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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

4G Terminals: Multimode (All-in-One) Vs Single Purpose Terminals (Which way to go)

When we look at the evolution of mobile terminals, we notice that two basic design philosophies are widely accepted. One philosophy aims at multimode terminals, where a variety of different functionalities are supported. The other approach targets single-mode terminals, where basic telephony functions are supported. Most people feel that users should be able to experience various content, such as music and video, beyond simple telephony through one terminal with multifunctionality. Such characteristics can be seen as fulfilling the changing and somewhat difficult-to-predict needs of an important user segment, the younger generation.
However, there does seem to be another important market with less inclination to use such an array of functions; this group is rather satisfied with simple devices equipped only with a minimum amount of essential functions. Thus, one may argue that simpler terminals should be still in the market even if they have as few multimedia functions as possible.

Market trends and fierce competition among manufacturers are manifested as an ever-increasing tendency to incorporate more functionality within terminals. Even though some users would be satisfied with simple mobile terminals, they may end up purchasing devices with imaging and/or music reproduction capabilities incorporated (e.g., built-in camera, MP3 player) simply because those multifunctional (or multimedia) phones are being offered. Note that manufacturers are directly or indirectly starting to support multimode terminals, as this approach could become a very effective way of differentiating from their competitors. In fact, in terms of business market, as the mobile market grows rapidly and the distinction between vendors in technology fade, vendors will focus on the development of multifunctional terminals, possibly combined with aggressive branding, as an effective method for distinguishing from other products.

As time goes by, mobile subscribers will be able to communicate at any time by voice, video, or text messaging, and will be able to obtain various kinds of information and enjoy rich multimedia content. Vast amounts of rich content are already available in the domain of fixed Internet, and these can be also accessed from the mobile network. Dedicated content that matches the needs of users on the move will increasingly be added. The availability of multimedia content and their easy access will foster the development of multifunctional terminals.

The introduction of multifunctional mobile terminals has been accompanied by a rapid evolution in support for multimedia. The real driver originates from audio and imaging applications made popular through other devices [e.g., MP3 players, portable multimedia player (PMP), and Garmin’s GPS receiver] and through advancements in technology that allow for cost-effective miniaturization. It comes as no surprise that the mobile phone is the most adequate device for multimedia on the go. The new generation of mobile phones should be designed taking into account user needs, market trends, and technology evolution. Market trends are difficult to predict, because users, operators, terminal manufacturers, and the state of local and global economies, as well as many other factors, have a big
impact on how the markets will develop. Since the user is the final consumer in the terminal market chain, it is precisely the user who ultimately the manufacturer should listen to when it comes to designing future terminals. Diverse enabling technologies such as semiconductor technology for ASICs, memory and processors, displays, built-in cameras, batteries, algorithms, and coding formats, are just means to implement the terminals, and they remain unknown to the user. Large and bright color displays have become a strong selling point for mobile phones, and emerging features and services make excellent use of them, for instance, graphical user interfaces (GUI), imaging, browsing, and gaming. The display is one of the most expensive components in a phone.

built-in cameras supporting still and video imaging are becoming a must-have feature in mobile phones. As costs continue to fall, many of the standard features associated with original digital still cameras will show up in the mainstream mobile phones-for example, several megapixel sensors, flash, auto-focus, and optical zoom. The added value here, as compared with conventional digital cameras, is the possibility to transfer images straight away by the same device.

In the audio domain, audio codecs such as MP3, advanced audio coding (AAC), RealAudio (RA), and Windows Media Audio (WMA) are being played in the terminal. Most of the current generation phones support stereo headsets.

Mobile phones in the market appear to follow the trend that more and more features and functionalities will be added-phones, digital cameras, music and video players, digital TV, gaming consoles, positioning, messaging clients, and PDAs. The mobile phone hardware and software will thus become increasingly more complex. Obviously, to be successful in future mobile markets, manufacturers need solid and flexible hardware and software platform architectures.

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