Monthly Archives: September 2016

Know Well Galaxy Note7

Samsung’s desire to match the iPhone 7 Plus led it to implement an aggressive design and manufacturing approach that led to problems with its Galaxy Note7 — including some instances of the smartphones bursting into flames — and eventually its global recall, Instrumental reported last week.

Instrumental engineers tore down a Galaxy Note7, and found “evidence in the design of an intellectual tension between safety and pushing the boundaries,” CEO Anna Shedletsky revealed.

Samsung engineers “designed out all of the margin in the thickness of the battery,” she noted.

It “sits within a CNC-machined pocket — a costly choice likely made to protect it from being poked by other internal components,” Shedletsky speculated.

“For something that is innovative and new, you design the best tests that you can think of, and validate that the design is OK through that testing,” she said.

However, battery testing “takes a notoriously long time, and thousands of batteries need to be tested to get significant results,” Shedletsky pointed out. “It’s possible that Samsung’s innovative battery manufacturing process was changing throughout development, and that the newest versions of the batteries weren’t tested with he same rigor as the first samples.”

If the Note7 had not been recalled, “a few years down the road these phones would be slowly pushed apart by mechanical battery swell,” she added.

A rule of thumb is to leave 10 percent of the depth of the battery pocket as a ceiling above the battery to allow for that expansion, but “our two-month-old unit had no ceiling,” said Shedletsky, and “since it breaks such a basic rule, it must have been intentional.”

The Long Road to Adequate Testing

It’s “impossible to test for everything,” said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“You have to consider not only testing the battery but also testing applications and the phone,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Considering how many versions of the Galaxy smartphone Samsung has released and the number of units produced, “this is like comparing the Galaxy Note7 problem to air travel,” McGregor remarked. “While crashes make the headlines, air travel is still one of the safest forms of transportation.”

 

Considering the Bigger Picture

Limitations in battery technology and increasing demands for new displays, wireless interconnects, sensors and processors in ever-shrinking sizes, the industry is “pushing these technologies to the breaking point,” McGregor said.

That will be a problem for all handsets and for wearables in the future, he predicted.

The IEEE has “known for some time that there were several fundamental limiting factors to personal electronics,” observed Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

They include “power dissipation, power consumption, and power density — how much juice you can store in a small package,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Battery technology is tricky, Jude said. “A battery is really a controlled chemical explosion. You can have a little power over a long period of time or a lot all at once. Smartphone designers walk a fine line between power consumption and battery storage density.”

 

Competition Can Kill

A smaller battery using standard manufacturing parameters would have solved the swelling and explosion issues, but that “would have reduced the system’s battery life below the level of … the iPhone 7 Plus,” Shedletsky noted. “Either way, it’s now clear to us that there was no competitive salvageable design.”

Various iPhone models had battery problems, but they were “all fixed with a replacement battery,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Project Evo Ups the PC Game

Microsoft and Intel on Wednesday announced Project Evo, their highly anticipated collaboration to create the next generation of personal computers. The project aims to expand on new advances in artificial intelligence, mixed reality, advanced security and gaming,

Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, unveiled some of Project Evo’s ambitious plans at the Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) event in Shenzhen, China.

Through the collaboration, the companies will push the boundaries of a personal computer’s capabilities in the near future, he said. Technologies under development include far-field speech and wake-on-voice enabled through Cortana, biometrics and voice authentication in Windows Hello, spacial audio, and HDR support for gaming.

Project Evo — particularly its expanded use of Cortana — invites comparisons to the digital assistant tools found in Amazon Echo and Google Home, standalone speakers that use Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant respectively. Though their capabilities differ, each uses voice communications to interact with the automated home.

However, Project Evo seems geared toward making the personal computer into a much more sophisticated device — one that can be accessed and operated in ways never before seen.

Home Hub Connection?Essentially, users will be able to wake up a PC, whether it’s open or shut, simply by saying “Hello Cortana.” Through voice commands, users will be able to access the information they need either directly from their personal computing device or from the cloud.

“This is going to make the PC way more intuitive than it is today,” Intel SVP Navin Shenoy, general manager of the Client Computing Group, told WinHEC attendees. “You no longer need to be directly in front of your PC to activate Cortana.”

“There are certainly aspects of Project Evo that are likely to compete directly with Amazon Alexa and Google Home,” noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

However, it’s likely that “Intel and Microsoft are after a fundamentally bigger game,” he told TechNewsWorld.

In the case of Project Evo, the companies are working with much more powerful computing capabilities than Amazon and Google are using with their home hubs.

“Microsoft has the technology in the cloud, not the home,” noted Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“The problem is that the PC is not the center of the home or the consumer experience,” he told TechNewsWorld.

While there is room for improving the PC experience, this project is not going to push Microsoft into a direct competition with Amazon, McGregor said.

Passwords Passe

The Project Evo collaboration will provide advanced security to the PC, including biometric authentication using Windows Hello, eliminating the requirement to memorize multiple passwords, Shenoy said.

A major aspect of the collaboration is to provide mixed reality experiences in PCs that are affordable to the average consumer, and also to use head-mounted displays that blend the physical and virtual world in ways not seen before.

Microsoft has submitted its HoloLens to the Chinese government for approval, Myerson announced at WinHEC, and the company expects to make the devices available to developers and commercial customers during the first half of 2017.