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Gartner Says Worldwide Smartphone Sales Declined 5% in Fourth Quarter of 2020

Global sales of smartphones to end users declined 5.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to Gartner, Inc. Smartphone sales declined 12.5% in full year 2020.

"The sales of more 5G smartphones and lower-to-mid-tier smartphones minimized the market decline in the fourth quarter of 2020," said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. "Even as consumers remained cautious in their spending and held off on some discretionary purchases, 5G smartphones and pro-camera features encouraged some end users to purchase new smartphones or upgrade their current smartphones in the quarter."

NAND Flash Revenue for 3Q20 up by Only 0.3% QoQ Owing to Weak Server Sales, Says TrendForce

Total NAND Flash revenue reached US$14.5 billion in 3Q20, a 0.3% increase QoQ, while total NAND Flash bit shipment rose by 9% QoQ, but the ASP fell by 9% QoQ, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. The market situation in 3Q20 can be attributed to the rising demand from the consumer electronics end as well as the recovering smartphone demand before the year-end peak sales season. Notably, in the PC market, the rise of distance education contributed to the growing number and scale of Chromebook tenders, but the increase in the demand for Chromebook devices has not led to a significant increase in NAND Flash consumption because storage capacity is rather limited for this kind of notebook computer. Moreover, clients in the server and data center segments had aggressively stocked up on components and server barebones during 2Q20 due to worries about the impact of the pandemic on the supply chain. Hence, their inventories reached a fairly high level by 3Q20. Clients are now under pressure to control and reduce their inventories during this second half of the year. With them scaling back procurement, the overall NAND Flash demand has also weakened, leading to a downward turn in the contract prices of most NAND Flash products.

Apple Announces New Line of MacBooks and Mac Minis Powered by M1

On a momentous day for the Mac, Apple today introduced a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini powered by the revolutionary M1, the first in a family of chips designed by Apple specifically for the Mac. By far the most powerful chip Apple has ever made, M1 transforms the Mac experience. With its industry-leading performance per watt, together with macOS Big Sur, M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU, up to 6x faster GPU, up to 15x faster machine learning (ML) capabilities, and battery life up to 2x longer than before. And with M1 and Big Sur, users get access to the biggest collection of apps ever for Mac. With amazing performance and remarkable new features, the new lineup of M1-powered Macs are an incredible value, and all are available to order today.

"The introduction of three new Macs featuring Apple's breakthrough M1 chip represents a bold change that was years in the making, and marks a truly historic day for the Mac and for Apple," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "M1 is by far the most powerful chip we've ever created, and combined with Big Sur, delivers mind-blowing performance, extraordinary battery life, and access to more software and apps than ever before. We can't wait for our customers to experience this new generation of Mac, and we have no doubt it will help them continue to change the world."

Apple Could Unveil Arm-powered MacBooks on November 10

Apple late Monday sent out a public invite to an online launch event dated November 10, without revealing what it is. With new generation iPhones and Watches and iPads already announced it's likely that the November 10 event could deal with Macs, specifically, the company's very first MacBooks powered by a non-Intel processor since the company embraced x86 some decade-and-a-half ago.

Apple, having gained in-house expertise in designing powerful Arm-based SoCs, is likely to debut a new Arm-based processor with sufficient muscle to drive MacBooks, in what will be a "client-first" strategy of replacing x86 with Arm for Apple. This will likely see the most client-segment products, such as MacBooks and Mac Mini, get the processor, followed by MacBook Pros, iMacs, and lastly workstation-segment products such as the Mac Pro and iMac Pro. The November 10 event will likely only cover the very first Arm-powered MacBooks. Apple has been selling Arm-powered Mac Minis to ISVs along with a special version of macOS "Big Sur," so they could port their Mac software to the new platform. Arm-powered Macs could also see some form of unification between the iOS and macOS software ecosystems.

TSMC 5 nm Node Supply Fully Booked, Apple the Biggest Customer

TSMC has hit a jackpot with its newer nodes like 7 nm and now 5 nm, as the company is working with quite good yields. To boast, TSMC has seen all of its capacity of 7 nm being fully booked by customers like AMD, Apple, and NVIDIA. However, it seems like the company's next-generation 5 nm node is also getting high demand. According to the latest report from DigiTimes, TSMC's N5 5 nm node is fully booked to the end of 2020. And the biggest reason for that is the biggest company in the world - Apple. Since Apple plans to launch the next-generation iPhone, iPad, and Arm-based MacBook, the company has reportedly booked most of the 5 nm capacity for 2020, meaning that there are lots of chips that Apple will consume. TSMC can't be dependent only on one company like Apple, so the smaller portion of capacity went to other customers as well.

Razer Announces Kishi Universal Gaming Controller for iPhone

Razer, the leading global lifestyle brand for gamers, today announced the immediate availability of the Razer Kishi Universal Gaming Controller for iPhone, an iOS version of the mobile accessory that won two Best of CES awards in January. Featuring clickable analog thumbsticks, an array of face and multi-function buttons, and an 8-way D-pad, the Kishi for iPhone makes available Razer's award-winning controller hardware to Apple users for the very first time.

"As crossplay becomes further entrenched in the gaming world, the Razer Kishi offers a level playing field for mobile gamers," said Head of Marketing and Sales, Growth Peripherals for Razer, John Moore. "The Razer Kishi for iPhone extends that equity to Apple Arcade's extraordinary collection of titles, ensuring that no matter where you game, victory is always within your grasp."
Razer Kishi iPhone

Apple's Custom GPU is Reportedly Faster than Intel iGPU

When Apple announced their transition form Intel processors to Apple Silicon, we were left wondering how the silicon will perform and what characteristics will it bring with it. According to the latest report from The China Times, the Apple custom GPU found inside the new Apple Silicon will bring better performance and energy efficiency compared to Intel iGPU it replaces. The 5 nm GPU manufactured on TSMC's N5 semiconductor manufacturing node is supposedly codenamed "Lifuka" and it brings Apple's best to the table. Planned to power a 12-inch MacBook, the GPU will be paired with a custom CPU based on Arm ISA as well. The same chips powering iPhone and iPad devices will go into MacBook devices, with the TDP increased as MacBook will probably have much higher cooling capacity. The first Apple Silicon MacBook will come in H2 of 2021.
Here is the copy of a full report from The China Times below:

NAND Flash Revenue Rises 6.5% QoQ in 2Q20 Due to Pandemic-Induced Demand Growth for Cloud Services, Says TrendForce

The NAND Flash industry benefitted from strong demand for PCs and servers in 2Q20 as the COVID-19 pandemic caused a demand surge for cloud services and technologies that are related to working from home, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. This, in turn, kept demand high for SSDs. However, the smartphone and consumer electronics markets had not recovered from the impact of the pandemic. The demand for these products therefore declined compared to the previous quarter. In 2Q20, total NAND Flash bit shipment and ASP both experienced a minor increase of about 3% QoQ, while NAND Flash revenue reached US$14.5 billion, a 6.5% increase QoQ.

Apple Says Cloud Gaming Services Like Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud Violate App Store Guidelines

Cloud gaming is the next step in mobile gaming, with services like Microsoft project xCloud aiming to bring AAA titles right to your mobile phone. Microsoft has already been testing its xCloud application on Android and iOS devices for some time, and the application was supposed to launch sometime in September. However, it seems like Microsoft is only going to serve the customers on Android, as Apple says that these types of applications violate App Store guidelines. This doesn't only apply to xCloud, but also Google's Stadia gaming platform. When developer uploads application to App Store for iOS, the application goes through a review by Apple, for security reason and for Apple to check if it meets its guidelines.

Being that xCloud and Stadia are types of applications which offer a way to access many more applications (games in this case), this is against Apple's policy as they can't control the applications these services offer.

SteelSeries Launches Apple Exclusive Nimbus+ Wireless Gamepad Controller

SteelSeries, the worldwide leader in gaming and esports peripherals, today announces the Nimbus+ Wireless Gamepad Controller for Apple devices. The Nimbus+ builds on the wildly popular original Nimbus controller, adding a bevy of new features, including clickable joysticks, new Hall effect triggers, and a new 50-hour battery. Purchase of Nimbus+ also includes the new Nimbus+ iPhone Mount which allows users to attach their iPhone directly onto the controller, allowing them to play games more comfortably.

Designed specifically for gaming on Apple devices, the Nimbus+ brings console-quality game controls to iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Apple TV. With an ergonomic design, ultra-responsive triggers and buttons, and a range of Apple connectivity options, Nimbus+ is the best solution to help bring gaming on Apple devices to the next level.

Apple ARM Based MacBooks and iMacs to come in 2021

Apple has been working on replacing Intel CPUs in its lineup of products for a while now, and the first batch of products to feature the new Arm-based CPUs should be coming soon. Having a completely custom CPU inside it's MacBook or an iMac device will allow Apple to overtake control of the performance and security of those devices, just like they did with their iPhone models. Apple has proved that its custom-built CPUs based on Arm Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) can be very powerful and match Intel's best offerings, all while being much more efficient with a TDP of only a few Watts.

According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple has started an "aggressive processor replacement strategy", which should give some results by the end of 2020, around Q4, or the beginning of 2021 when the first quarter arrives. According to Kuo, the approach of doing in-house design will result in not only tighter control of the system, but rather a financial benefit, as the custom processor will be 40% to 60% cheaper compared to current Intel CPU prices.
Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro

Apple Moves its WWDC Event Online Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Apple today announced it will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Now in its 31st year, WWDC 2020 will take on an entirely new online format packed with content for consumers, press and developers alike. The online event will be an opportunity for millions of creative and innovative developers to get early access to the future of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS, and engage with Apple engineers as they work to build app experiences that enrich the lives of Apple customers around the globe.

"We are delivering WWDC 2020 this June in an innovative way to millions of developers around the world, bringing the entire developer community together with a new experience," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "The current health situation has required that we create a new WWDC 2020 format that delivers a full program with an online keynote and sessions, offering a great learning experience for our entire developer community, all around the world. We will be sharing all of the details in the weeks ahead."
apple wwdc

Get POWERED Up with Logitech's Family of Wireless Chargers

Today Logitech unveils a line of beautifully-crafted wireless chargers to make your charging experience simple and effortless. Introducing the Logitech POWERED family of wireless chargers - Logitech POWERED 3-in-1 Dock, Logitech POWERED Stand and Logitech POWERED Pad. These wireless chargers are designed to be simple, reliable and look great in any room, whether it be your bedroom, kitchen, office or living room.
logitech qi wireless charger

Apple Agrees to Front $500M to Settle iPhone Slowdown Class-Action Lawsuit

Apple late last week agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it of slowing down iPhones without the knowledge or consent of users, motivating them to upgrade their devices or batteries. The settlement amount is marked at USD $500 million or $25 per member of the class (which could be adjusted depending on how many iPhones from the class are found eligible). The lawsuit is being heard by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, and its settlement offer by Apple is subject to his approval.

In the settlement offer papers by Apple, the company reportedly denies wrongdoing, and seeks to avoid the burdens and costs of litigation. Eligible members of the class are U.S. owners of the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus or SE that ran the iOS 10.2.1 or later operating system. It also covers U.S. owners of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus that ran iOS 11.2 or later before Dec. 21, 2017. Initial outcry after discovery of Apple's secret CPU throttling cause the company to apologize for the practice, promise transparency in the future, and introduce the "Battery Health" feature in iOS that informs users of the decay of their device's lithium ion battery (ability to hold charge), and give performance throttling control to end-users.

Apple to Launch Arm-Powered MacBook in the next 18 Months

Apple is currently designing a custom series of CPUs, for its Macbook laptop lineup, based on the Arm Instruction Set Architecture. Having designed some of the most powerful mobile processors that are inside the iPhone series of devices, Apple is preparing to make a jump to an even more powerful device lineup by bringing custom CPUs for MacBook. Tired of the speed by which Intel replaces and upgrades its Core lineup of CPUs, Apple decided to take the matter in its own hands and rumors about the switch to a custom solution have been going on for a while. However, we now have some information about when to expect the first wave of Arm-powered Macs.

According to the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is a well-known insider in the Apple industry, we can expect the first wave of the Arm-powered Macbook in the next 18 months, precisely in the first half of 2021. Supposedly, the first chips for these new Macs are going to be manufactured on a 5 nm manufacturing process, possibly over at TSMC since Apple had a long-lasting history of manufacturing its chips at TSMC foundries. In the meantime, we can expect to see Apple providing developers with tools to transition their x86-64 software to the new Arm ISA. Without a software ecosystem, the hardware platform is essentially worthless. And Apple knows this. We will see how they plan to play it and will report as soon as there is more information.

The Case is Patent: Apple, Broadcom Ordered to Pay $1.1 billion to CalTech

There is a lot to say regarding patent applications and their defense, and the devious ways these can be used as a way to both stifle innovation, competition, and to leech other companies' funds with what is usually described as "patent troll" behavior. Being a seat of technological innovation, The California Institute of Technology (CalTech) registers patents as results of their attachés' work - some of these see the light of day as actual products, but more often than not, the patent rights are used as a way for the institute to receive funds from those that would license their intellectual property.

After entering a legal battle with Apple and Broadcom back in 2016, CalTech has now had its accusation of patent infringement against both companies come to a close, with the jury deciding in favor of the university. The accusation was of both companies deploying WiFi chips which were based on Caltech's patent designs - WiFi chips that were then shipped within millions of iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. As a result, both Apple and Broadcom were ordered to pay a total of $1.1 billion in compensation, with Apple taking the brunt of the decision ($837.8 million) and Broadcom coming in with a thinner slice at $270.2.

Chinese Government Closes Foxconn and Samsung Factories Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Some of the recent news from China is the stuff of science fiction, with the Central Government there locking down entire cities to contain the deadly Coronavirus outbreak there. When cities with 10+ million populations are under lock-down, it's only natural for factories to run out of workforce. According to a ZeroHedge report, the government has reportedly shut down factories owned or operated by big names in the technology and FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industries.

Among these are the ubiquitous Foxconn, which has manufacturing contracts with the biggest silicon valley tech firms for contract-manufacturing their hard-product - including the Apple iPhone; and Samsung Electronics, which makes consumer electronics, home appliances, and certain semiconductor products in China. A third big name in the report is the FMCG and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. The closure of factories could wreck tech stocks in the coming trading sessions, not to mention possible impact on prices of electronics. As of now, the closure is stipulated for the next 1-2 weeks.

New Exemptions To The DMCA Allow Users To Hack And Repair Their Phones (And Their Tractors, too)

You know that iPhone you bought? Or that home appliance? Or that tractor? They're not yours. Not completely, I mean, because if something breaks, you'll have to repair them through the official repair services of the hardware maker. You can try to repair them by yourself, but you'll probably have a lot of trouble doing it or even getting an unofficial technical service to do it. Oh, and until now it even wasn't legal for you to try. Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung or John Deere have turned repair control into an art form. The DRM they impose on their products is becoming more and more complex, and there are lots of devices that are very complicated to open to try to repair.

Agencies like EFF have long been fighting for the so-called "right to repair" movement to try to fight these kinds of strategies, and these days those efforts have paid off. The Librarian of Congress and US Copyright Office have adopted "exemptions to the to the provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") that prohibits circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works". This means that from now on, users will be able to hack the software and fix the hardware on (some of) their devices in order to repair or maintain them. The new rules apply to smartphones, "home appliances" and "home systems", but they go beyond there and will allow users to repair cars, tractors and other motorized land vehicles (no boats or planes, though) by modifying their firmware.

TSMC Fabs Offline, Hit by a Virus, Production Impacts Confirmed

TSMC is the most popular semiconductor foundry, has been called the "savior of fabless chipmakers," and is also one of Taiwan's most valuable companies. It's also the principal foundry for chipmakers such as NVIDIA and AMD (GPUs). Its most valuable production, however, is that of Apple's A-series application processors that drive the main breadwinners of the company - iPhones. Imagine the cataclysm unleashed if a virus were to spread in the company that contract-manufactures extremely complex chip designs. According to Reuters, that cataclysm is upon TSMC.

According to DigiTimes, a WannaCry-variant ransomware infected not just workstations at TSMC, but also certain fab machines (which are driven by computers). The infection has caused a shutdown of several of TSMC's fabs, including its high-volume 12-inch ones. These machines apparently run on unpatched Windows 7, probably because they're connected to a private network instead of the Internet. TSMC has tasked all of its human resources to disinfect the affected machines. The company hopes to have its fabs fully operational by Monday (13th August), but not before the downtime affects the supply-chains Apple and other high-value clients. An estimated $179 million is wiped from TSMC's Q3 revenues due to this downtime. Although it could affect shipments of APs to Apple, impact on the inventories of Apple products could be minimal, according to market analysts. It remains to be seen if TSMC's other clients see similarly minimal impact; or if TSMC is prioritizing a trillion-dollar client.

Kingston to Showcase Upcoming SSD Solutions and More

Kingston Digital Europe Co LLP, an affiliate of Kingston Technology Company Inc., the independent world leader in memory products, is set to share its latest and upcoming products at CES. Kingston will have demonstrations highlighting the capabilities of their family of solid-state drives and encrypted USB Flash drives, as well as additions in the consumer lifestyle space with mobile and embedded solutions.

"We are excited to share what's to come from Kingston in 2018. CES week provides a great opportunity to showcase the many quality technology solutions that make up the Kingston family," said Robert Allen, Director Marketing and Technical Services -EMEA, Kingston. "From enterprise SSDs, encrypted USBs, consumer mobile products to embedded solutions, we continue to offer customers rock-solid reliability, ultimate security and maximum performance. When guests visit our suite, they will fully understand Kingston's commitment to offering the most complete family of performance solutions."

Qi Charging Pads Dominate CES

Wireless charging smartphones aren't new, with devices supporting the Qi wireless charging standard dating all the way back to 2012. The standard could finally hit critical mass with Apple's decision to implement it into iPhone. The latest iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X support Qi, along with other Apple devices such as Watch and Air Pods. A slew of Qi charging pads pepper 2018 CES, below is a small compilation of pads from Belkin. Qi has already become standard equipment of several of today's cars, and could soon be part of "smart furniture" (office desks). An interesting contraption seen at CES is portable chargers featuring Qi surfaces.

Razer Adds Two New Members to Their Hammerhead Gaming Earphone Family

Razer, the leading global lifestyle brand for gamers, has announced two new additions to the Razer Hammerhead in-ear headset family. The new earphones feature a digital connection regardless of Android or iOS - no 3.5 mm connection, a highly durable aluminum chassis, flat cables and bi-flange ear tips for passive noise isolation. They also come with inline remotes to provide quick control for audio fidelity from the 10 mm dynamic drivers. The Razer Hammerhead USB-C is the perfect companion for the Razer Phone and other devices without 3.5 mm audio jacks, while the Razer Hammerhead for iOS Mercury Edition blends with iPhone colors.

Logitech Tells Harmony Link Owners to Bid Their Devices Goodbye (Updated)

The Harmony Link, a device that made its introduction back in 2011, basically turns your iPad, iPhone, or Android smartphone into a remote control. With the help of the corresponding Logitech app, users can control up to eight different home theater devices scattered around the house. Harmony Link owners probably woke up today to some very disgusting news. In a short email sent by Logitech to their customers, the company announced its plan to drop support for the device completely in March 16, 2018. This is outright wrong considering customers bought the Harmony Link as a device and not a subscription service.

There's no other way around it though. Many Harmony Link devices are likely to end up in the garbage bin come March of next year. Logitech is currently offering a 35% discount on the new Harmony Hub to soften the blow. However, we doubt their customers will return given the mistreatment. Besides, there's no guarantee that this won't happen again when the company decides to replace the Harmony Hub with the next best thing.

Broadcom Looks to Buy Qualcomm for $100B, Creating a Silicon Monster

Broadcom, makers of networking equipment, is exploring a deal to acquire mobile technology giant Qualcomm in a USD $100 billion deal, which could be the largest ever acquisition value of a chip-maker. The resulting company could be the world's largest chipmaker, combining Broadcom's IP with networking PHYs and IoT infrastructure, and Qualcomm's SoCs powering IoT devices besides smartphones, tablets, and ultra-portable notebooks. Broadcom is looking to raise a cash+stock bid consisting of shares valued at $70/share. Besides networking infrastructure equipment, Broadcom made its fortunes on the back of Apple iPhone's success, as it supplies its networking chips.

No Relief for DRAM and NAND Shortages in Sight; Considerable Supply Only in 2018

DRAM prices have been high for quite some time now, due to a general increased demand over a slowly improving supply capability from manufacturers. Pricing of DRAM has been increasing (to the tune that if I wanted to double my memory capacity, I would have to pay double of what I paid a mere 11 months ago.) NAND pricing has been affected as well, with newer technologies such as 3D NAND not having a relevant impact on end user pricing as was expected, since tight supply and growing demand means process-level savings are dwarfed by the increasing prices on the balance of supply and demand.

Most of our woes can be traced back to high-end smartphones, which make use of up to 6 GB of RAM and have copious amounts of NAND memory. Now, reports are coming in that due to the iPhone 8's impending launch, supply is even tighter, with several firms being either unable to secure the amount of Ram they are looking for, or having to order in significant advance (futures speculation anyone?) Reuters is reporting that some clients have moved to 6-month supply agreements for their DRAM and NAND purchases, accepting higher prices than the customary quarterly or monthly deals, to make sure they get enough memory chips for their products.
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