in profits from using that technology.” (PC World, Apple Insider, CN Beta, CNET, 163)

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Google is intending to expand the dev tools available to makers using the Raspberry Pi microprocessor to power their projects in 2017 — potentially offering software tools for face- and emotion-recognition, speech-to-text translation, natural language processing, sentiment analysis, predictive analytics and more. (GSM Arena, Google, Raspberry Pi, TechCrunch, HSW, Sohu)

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UMC’s 4Q16 consolidated revenue was NTD38.31B, flat from NTD38.16B in 3Q16 and an increase of 13.2% YoY from NTD33.85B in 4Q15. 4Q16 consolidated gross margin was 22.9%. (Digitimes, press, 52RD, EE Times, China Times, Yahoo)

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United Microelectronics (UMC) will begin commercial shipments of chips built using 14nm FinFET technology at the end of 1Q17. Following volume shipments of its 14nm chips, UMC will move forward having its joint-venture 12” fab in Xiamen, China qualify for the manufacture of 28nm chips. UMC expects to boost 28nm chip capacity by 10,000 wafers monthly in 2017. (Digitimes, press, Kejixun, China Times, Laoyaoba)

According to SEMI, North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted USD1.99B in orders worldwide in Dec 2016 (3-month average basis) and a book-to-bill ratio of 1.06. A book-to-bill of 1.06 means that USD106 worth of orders were received for every USD100 of product billed for the month. (Laoyaoba, SEMI)

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While business opportunities related to 5G equipment and services are expected to start emerging in 2018, 5G chipset suppliers will begin to release 5G chips to vie for the market in 2H17, according to Digitimes. (Laoyoaba, Digitimes, press)

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SK has agreed to acquire a 51% stake in LG Siltron, a wafer manufacturing unit owned by LG Corp. for KRW620B (USD531.6M). LG Siltron is the fourth-biggest player in the global wafer market, especially in the 300mm wafer sector. The unlisted company is estimated to have raised KRW84.5B in sales and KRW3.5B in operating profit in 2016. (Laoyoaba, Reuters, Korea Herald, The Investor)

Touch / Display

It may be difficult for China-based AMOLED panel makers to obtain orders from Apple and other international vendors at least in the next 5 years das they are technologically inferior to Samsung Display, but their products are likely to be adopted by local vendors whose global market share is rising, according to Digitimes Research. China AMOLED makers face 2 major barriers: hiking resolution and harnessing plastic substrate technology. Samsung Display began production of flexible AMOLED panels using PI (polyimide) material in 2H14. China-based makers have unveiled such panels but cannot start volume production until 2018. (Android Headlines, Digitimes, press, Tencent, 52RD)

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Japan Display Inc. (JDI) has announced what may be the first viable competitor to OLED flexible displays, as they have announced a flexible LCD, “Full Active Flex”. The display designed by JDI is 5.5” in size and has a resolution of 1080p. (Android Headlines, Android Police, JDI)

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LG Display (LGD) has reported record 4Q16 profits of KRW904.3B (USD778.33M) due to a pickup in panel prices, an increase of almost 1400% compared to 4Q15. These increased profits were driven by the increase in quarterly revenue that rose by 18% and amounted to approximately USD6.8B. (Android Headlines, Reuters, iFeng, Business Insider, Asia Nikkei, 163)

Samsung and LG have been strengthening development of digital signage technology, with the former applying transparent and mirror display technology and developing Ultra HD LCD and LED displays for digital signage and the latter applying curved-surface AMOLED technology to enhance PID (public information display) design, according to Digitimes Research. (Digitimes, press, Digitimes)

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Global shipments of LCD TV panels for 2016 fell 3.5% from the prior year to around 260.4M units, according to TrendForce. Major panel makers expanded their Gen-8.5 production capacity during 2016 in response to the rising demand for larger TV panels. The increased production in the large-size segments helped consume the overall panel capacity and increased the average size of TV panels by 2.2” to 43.6”. Shipments of TV panels by area therefore actually increased by 6.5% annually. (Digitimes, TrendForce, press, TrendForce[cn], press)

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Taiwan-based makers shipped a total of 61.37M large-size (9” and above) TFT-LCD panels during 4Q16, decreasing 1.5% on quarter but increasing 2% on year, according to Digitimes Research. TV panels accounted for 30% of shipments, notebook-use units for 31.6%, LCD monitor-use units 21.1% and tablet-use units 14.3%. There will be 57.07M panels shipped in 1Q17. (Digitimes, press, Laoyaoba, 51Touch)

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Memory

DRAM prices will rally through 2Q17 to reflect ongoing tight supply, according to Pei-Ing Lee, president for Nanya Technology. It is likely prices will start to show stability in 3Q17. The global DRAM supply will continue to fall slightly short of demand in 2Q17, said Lee, adding that the company’s DRAM ASPs will rise in 1Q/2Q17. (Digitimes, press, Sohu)

Fujitsu Semiconductor announced the launch of the 4Mbit ReRAM MB85AS4MT, the world’s largest density mass-produced ReRAM product. This is the first ReRAM product to be jointly developed with Panasonic Semiconductor Solutions. (Laoyaoba, Electronics Weekly, EPS News, Phys)

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Smartphones

According to Counterpoint Research, the smartphone shipments in India grew a healthy 18% annually in 2016 compared to the global smartphone market which grew a modest 3%. In 4Q16, there were some significant changes in smartphone rankings with Chinese brands contributing to 46% of the total smartphone market. (Counterpoint Research, press, Android Authority, Android Central, 163, Sina)

counterpoint-india-market-share-2016 counterpoint-india-4q16-2016

Smartphone sales in the 50 largest cities in India dropped 30.5% in Nov 2016 on a month-on-month basis, according to IDC. This downward trend can be attributed to the resulting demonetization along with the cyclically lean period after festive season in Oct 2016. (Android Headlines, CXO Today)

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According to IDC, 1Q15~3Q16, price segment CNY2000~2500 or above smartphone share in China reaches 22.6%, on the other hand, below CNY500, the share goes down to only 2.2% by 3Q16. According to IDC’s analyst Wang Jiping, smartphone shipment in China averagely 450M units, but from 3Q16 the growth reaches 5.8%. (EE World, Laoyaoba)

The global smartphone production volume for 2016 grew 4.7% annually to reach 1.36B units in total, according to TrendForce. Samsung continued to top the annual global ranking, suffering a marginal decline of 3.3% compared with the 2015 figure. Huawei, OPPO and vivo respectively occupied the last 3 spots in the global top 5 and followed closely behind the 2nd-place Apple. (TrendForce, press, TrendForce[cn], press)

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IHS Technology China research director Kevin Wang released 2016 top 10 smartphone vendors ranking, which include shipments from overseas. Huawei is still at the top spot. (Laoyaoba, ChinaZ, Sina)

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Samsung has outlined its business strategy for 2017 and indicates that AI, display products and improving its entry level devices will be key focus areas. (Android Authority, Samsung, Android Headlines, DoNews)

Samsung managed to ship over 90M phones and 8M tablets in 4Q16, bringing the total number of shipped devices to 98M. The average selling price of the devices it shipped stands at about USD180, while each unit made a profit of USD24 on average. (Android Headlines, The Investor)

Samsung filed trademark for “Samsung Dex”, which allows the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 to act as their own desktop-like computer. This trademark is for “Application software, namely, for projecting the screen of mobile device to displays via computer peripheral devices and wireless networks; computer peripheral devices; computer software for wireless network communications; computer software, namely, software for controlling user interface mode adaption.” (CN Beta, USPTO, SlashGear, Android Headlines)

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Samsung and Google will have to continue to maintain their strategic partnership to nurture the AI and the market for the emerging technology,” Samsung Mobile VP Lee Kyeong-tae said. (The Investor, CN Beta, CNET)

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Samsung is currently selling a couple of smartphones running the Tizen operating system, and it has plans to launch more, especially in developing countries like India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. The company has just started the development of its first smartphone running Tizen 3.0 operating system. (GSM Arena, Sam Mobile, ZOL, Tencent)

LG Electronics has posted a massive USD223.98M net loss for 4Q16 – the company’s first quarterly operating loss in 6 years. LG Mobile Communications managed to pull in USD3.51B in revenue in 4Q16, which is a 15% increase on the previous quarter, but a 23% decline year-on-year. (Phone Arena, Engadget, LG, CNFOL, Android Authority, Sina)

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The European Commission’s order for Apple to pay Ireland EUR13B (USD14B) in back taxes is an overreach of power, with PricewaterhouseCoopers’ head of Irish tax matters Feargal O’Rourke claiming the move is tantamount to a “land grab”. He insisted the Commission had gone beyond its remit to demand repayment of taxes from Apple. (CN Beta, Apple Insider, Irish Times)

“We want to grow into top two market share, and, in the future, top one by 2021,” says Huawei’s consumer head Richard Yu. (CN Beta, 163, iFeng, Mac Rumors, Fortune, article)

Pegatron announced that it will invest NTD1.2B to expand its assembly fab in Kunshan, China. The chairman Dong Zixian indicates 2017 will be better than 2016. (CN Beta, Huanqiu, Sohu)

Apple launched its mobile payment service in Oct 2014. Consumer spending analytics firm TXN looked at their panel of transactions from over 3M payment cards to learn more about the adoption of Apple Pay by consumers. The number of monthly Apple Pay transactions grew by 50% between Dec 2015~Dec 2016. (TXN, blog, Apple Insider, 91.com, ZOL)

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Apple has presented detailed plans to the Indian federal government. It may be some time though, before Apple gets permission for its proposal to manufacture in India as it reportedly involves a request for deep cuts in the import duties for components. (TechNews, PC World, Apple Insider, Financial Times)

Smartphone vendors, including Apple, Samsung, Huawei, LG and Xiaomi, are likely to introduce models featuring AI applications as a means to ramp up market shares in 2017, according to Digitimes. (Digitimes, press, Feng)

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Apple is reportedly set to join the Partnership on AI, an artificial intelligence research group that includes Amazon, Alphabet’s Google, Facebook and Microsoft. (CN Beta, Live Mint, NASDAQ)

BLU Vivo XL2 is announced – 5.5” HD IPS LCD display, MediaTek MT6737T processor, 13MP PDAF + 8MP cameras, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, Android 6.0, 3150mAh battery, USD150. (Android Authority, PR Newswire)

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Vertu Constellation is launched – 5.5” WQHD Super AMOLED display with sapphire crystal screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 12MP 1.55µm pixels rear camera, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage, Android 6.0, USB Type-C, Dolby Digital Plus-supported speakers, 3220mAh battery. (PR Newswire, Android Authority, CN Beta)

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Tablets / PCs

ASUS ZenPad 3S 10 LTE (Z500KL) is launched – 9.7” 1536×2048 display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor, 8MP+ 5MP cameras, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, Android 6.0, LTE, 7900mAh battery, USD405. (Phone Arena, ASUS, GSM Arena)

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Wearables

According to CB Insights, in 2016 China-based investors participated in 36 deals totaling USD1.2B in disclosed funding, which translates to 71% growth in deals and a 277% boom in funding. In total, 21% of AR/VR deals included a China-based investor in 2016. (CB Insights, blog, Tuoniao)

cbinsights-china-investors-ar-vr-2016

Google is apparently in a new hiring spree for its VR and AR projects. Over the past 30 days, the company’s new job listings have been searching for employees with hardware expertise, suggesting that the Google is now looking to push forward multiple VR and AR projects besides Google Daydream. (Android Headlines, Road to VR, IoT Online, Hexun)

Chia-Lin Chang, HTC’s President of Global Sales and Chief Financial Officer, argues “even Apple as a big brand is declining” in this unfledged market, which is why “we are not going to have an Android watch” anytime soon. (Android Headlines, The Verge, Pocket Now, Android Police, 163)

Current component orders for production of AR, VR and MR head-mounted display (HMD) devices from brand vendors are still insufficient, according to Digitimes. Shipments of HMD devices from these brand vendors are likely to be limited in 2017 as most vendors will be trying to differentiate their products from others and will ship a limited quantity of products to test the market initially. (Laoyaoba, Digitimes, press)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Hugo Barra, former global VP of Xiaomi,  will joining Facebook as a VP of Oculus VR. (The Verge, Facebook, TechCrunch, Engadget, ZOL)

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Barcelona University has found that virtual reality experiences, if conducted in a certain way, can cause a reduced fear of dying. They used a virtual reality rig to give test subjects a simulated out-of-body experience. (CN Beta, BGR, Medical Express)

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Internet of Things

Babies learn about their world by pushing and poking objects, putting them in their mouths and throwing them. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is taking a similar approach to teach robots how to recognize and grasp objects around them. This has secured a 3-year, USD1.5M “focused research award” from Google. (CN Beta, The Verge, CMU)

google-baby-robot

Connected doorbell startup Ring announcing USD109M investment: a series D round led by DFJ Growth, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, and Qualcomm Ventures, with participation from entrepreneur Richard Branson, American Family Insurance, Shea Ventures, and True Ventures, among others. The funding round also includes a debt element from Silicon Valley Bank. (VentureBeat)

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Google Home’s suite of compatible home automation devices continues to grow with the Google Assistant-powered speaker gaining 2 new brands under its belt.  Devices from Belkin’s Wemo line and Honeywell are partnered up with Google Home , granting users the ability to automate their abode further with just their voice. (TechCrunch, Google, TechRadar, IT Home)

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