Graphics war heating up in mobile

March 16, 2012 // By Rick Merritt
Mobile systems are driving toward better graphics, better voice quality and quad-core processors, according to veteran market watcher.

Graphics seems to be key area of investment, as mobile systems become the game platform of choice,” said Linley Gwennap of the Linley Group (Mountain View, California) “I think we will see more game play on smartphones and less on dedicated devices like the Nintendo 3DS and Sony Playstation Vita—even tablets are taking away from game consoles,” he said.

Nvidia is trying to get console game titles ported to its Tegra3 chip as Apple courts developers to port games to the new iPad that packs twice the graphics capabilities of its previous model. Separately, Qualcomm recently launched its Snapdragon S4 Pro, mainly focused on enhanced graphics, he noted.

“The amount of silicon devoted to the GPU is starting to increase significantly as we look at die photos of mobile chips, he said.

Addressing the trend, Neil Trevett, head of the Khronos Group, will speak on mobile graphics in a keynote at an annual mobile conference Gwennap is hosting in San Jose in April.

Separately, mobile networks and handsets are gearing up for increases in voice quality through support of improved audio codecs, Gwennap said. “We see a business model where carriers implement higher quality voice for a fee,” he said.

Tensilica and Qualcomm are already offering such capabilities in silicon. Some of the work involves expanding support for broader audio frequency ranges from the traditional 200 Hz to 3.6 KHz of telephony to a range spanning 20 Hz to 20 KHz in the future, he said.

“People using Skype on a PC already get those good voice experiences, but once you go back to a mobile phone it sounds like tin cans and a string,” he said.

A slow move to quad core processors is the other major mobile trend in the works. Nvidia is there with its Tegra 3, Huawei announced a similar chip in February and Freescale is set to ship one later this year.

“I think it’s