Broadcom Corp., the Irvine chipmaker, said today that it started selling a GPS chip that uses half the power of similar mobile GPS chips. In addition, the new BCM2075 is a combination chip that includes Bluetooth and FM-radio functions. In other words, the one chip offers the same features as four competing chips, only in less space and for a lower price.
Typically, GPS chips in cell phones offload work to the cell phone’s processor, which is the power hog. The new Broadcom chip handles GPS itself so it doesn’t bother the main processor, said Craig Ochikubo, Broadcom’s vice president and general manager of its wireless personal area networking group. That creates amazing power savings.
“You don’t have to turn on the big cell phone engine. We’ve integrated a very efficient processor to support Bluetooth, GPS and FM radio,” Ochikubo said.
“The competing GPS solutions are over 50 percent higher in tracking (e.g. turn by turn navigation) versus the GPS in the 2075,” he said.
Being on one piece of silicon also reduces the price and the amount of space needed. Those savings alone could help the new combo chip survive in the tough economy by attracting cell phone manufacturers who want to add Bluetooth and GPS to lower-end phones, said Allen Nogee, a principal analyst with market researcher In-Stat, which released a gloomy outlook for the mobile industry on Monday.
“For people who want a state-of-the-art phone, they’re not buying as many phones because they aren’t coming out with anything new. … They’ve pretty much hit the end of features they can offer,” Nogee said.
Higher-end features, however, are spreading to lower-end phones, making features like Wi-Fi and GPS a high point in Nogee’s otherwise depressing outlook of the industry.
“Phones with GPS are growing for several reasons. Marketers want to start to use the information and advertise based on your location. And there’s the government. While we’ve had e911 for some time, there are some security applications that use location for criteria,” Nogee said.
Broadcom, of course, knows this. That’s why Ochikubo says smart phones aren’t targeted for the new chip. It’s the mid and lower level phones that have room to grow.
“If I want to know my friends are close by, I don’t need a gigantic screen,” Ochikubo said.
There’s also battery savings when using Bluetooth, too. Having a Bluetooth conversation on the phone with the new chip uses half the power of Broadcom’s first Bluetooth combo chip, the 4-year-old BCM2048.
The FM radio part will allow cell phone users to listen to FM radio on their phones and transmit audio — phone calls, music, and turn-by-turn directions — to an unused FM station on the car stereo.
The new chip, which is the culmination of the company’s quest to offer “a new combination chip every 60 days,” will be demonstrated next week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Ochikubo expects phones with the new chip to hit stores by the end of the year.
Watch Broadcom’s video on the new chip: youtube.com/watch?v=NDIvv5NBTi0
Broadcom’s other combo mobile-phone chips:
|Chip||Bluetooth||GPS||Wi-Fi||FM receive||FM transmit|
Images courtesy of Broadcom.
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