On the eve of the launch of the 10th anniversary iPhone, ARM chipmaking giant Qualcomm has fired a shot at Apple. Qualcomm, and not Apple, is the real innovator in the mobile world, the firm says.
“Qualcomm’s inventions and innovations lead the R&D engine for the mobile industry,” the chipmaker claims. “Qualcomm has enabled some notable world firsts on Android, and some remain Android exclusives to this day. Although by no means comprehensive, there are a number of technologies and respective mobile devices where they appeared that paved the way for others to come.”
Qualcomm’s list of Android-first innovations includes Fast/Quick Charging, dual cameras, facial recognition, augmented reality (AR), depth-sensing, bezel-less design, water-resistant touch screen, OLED display, 4K display, Gigabit LTE, Ultra HD playback, NFC with app support, Bluetooth 5, virtual 5.1 surround sound, and HDR capabilities in various entertainment apps, among others. Many of them are still not available on iPhone. Though one imagines that Apple will close the gap with today’s iPhone X announcement.
“Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today,” Qualcomm writes. “Our model is to make our inventions available as broadly as possible to the mobile industry through our licensing program, from start-ups to global companies.”
On the one hand, Qualcomm has a point, and I’ve argued myself that it is Android leading the way on leading-edge designs and technologies in mobile for a few years now.
But we can’t discount Apple’s enduring strength, which is to be a follower, yes, but one that seizes on the right blend of technologies and features at the right time, and implements them in a way that makes them more seamless and accessible to users.
Facial recognition is a great example. Apple is expected to finally rollout this sign-in technology in the iPhone X, years after Microsoft/Nokia and many Android devices makers first implemented it. But facial recognition has always sucked, and Apple was right to ignore it during this nascent phase. And given its track record, I expect Apple to be the first company to deliver facial recognition that is both fast and accurate.
We’ll see if that pans out. But I think the fair thing to say here is that there is a compelling case to be made for both sides. Android moves more quickly to the future, but those devices tend to be more like Windows PCs, with potential instabilities, slowing performance over time, and security issues. The iPhone, meanwhile, is slow, safe, and consistent. And when it does do something, it does it right.
Anyway, Qualcomm deserves a tip of the hat, for sure. But dancing on Apple’s grave right before a big product announcement is a bit low class.