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2016

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Motorola is increasing its edge with modular phones by adding new snap-on Mods to its Z model, enhancing capabilities to include a range of features. An array of modular magnetic snap-ons to Motorola’s Z phone, which enhances the device’s capabilities to include a projector, camera lens, and high-powered charger (via Motorola.com)

 

In an age where cell phones are falling in both price and reusability, the modular approach to capabilities taken by Motorola is refreshing. The idea is simple-modular phones allow for enhanced capabilities by adding more modules-in this case, Mods- that snap on to the back of a smartphone magnetically.

 

The modular component adds an additional feature while attached to the original device. So far, Motorola’s Z phone is leading the way with these features. Motorola claims that the Mods were designed with future generations of Moto Z’s in mind, so that if you buy a boombox feature or a lens feature for today’s current Moto Z, it will still work on the next model.

 

Additionally, to create each modular add-on, Motorola partnered with different industry leaders in design and engineering. The speaker Mod was created through a partnership with American electronics company JBL, and the camera Mod with optics company Hasselblad.

 

These are not merely gimmicks, but highly functional, high quality devices in their own right. As such, there are a few cons. Each Mod comes with its own battery, which charges independently of the smartphone. That means if you attach a Mod to a not-yet-fully charged Moto Z, and start charging, the juice first goes to the phone, then the Mod. It is possible to charge them separately, of course, but be aware that the Moto Mod system relies on battery power-and lots of it. That could be a reason why the latest Mod, a Mophie battery pack, came out recently. Providing 3,000mAh of power time, it clamps onto the phone as any other Mod, lengthening the time between charging. This feature is only another $80, and a carport feature, produced in partnership with Incipio, is only $65.

 

Motorola plans to produce even more Mods in 2017 than 2016, according to Moto Mods director John Touvannas. That has to make you wonder, what next? Are they going to invent needs we didn’t know we had, or come up with features that are actually useful? Possibly both. A call for solicitations from users resulted in some 380 pitches for new Mods, ranging from baby monitors to breathalyzers. If the Moto Mod team is able to take a new look at preexisting features, they could create enhanced features that offer something for everyone

 

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Qualcomm processors will now be able to run Windows 10 giving the ability to run high powered Win32 apps. Qualcomm making the big announcement at WinHEC (Via Qualcomm)

 

Qualcomm made headlines a few months ago for making the biggest semiconductor deal ever. Now, they have another big announcement in store. Qualcomm and Microsoft are teaming up to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm’s mobile processors. Thanks to this, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors will be the first ARM-based processors to fully support Windows 10. The announcement was made at WinHEC where attendees got to see a demo of the full desktop version of Photoshop running on a Snapdragon CPU via emulation. So why is this such a big deal?

 

Qualcomm’s chips, such as the Snapdragon, are high powered and are supposed to offer the best experience when it comes to streaming, watching movies, and even making phone calls. Most of the company’s processors are found on mobile devices and though they are powerful, most chips found in smartphones still aren’t strong enough to run energy consuming apps, like Photoshop and other Win32 apps. Bringing Windows 10 to these processors changes that. Qualcomm’s next generation of processors have the ability to run Win32 apps via x86 emulation on Windows 10.  As they showed in the demo, these chips will now be able to handle such high powered apps, bringing a desktop experience to your mobile device and stronger processors to standard PCs.

 

Both Qualcomm and Microsoft believe Windows 10 PCs powered by Snapdragon will be available as early as next year. Not only will the new devices fully support Windows 10, but they’ll also include Gigabit LTE, and superior Wi-Fi housed in a fanless design that’s meant to provide a long battery life. This is also big news for Microsoft because it may allow them to build a smartphone with the ability to run Win32 apps along with other UWP apps. Microsoft tried breaking into the smartphone game with its Windows phone, but it couldn’t compete with Samsung and Motorola. With Qualcomm on their side it could allow them to create something better and more powerful that the Surface Phone.

 

This isn’t the first time Windows attempted to run ARM devices. They previously gave it a shot with the OS Windows RT, but the results were not so successful. The biggest issue was ARM-based Windows programs were not synonymous with the standard 32 bit programs. Because of this, developers were forced to rewrite their programs to be compatible with Windows RT. Though some are still suspicious that the processor will run the apps via emulation, it’ll still be interesting to see if this will give Microsoft the break they need to finally create a successful smartphone. It could also give Qualcomm the support it needs to give Intel a run for their money.

 

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Lime Microsystem’s LimeSDR features Snappy Ubuntu Core, allowing anyone to write their own apps for any number of projects. (via Lime Microsystems)

 

Back in June of this year, Lime Microsystems successfully funded their LimeSDR platform on Crowd Supply, garnering over $777K with a $500K goal. The company touted the board as ‘a low-cost, open-source, apps-enabled, software defined radio’ that can be used for everything radio- cellular base stations, media streaming, drone/RC control, IoT, you name it. What’s more, since the board is open-source in every way and outfitted with Snappy Ubuntu Core, users can write their own code or apps and share them with others in much the same fashion as the Raspberry Pi and Arduino communities.

 

 

Think of the LimeSDR as a development board for radio-based projects as it can handle a myriad of wireless communication standards including UMTS, LTE, GSM, LoRa, Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID, as well as a wide frequency range of 100 KHz to 3.8 GHz. Lime’s choice of electronics makes it easy to use whatever standard you want as it features the company’s LMS7002M MIMO FPRF RF transceiver paired with an Intel/Altera Cyclone IV EP4CE40F23 FPGA, allowing it to carry out DSP (Digital Signal Processing) tasks on the hardware.

 

Rounding-out the LimeSDR is 256Mb of DDR2 of onboard RAM, a Cypress USB 3.0 controller, Rakon RPT7050A oscillator, 10 U.FL (6 RX/4 TX) connectors and a series of programmable LEDs. So what has been happening with Lime Microsystems since the successful crowd-funding campaign? According to a Crowd Source update, they are busy acquiring all the components needed to build the boards before they can ship them to those who pledged and are on course to deliver them all by the end of January of next year. Those waiting should check their email as the company will send a message the exact date their LimeSDR will arrive.

 

Lime Microsystems has also been recently lauded by Frost & Sullivan, who gave the RF company their Technology Innovation Award for their LimeSDR platform and “acknowledging the rising importance of programmable radio frequency (RF) in an increasingly software-driven world.” While there are many competing RF boards on the market, the main reason F&S bestowed their prestigious award to Lime was that none of the competition featured open-source hardware and software or was capable of a wide frequency range, noting that some of the other SDR boards even featured Lime’s RF transceiver chips.

 

While nobody has yet received their LimeSDRs, it will be interesting to see what the maker community does with them. Will there be a thriving code/app-based community shortly after launch or will it be sometime before there is significant shareware people can use for their projects?

 

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