Qualcomm exec: Smartphones now app developers first port of call

HONG KONG--Smartphones have changed the way applications are produced, with most developers now focusing first on producing services for the mobile devices before migrating them to other products such as PCs, Qualcomm Technologies' SVP of product management said.

Alex Katouzian told journalists attending Qualcomm's 3G and LTE Summit, held here this week, that the company expects development of mobile applications to outstrip PC apps by a factor of 4 to 1 in the coming years, as developers innovate first on the mobile platform before moving their wares elsewhere. That shift in app development is one of two major changes in the way Qualcomm does business, with LTE the second.

"Development for apps on the mobile has increased quite a bit. Developers are now mostly concentrating on mobile then moving their applications towards other parts of adjacent markets," Katouzian said, adding: "In effect what happens is that anything that's going to be useful, anything that is a unique, anything that's innovative targets mobile first and then moves elsewhere."

Estimates suggest smartphone users rack up around 150 minutes of use per day, meaning smartphones have now eclipsed TV as the most-used items in homes.

"They only watch 110 minutes of TV a day, but they're spending 150 minutes on their smartphones. And when they watch TV they're either using their smartphone [or] they're using their tablets. There's a statistic that says…65 per cent of [tablet owners] are using the tablet to interface with the TV while they're watching TV. And sometimes during the day at least one time, 40 per cent of all these users are using their handset at the same time as a tablet."

Today's smartphone users are more interested in entertainment functions than business services including memos, email, attachments and looking up presentations, Katouzian said, adding that even "calling someone is way down on the list." Instead, users want to access news, play games and watch movies. "[T]he whole thing is set up in a personal way."

The 'smartphone first' approach means that if you get that device right "then you get all the adjacent markets right too because all of the IP and the technology and the ecosystem form around…the smartphone," Katouzian explained. Devices including tablets, cameras, games consoles, set-top boxes and wearable devices--along with sectors including machine-to-machine (M2M) and smart home applications--are "related to or derived from the smartphone."

For Qualcomm, the shift in the development cycle towards the smartphone has resulted in changes to its business.

As Katouzian explained: where the company used to "sell three devices" with the audio codec stacked on top of an application processor that was integrated with the modem; a transceiver; and a power management module, "today we have a massive extension of that system solution with multiple different advances in RF, in connectivity, in power management."

At the component level, the increase in data usage requires a larger pipeline for moving that data from "the memory to the processors that are sitting in the chip," Katouzian noted, explaining that involves "upgrading the graphics core, upgrading the memory interface, upgrading the modem to have a bigger pipeline that comes to you."

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