Qualcomm Fires a Shot at Apple on Eve of iPhone Launch

Posted on September 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, iOS, Android with 46 Comments

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.


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Comments (46)

46 responses to “Qualcomm Fires a Shot at Apple on Eve of iPhone Launch”

  1. SilentHero117

    Face recognition has always worked extremely well for me in Windows 10 with Surface Book and my PC hooked with the Logitech BRIO webcam. The BRIO is scarily fast as it logs me in the millisecond I sit down in front of my PC. I never had a chance to try it with Android yet as I don't have a device that supports it (yet).

  2. nbplopes

    Bezel-less design is a Qualcom innovation? OLED? Heheh. One can imagine the rest than ... right?

    Qualcomm its not just attacking Apple with this mentality, its also attacking Google, Samsung, LG so on and so forth. All core Android innovations seams to be their own doing also :)

    I think if they want to be taken seriously on their remarks they should be more careful when aiming the shot.

    Yes, Qualcom it's a very important piece of the puzzle in the mobile space today. I'm sure they innovated just like Apple, Google and Microsoft did. But claiming the entire thing is their own doing, give me a break.

    Trolling much?

    "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."

    I would say that is a crucial part of innovation that work to people for the people. The How! So its also leading the way in innovation and that people recognize quite well too and that is what makes Apple, Apple. Figuring out how to make their and other innovations work for people. In other words, with Android one might have a look at the future in the instances were certain features come out first, Apple delivers the future in the present because of what you just said.

    How many great technologies and innovations appeared in many high end and expensive products, leaving people really excited and died a few years afterwords because id did not work well?

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to nbplopes:

      One thing to also keep in mind is that the rumors around what Apple is planning to do often sparks what its competitors do. We've known for awhile that Apple was working on a bezelless display with the next iPhone, and during that time, Samsung and others start launching bezelless phones. Remember the talk of TouchID going under the display? Rumor has it Samsung tried to do it on the S8 and couldn't, so the sensor went to the back of the phone (though it doesn't sound like Apple will succeed either). iPhone7 implemented the dual cameras with the "zoom" idea, and now others are doing it. Before that, dual cameras were either for the trendy 3D or wide angle.

      The point isn't that Apple is the big pioneer here, but rather that this is a hotly contested and lucrative market, so everybody is going to study what everybody else is doing very closely. Samsung is especially good at taking these ideas and getting them out the door quickly. They are a massive company with lots of in-house manufacturing. They can latch on to a rumor and get a product out the door while Apple is still in QA. For me, I don't care who gets there first. I care about who actually does it well.

      There are brilliant people working at all these companies, and it's hard to really know who can lay claim to an idea versus who was "first." That's what makes Qualcomms statement so childish.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

        One particular evident example was the iWatch Rumor. Started long before smartwatches came to the market by Google. At least a year before Google announced its first smartwatch there was this rumor around Apple. Some people even thought that iWatch referred to a new Smart TV thing from Apple, a Television maybe. Google came out with a Smartwatch a year after. And than Apple a year after or so.

        I personally think Apple since Cook has been quite sloppy when with things that were better kept secret in comparison when SJ was CEO and Healthy. I think was better. Now it is giving other companies ideas for future products through the rumors sustained in leaked information. You know Apple will not launch a thing that does not meet the the basic vectors that makes a quality product/solution, leading people to waste money in stuff that does not work because of unreliability or accessibility issues. While others don't give a second thought if that means to be the first and in the news.

        PS: There are Apple exceptions of course. iCloud synch and file management need to be improved greatly. But I guess iOS 11 will sort that one out. Will see.

      • CompUser

        In reply to Darmok N Jalad: "We've known for awhile that Apple was working on a bezelless display with the next iPhone, and during that time, Samsung and others start launching bezelless phones." But even with Apples supposed head starts, Samsung and other companies still beat them to market with new technologies, often by years. And just because there aren't all the leaks (that Apple is known for) from Samsung and other companies, it doesn't mean that Samsung and other companies aren't working on those technologies BEFORE they've been leaked from Apple. I think Apple lost it's status as an innovator many years ago.

        • toukale

          In reply to CompUser:

          And who between the big tech companies are innovating? The reality is none of them are. All those innovations are coming from the universities, government backing research and small up and coming companies. All the big guys simply just buy them up and add them to their repertoire. What most don't seem to understand is the scale Apple is executing at. No other company is operating at their scale. It's a blessing and a curse to operate at such scale, it means you are limited to things you can adapt because you have to be able to do it at their scale.

          Samsung for example have 50 different phone models and can take one and add a new tech to it and ship it. Apple can't afford to take that kind of risk. I always laugh whenever I see people use that as an example of why Apple is not innovative and it tells me everything I need to know about their level of understanding of how those things work.

          • skane2600

            In reply to toukale:

            Having fewer models actually makes the process easier, not harder. And a larger scale also reduces cost. I don't see what kind of risk you are referring to.

            • toukale

              In reply to skane2600:

              The risk is using one model that's not your bread and butter and introduce a new tech without jeopardizing your main device. For example, Samsung will take one of their 50 different models and introduce foldable screen. This will allow them to perfect the tech in improve it and if it works well enough they would then bring it to their gs/note line in a few years. That's the risk I am talking about.

              While it's true having fewer models helps makes the process easier, it also opens you up to huge disaster in case something goes wrong with any of the two models. For that reason, you better be damn sure whatever tech you put in those devices are damn near flawless. For that reasons, you can afford to take risks.

              • skane2600

                In reply to toukale:

                A wise business doesn't create any features that don't work properly regardless of where it fits within their lineup. Most of the features that Apple was late to implement weren't major technical challenges and so represented minimal risk anyway.

              • ym73

                In reply to toukale: Samsumg might have 50 models, but only 3 of them are making most of their profits, the Galaxy S, Galaxy S+, and the Note. The other phones are low end models with low margins and most of them end up in 3rd word countries where these low cost phones are popular. The new tech is always applied to flagship models first and then it trickle down to lower end models as the tech becomes cheaper. An example is the facial recognition. It was applied to flagship models. It didn't work well and many users turned it off. Apple does wait until the technology gets better and integrates it better into their devices. However, would apple have developed facial recognition now if Samsung and Nokia didn't try it out first?

      • skane2600

        In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

        The debate over who was first isn't all the meaningful IMO, but I don't see how unimplemented ideas count as being "first". I thought of drones back in Jr. high in the late 60s, that doesn't mean I get credit for being first on drones.

    • crfonseca

      In reply to nbplopes:

      Qualcomm didn't say they invented everything, they're saying the enabled it.

      That said, Qualcomm does have it's own wireless power technology, called WiPower, and they have done a lot of work on fast charging systems for phones. The Samsung S7 already can be charged to 50% in 30 minutes, and, unlike the iPhone X, the charger to do it comes with it, you don't have to buy it separately.

      OLED is definitely not an Apple invention, Samsung has been making phones with OLED for years, even the first Windows Phone they released, some 7 years ago, the Samsung Omnia 7, had a Super AMOLED screen. Sure, the technology has evolved a lot since then, but Samsung has always been at the forefront of both its development and use.

      Speaking of that, because Samsung makes its own OLED screens, and is one of the few phone makers that do, they've done bezel-less screens since at least the S6 Edge. Sure, newer phones have even smaller bezels than the S6 Edge, but that pretty much was the first phone to not have bezels on the sides.

      And guess what, *all* Samsung phones, the Samsung Omnia 7, the S6 Edge, and even the new S8, use Qualcomm SoCs. True, on some markets they use their own SoCs, but for the most part they use Qualcomm's.

  3. barry505

    "But dancing on Apple’s grave right before a big product announcement is a bit low class."

    Doesn't really matter, 99% of the iPhone purchasers won't see this article.

  4. skborders

    I agree Apple often implements better, however I wonder if they would be able to with out the missteps or slightly premature efforts of others.

  5. maethorechannen

    You have to admit that Android's ability to copy Apple's innovations several years in advance is impressive.

  6. CompUser

    "... and implements them in a way that makes them more seamless and accessible to users." Interpretation: takes aging technology, implements it in their newest devices, while convincing their sheep-like clientele that it's Earth shattering new technology. Considering the ratio of iPhone users and Android users I've worked with, there are at least as many iPhone user who experience problems with their phones as Android users. And from what I experienced after being the issuer of both Apple and Android mobile devices for my former employer for about five years, Apple's slow rate of implementing new technology doesn't seem to translate to a more seamless implementation at all.

    • Gregory Steeno

      In reply to CompUser:

      Interpretation: takes aging technology, implements it in their newest devices, while convincing their sheep-like clientele that it's Earth shattering new technology....

      Uh, no.

      What is your example of aging technology that was implemented, then claimed as Earth-shattering?

      And Apple buyers are "sheep-like"?

      Stop with the incorrect generalizations. You sound foolish and bitter.

  7. glenn8878

    I admit your previous article got me thinking about changing to Android, but I have 2 years to consider and I really want the lastest screen technology and I'm not willing to pay $1000 for it. iPhones are just to convenient to use. It is still primarily a communications device so FaceTime and messaging is #1.

  8. toshdellapenna

    I saw an article today claiming that Apple "invented a new technology called OLED for the iPhone X screen." Are you shitting me? How dumb are these Apple pundits? It even says on Apple's own website that it's the "first OLED screen to live up to iPhone standard." Lol. Paul is right in the fact that Apple's greatest innovation has always been in blending others tech in a way that the sheep can use without a fuss. As usual though Apple "invented" wireless charging, OLED screens, etc. Lol

  9. ilovemissy85

    I have a Galaxy S8 + and use the fingerprint scanner and facial recognition sensor both. It just depends what I'm doing at the time i need my phone unlocked. Both are very good ,and has far as OLED screens Samsung has been using them for over 9 years on cell phones.

  10. Chris_Kez

    I'm not sure who Qualcomm is targeting with this missive. Are they just trying to pump themselves up?

  11. Todd Northrop

    How in the world can you say face recognition sucks today (I.e., before "Apple shows the world how to do it.")?

    As a Microsoft writer I would expect you to be familiar with how awesome face recognition is on Surface devices as well as using Kinect on Xbox. It's lighting fast and extremely accurate.

    Great for Apple that they finally grow a pair and add technologies that have been around for years, but writing about it as some wonderful thing is odd. Do you have to consciously remove objectivity or does it happen without thinking?

    • Michael Uhlman

      In reply to Speednet:

      I think he is referring more to facial recognition on cell phones not as a whole. Right now the facial recognition available on phones is terrible and can be tricked with a picture. Samsung won't even allow it to be used with Samsung Pay transactions because it is so easily defeated.

    • Stooks

      In reply to Speednet:

      to add to that, I thought Apple bought the company that provided the technology for Kinect?

    • nbplopes

      In reply to Speednet:

      He was referring to face recognition / sign in on phones. Does MS have a phone that does that very well?

      Right, a Plane has wings, can fly very well, add that to a car and it will fly too right? After all the technology has been here for more than a century.

      Envy is not a very good advice :)

      • MachineGunJohn

        In reply to nbplopes:

        Microsoft has had this working well on their phones for 3 years without any help from Qualcomm

      • SvenJ

        In reply to nbplopes: Yes, the 950 and 950XL. You can nit-pick as it is 'iris' recognition, not technically 'facial' recognition. I still hold it up to my face and it lets me in.
        Works great in low light too, since it works with IR illumination it provides. We haven't seen how good Apple's tech is outside staged demos.

    • Ravi Tx

      In reply to Speednet:

      Now apple made hardware necessary for 3d camera smaller enough to fit in a smartphone. I hope other manufacturer catch up fast with this kind of hardware like intel realsense camera.

  12. Darmok N Jalad

    This makes no sense Qualcomm. Since Samsung has often been the company to make most of the things you listed widely available, you can't really take credit for helping anyway, since Samsung also makes its own SOCs. Heck, even Intel makes LTE modems. I guess if want to get into the sexiness known as patent holdings, then you might be on to something. Otherwise, this is sour grapes.

    • Michael Uhlman

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

      Yeah, I mean heck look at their chart they list some features as being first because they have a technology demo available of it even though an actual shipping device is a year or more off.

    • Mestiphal

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

      Well, doesn't the processor has to support said technology for it to work? so I guess if said technology is not part of the processor, it just won't work...

      • MachineGunJohn

        In reply to Mestiphal:

        no processor support needed for bezelless display, waterproof touch screen, nfc, etc. Of that entire list I'd give them fast quick charging and gig lte. The rest is a list of things others innovated on and Qualcomm would like people to believe they did. Regardless I agree that it was a classless

  13. El Comment

    I'm using facial recognition as my main login method on my Lumia 950 XL and it works very, very well, so at least in my experience, facial recognition doesn't suck.

    What's buggy is the lock screen on Windows 10 Mobile: sometimes, after having logged on, the lock screen reappears, asking to swipe top to make it disappear, and it doesn't work.

  14. Stooks

    I worked for Qualcomm for 12 years, up until 2015. Every single thing they did outside of ARM has been a complete failure. They are truly a one trick pony.

  15. jt5

    I have used facial recognition on a laptop and on a phone. I love it on the laptop- and it is quick and convenient, especially if I am on the phone. I don't like it on the phone as you have to hold it up to your face. I like the fingerprint sensor better for most tasks. I know it comes down to preference- and personally I hope there is a choice to use either on the new iPhone(probably wont be though)

  16. toukale

    What is it with companies that makes them go gaga whenever Apple is involved. It seems no company in the tech world is confident enough to just let Apple do their thing and not react. Every year it's the same reaction from folks whenever Apple is making their announcement, they can't help but try to be part of the conversation. It never fails. To me, it makes them look unprepared, like they are always in reaction mode vis-a-vis Apple. Be confident in your plans and skills, if you must tweak it a bit, then don't let the world see it.

    That is the difference I observed between Apple and everyone else. Even if and when Apple reacts to others in the tech world you never know. Because they keep it internally and react on their own time with a plan of action and execute it. Why can't those guys do the same? Every year there is a rush two to three weeks before any Apple event to say "First." It's been ten years, it's about time for those companies to stop reacting to Apple's agenda and set their own and execute on it. Stop focusing all your energy on Apple, and instead place it on executing your plan of action.

    • skane2600

      In reply to toukale:

      You're right it's better if they didn't react, but years of bragging about technologies that others pioneered gets under people's skin. The media adds to the problem by giving Apple special treatment and by comparing everything to Apple as if their products are designed as God intended.

      • skane2600

        In reply to skane2600:

        A perfect example of what I'm talking about: "No other device in our lifetimes has had the impact on the world that the iPhone has," - Tim Cook

        Really? Perhaps Tim means millennial lifetimes. Here's a few items in my lifetime that dwarf the impact of the iPhone: the transistor, the microprocessor, basic cellphone technology. I'm sure there are others.

  17. jrickel96

    Apple certainly doesn't lead with innovation, at least not anymore. Qualcomm makes some impressive chips. The biggest problem they have is they run on Android, the most fragmented OS on the planet with no set pattern of security updates or even the ability to have apps run predictably from phone to phone.

    Apple's success isn't really about innovation, it's about stability and predictability. I know my iPhone won't have an unexpected reboot today. My Android phones are not like that (and I have A LOT as I test app builds out on them). The apps do not run in predictable ways and can be impacted by installs on the device, the OEM build of the OS, etc. This is a nightmare when you attempt to create predictable and reliable results from an app across a wide range of devices. Yet an app running on the iPhone 6, 6S, SE, 7, 8, etc will all run the same and predictably. Often they can be out of sync between two Galaxy S8 devices.

    Apple's biggest selling point is its ecosystem and how it protects it. Android has a terrible ecosystem full of apps that are created with a lot of shortcuts because Android does nothing to prevent them from using them. iOS is not very kind about how an app should run, nor is the app store when you submit an app. Each is very demanding and expects high quality. The Play Store and Android have no requirements like this. IS the app a memory hog that will kill your battery? Google doesn't care. Even if they did, you can easily get around them.

    I know exactly how my iPhone's battery will perform daily. I might as well consult a Magic 8 Ball to predict how an Android device's battery will fare.

    And this is where Qualcomm falls apart. All their innovations are marred by running on a garbage OS with a garbage app store from Google that is only successful because it was free and OEMs could push it while no one offered a viable alternative. MS slipped up big time there. Though I expect we'll see how poorly Qualcomm chips do on Android when we see them running Windows 10.

    Unfortunately there's no getting away from the garbage OS that is Android right now nor is there any way to stop Google from using it to siphon off information to make money on ads, though those single revenue companies are prone to massive falls that surprise. I think Qualcomm chips will also do much better on an iPhone.

    That would be interesting, to see an iOS running on the same specs as an Android phone. I guarantee based on experience that iOS would roast Android as would Windows. We'll see Windows do it before too long and it'll become apparent just how bad Android really is.