3-18 #BigMan : Samsung Electronics will build 5 new domestic semiconductor plants; TikTok is allegedly considering separating from parent ByteDance; India to mandate that mobile phone brands permit the removal of pre-installed apps; etc.

Meta previously announced its plan to lay off more than 11,000 employees in late 2022. The company has just announced plans to let go of another 10,000 employees. Meta has referred to 2023 as its “Year of Efficiency”.(Android Central, Facebook, Android Headlines, CrunchBase)

Apple is reportedly delaying bonuses for some corporate divisions and expanding a cost-cutting effort. The shift will reduce the frequency of bonuses for a portion of Apple’s corporate workforce. Apple has also decided to expand its hiring freeze to encompass additional roles. (MacRumors, Apple Insider, Bloomberg, Financial Post)

TikTok is allegedly considering separating from parent ByteDance to help address U.S. concerns about national security risks. A divestiture, which could result in a sale or initial public offering, is considered a last resort and will be pursued only if the company’s existing proposal with U.S. national security officials does not get approved. Tiktok is undergoing a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and it agreed last year to implement a number of measures under the plan, nicknamed “Project Texas”, in an attempt to placate hostile lawmakers. (Android Headlines, Bloomberg, CNBC, Reuters)

Xiaomi is overhauling its India strategy after misjudging consumer tastes in mobile phones, a costly lapse that has allowed Samsung Electronics to pip the Chinese company to the top spot in the world’s second biggest market for the devices. While Xiaomi remained focused on selling mobile phones under INR10,000 (USD120), Indian consumers were willing to pay up for better looking models with richer features. Samsung launched products to meet those aspirations and offered innovative financing schemes that made them affordable to most. Those moves have helped Samsung wrest leadership of India’s competitive mobile phones market from Xiaomi, with data from Counterpoint Research showing it had a 20% market share for 4Q22 compared to the Chinese company’s 18%. (GSM Arena, Reuters)

Analyst firm IDC calculates that over 282M secondhand smartphones shipped in 2022. U.S. Mobile Phones (USMP) processed more than 2.5M traded-in devices in 2022—mostly Apple iPhones. Two-thirds of the phones that arrive at the USMP facility get data-wiped, cleaned up and sold off to wholesalers, often overseas. The other third goes to its sister company, Back in the Box, to be cleaned up, refurbished and sold to buyers on Amazon or Back Market, a popular secondhand-phone marketplace. Back in the Box typically prices refurbished products, depending on their final grade, 20% to 30% below the retail price of the same phone purchased new. (WSJ, CN Beta)

The Indian government intends to mandate that mobile phone brands permit the removal of pre-installed apps and to require mandatory evaluation of significant operating system changes under the planned new security policy. Samsung, vivo, Apple and others will have losses because they pre-install a lot of undeletable apps. The Indian government is also thinking about making it essential to test every major OS upgrade before pushing it out to users. The Indian government has agreed to give mobile phone brands one year to adhere to the new rules after they take effect—a date that has not yet been set. (Reuters, GizChina, MacRumors, India Today)

Foxconn has reportedly won an order to make AirPods for Apple and plans to build a factory in India to produce the wireless earphones. The deal will see Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics maker and assembler of around 70% of all iPhones, become an AirPod supplier for the first time and underlines efforts by the key Apple supplier to further diversify production away from China. Foxconn will allegedly invest more than USD200M in the new India AirPod plant in the southern Indian state of Telangana. Foxconn vies with Taiwanese rivals such as Wistron and Pegatron to win more orders from Apple. (Apple Insider, Reuters)

Smart accessories brand, Gizmore, has announced it has entered into a strategic partnership with Amazon India. Gizmore has also announced the launch of its new big display smartwatch – Orbit and Star. Apart from Orbit and Star, Gizmore’s other smartwatches Blaze Pro, Flash and Slate will also be available on Amazon India. Gizmore aims to widen its customer base and scale its presence in remote regions through this partnership. In line with the objective to bolster its online presence, the homegrown brand launched its D2C website earlier 2023, and now with this tie-up, Gizmore is looking to fortify its position in the online space even further. Gizmore has an exclusive partnership with Flipkart for its selected smartwatches which are already available on Flipkart. (Gizmo China, Times Now)

China’s passenger electric vehicle (EV) sales almost doubled in 2022, growing 87% YoY, according to Counterpoint Research. EVs now account for one in four cars sold in China. Interestingly, the share of battery EVs (BEVs) in the country’s total EV sales decreased in 2022, with plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) increasing their share to 24%. China was the second fastest-growing market among the world’s top 10 EV markets in 2022 in terms of sales. Japan was on top with a 119% YoY growth. Nevertheless, China accounted for nearly 59% of the global EV sales volume. More than 94 brands cumulatively offer over 300 models ranging from just USD5,000 to over USD90,000. Local brands command 81% of the EV market, among which BYD, Wuling, Chery, Changan and GAC are a few of the top players. (Counterpoint Research, Gizmo China)

Tesla has submitted its environmental application to expand Gigafactory Berlin to produce 1M vehicles per year. When ramping up a new vehicle to volume production at a new factory, Tesla generally considers 5,000 units per week to be the goal. After starting production late in 2021, Tesla originally aimed to achieve that at Gigafactory Berlin by the end of 2022. But the goal was ambitious amid a continuing global supply chain crisis. Instead, Tesla announced that it finished the year with a respectable production rate of 3,000 Model Y vehicles per week at Gigafactory Berlin. In Feb 2023, Tesla confirmed that the factory has managed to continue the ramp to 4,000 vehicles per week. The automaker is expected to hit its goal of 5,000 units per week relatively soon. Gigafactory Berlin is currently approved for a production capacity of 500,000 vehicles per year.(CN Beta, InsideEVs, Teslarati, Electrek, RBB)

Samsung Electronics’ U.S. semiconductor subsidiary Device Solutions Americas (DSA) also recently laid off employees. Samsung Electronics DSA has sent all of its employees a notice that it plans to cut 3% of its staff due to uncertain economic conditions.(Android Headlines, Business Korea)

Samsung Electronics will reportedly begin mass production of third-generation 4nm chips, the main item in the foundry ultra-micro fabrication process sector, during 1H23. Second- and third-generation products show better performance, lower power consumption, and use smaller areas compared to SF4E, an early version of 4nm chips. Even after the commercialization of the SF4E chip, Samsung Electronics went through great difficulties in the management of the chip’s yields, finally losing Qualcomm, the largest customer of Samsung Electronics, to TSMC. (CN Beta, GizChina, SamMobile, Business Korea)

Samsung will be designing and manufacturing the logic chips that Hyundai Motor plans to use for advanced driver assistance (ADAS) and infotainment in its future vehicles. This is the first such deal between Samsung and Hyundai Motor. Samsung System LSI, Samsung’s logic chip designing business, has been collaborating with Hyundai Motor since late 2022 on designing the chips. Hyundai Motor has requested that Samsung design the main ADAS chip, infotainment chip and connectivity chip that will connect these two systems. All 3 chips are SoCs and will be made using Samsung’s 5nm process node. Samsung System LSI won the contract from Hyundai Motor and it will be placing the order on Samsung Foundry for production. Samsung System LSI has experience in designing such chips for Audi and Tesla. The chips will be used in high-end models that Hyundai Motor will launch between 2025 and 2026. Hyundai Motor in the past procured such chips from Qualcomm, Nvidia, Intel and other foreign companies. (CN Beta, DW, The Elec)

A chip plant that Samsung Electronics is building in Taylor, Texas, will cost Samsung more than USD25B, up more than USD8B from initial forecasts. The increase in cost is primarily because of inflation. The higher construction cost is about 80% of the cost increase. The materials have also gotten more expensive. The newly estimated cost “could go up even more” if the construction of the Taylor plant gets delayed, adding that the estimate could be fluid. The later the plant is completed, the higher cost.(Gizmo China, SCMP, Reuters, Asia Nikkei, TechCrunch)

Samsung Electronics will build 5 new domestic semiconductor plants in what the government said was a KRW300T (USD230B) investment over the next approximately 20 years, part of the global race to secure supply chains in the chip industry. Samsung said that some of the 5 plants will be for foundry chipmaking, or making chips for outside clients, but said that it is not decided on the total. The government said the new plants will be established in Yongin, south of Seoul, and the investment would be concluded by 2042.(TechCrunch, AP News, CNBC, Asia Nikkei, Washington Post)

Google’s Project Zero team discovered severe 0-day vulnerabilities with the Samsung Exynos modems used on the Pixel 6 and 7, Samsung phones and wearables, and other devices that warrant disabling VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling until patched. Known for finding 0-days, Project Zero reported 18 vulnerabilities in Exynos modems in late 2022 and early 2023. Four of the vulnerabilities, including CVE-2023-24033, involve internet-to-baseband remote code execution. Meanwhile, the other 14 vulnerabilities are considered not as severe as they “require either a malicious mobile network operator or an attacker with local access to the device.”(Android Central, 9to5Google, Project Zero)

ASML has rencently noted that these new export controls focus on advanced chip manufacturing technologies, including state-of-the-art deposition equipment and immersion lithography systems. ASML emphasized that the new export control measures do not target all immersion lithography systems, but only the so-called “most advanced” immersion lithography systems. As of now, the company has not received information on the exact definition of “state-of-the-art”, which the company interprets as the “critical immersion lithography system” defined at the Capital Markets Day meeting, namely TWINSCANNXT: 2000i and subsequent immersion lithography systems Photolithography system. The so-called immersion lithography machine belongs to 193nm (light source) lithography machine (divided into dry type and immersion type), which can be used for the manufacture of advanced process chips from 16nm to 7nm, but it is also widely used in the industry at 45nm. Among the mature processes of the year and below. According to information on ASML’s official website, the company’s mainstream DUV lithography products have three types of equipment: TWINSCAN NXT: 1980Di, TWINSCAN NXT: 2000i and TWINSCAN NXT: 2050i, of which 2000i and 2050i are the products referred to in the company’s statement. (CN Beta, OfWeek, My Drivers, EE News Europe, The Verge, CNBC)

Qualcomm has announced Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2, its next generation of its midrange mobile platform, which is built with 4nm process. The chip includes Qualcomm’s Kryo CPU that delivers 50% more performance, with peak speeds of up to 2.91GHz, and the Qualcomm Adreno GPU, which doubles the graphic performance. Even with these gains, Qualcomm has managed to improve power efficiency by 13% and integrate on-device AI across the entire platform. The integrated Qualcomm AI Engine has also doubled in performance while increasing power efficiency. The Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 also features an 18-bit Triple Image Signal Processor (ISP) that promises to improve smartphone photography features with better lowlight performance and extreme dynamic range.(GSM Arena, Digital Trends, AnandTech, XDA-Developers)

Apple’s patent application “Self-Retracting Display Device And Techniques For Protecting Screen Using Drop Detection” describes a technology to allow iPhones or iPads with flexible screens to detect when dropped, and immediately fold up on the way to the ground to minimize damage. Whether the device folds at a hinge, or a screen can be pulled out of a base chassis, Apple proposes that the display itself can choose to break away. Instead of a possibly delicate hinge, or a fragile connection to the device, the display can detach, or fold in such a way that the screen is protected. Specifically, it could do this when it detects the need. Which means when it detects that the device has been dropped. (Apple Insider, AppleWorld.Today, GizChina)

Honor CEO George Zhao has indicated that his team feels Europe as a second home and his company treats 2023 as its year one here as it only now managed to gather a strong lineup of phones to sell on the Old Continent. The company considers opening physical stores internally, but prefers to stick with carriers and retail partners until it builds an even stronger portfolio. He predicts sales of foldable phones will really explode when they manage to trim enough weight and shed a few more millimeters, but does not believe they will entirely replace bar phones. Instead, he expects them to co-exist in the long term as different users have different priorities.(GSM Arena)

Pusan National University researchers develop novel stackable hole injection layer material for solution-processed OLEDs. The team has synthesized and characterized a novel solvent-resistant HIL material, thermally cross-linkable poly(iminoarylene) poly(FA90-co-BFA10), and fabricated a functional solution-processed red phosphorescent OLED device using the same. This novel HIL material with over 99% solvent resistance, has an optimum energy level that is intermediate between that of the indium tin oxide (ITO) electrode and the HTL. As a result, the researchers achieved photo-crosslinking of (poly-TPD) as HTL on top of crosslinked HIL. (CN Beta, Science Direct, Eureka Alert, Forbes)

SK hynix has shown how they had developed a 300+ layer 3D NAND technology ingesting data at a record 194GBps speed using 5 techniques. They applied five new techniques to a >300-layer 1Tb 3b/cell (TLC) 3D-NAND flash memory product: A triple verify program (TPGM) technique is used to improve program performance; An adaptive unselected string pre-charge (AUSP) technique is used to reduce disturb and program time (tPROG); A programmed dummy string (PDS) technique is used to reduce WL settling time; An all-pass rising (APR) technique is used to reduce the read time (tR); and A plane-level read retry (PLRR) technique is used during erase to improve the QoS. The cumulative effect of these marginal and near-marginal gains is a 1 terabit 300+ layer TLC NAND cell with a 20Gb/mm2 bit density and a record 194GBps write speed.  (CN Beta, Block&Files)

Tesla app adds its new “Drive on Sunshine” feature, makes the charging membership available to non-Tesla owners, and also shows more details about charging speeds and capacity. The biggest update with the app update is the company’s new “Drive on Sunshine” feature. For Tesla owners with a solar system, the feature will use the excess solar energy that they are producing in order to charge the vehicle. In addition to Drive on Sunshine, the latest app update also adds the ability for non-Tesla EV owners to sign up for the company’s charging membership. The membership, which costs USD12.99 per month, gives non-Tesla owners the same charging rate as Tesla owners at the company’s Supercharger stations.(CN Beta, Teslarati, BGR, Electrek, NotaTeslaApp)

Foxconn, the iPhone manufacturer that bailed out Lordstown Motors from bankruptcy, announced that it would build electric vehicle batteries in Wisconsin and Ohio, hoping to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act that incentivizes domestic cell manufacturing. Lordstown sold its Ohio factory to the company in an effort to save it from extinction. The Asset Purchase Agreement was executed in Nov 2021, and essentially helped start production of the Endurance electric pickup. The sale was finalized in May 2022. Now, Foxconn is venturing into a widespread effort to produce batteries used to EVs and battery storage operations. Foxconn will build capacity for battery cells and battery packages for energy storage systems in Wisconsin, while it will also build capacity for battery packages for whole cars in our Ohio facility. (CN Beta, Teslarati, Asia Nikkei)

Volkswagen Group and its battery company PowerCo have picked Canada for its first overseas battery cell factory. The plant, located in St. Thomas, Ontario, will produce battery cells beginning in 2027. PowerCo, a VW company that launched in Jul 2022, will handle the automaker’s global battery business, including sourcing raw materials, cell production and manufacturing at the Canada location. The North American battery factory is part of VW Group’s broader global plan to cut battery costs in half. The automaker plans to build 6 factories in Europe. Construction has started at locations in Salzgitter, Germany, and Valencia, Spain. The Canada location will be the site of its third factory and the first in North America.(TechCrunch, Volkswagen, Reuters, Electrive)

T-Mobile US has announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Ka’ena Corporation and its subsidiaries and brands: Mint Mobile, a successful direct-to-consumer (D2C) prepaid wireless brand in the U.S.; Ultra Mobile, a unique wireless service offering international calling options to communities across the country; and wholesaler Plum. With this deal, the brands’ exclusive use of the Un-carrier’s largest, fastest and most reliable 5G network will continue. (Android Authority, T-Mobile)

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