Better, Stronger, Faster
By Eric Lin, Thu Oct 07 00:30:00 GMT 2004

In the world of fast food, speed dating and cheap broadband, we want everything faster. Manufacturers are about to learn that fast data means faster hardware.

Outside of Asia, where 1x EV-DO networks are accessed on advanced handsets, mobile phone data speeds are topping out at about 240 kilobits per seconds (kbps). While this is much faster than previous technology, it is still not fast enough to exceed the capabilities of most current hardware designs. However the coming shift from kilobits to megabits as HSDPA and 1x EV-DO A or 1x EV-DV networks take hold, more than just the radio chips will need to change in order to create mobile phones for them. Processors and memory will need to be upgraded as well.

ABI Research predicts that memory demands will switch from NOR Flash to NAND Flash in order to keep up with the data coming in over speedier networks. Some chip manufacturers are already switching to this new memory format, and the firm predicts most others will follow. RAM is just one of the critical components that manufacturers will need to upgrade as faster networks deliver data to phones more quickly. It is then interesting that Nokia's recent announcement to co-develop an Intel X-Scale platform for Series 60 applies to 3G devices. Although they won't hit three megabit speeds until late 2005 or after, Nokia is prepping handsets with faster processors to handle the deluge of data and the applications that will follow taking advantage of faster networks.

In the PC landscape, the 3D game Doom and Internet access (more specifically web browsing) were the first two causes of major upgrade cycles. Now most desktops have more power than users need for their day to day tasks. Mobile phones are still immature enough technologically that users will continue to upgrade in order to join in new trends. The recent move to color screens and cameraphones is similar to the graphics-related upgrades caused by Doom. If the upgrade cycle continues to parallel PCs, the Internet-related upgrades ABI Research is predicting will follow. After that, it won't be long before people upgrade yet again to get more storage, probably in the form of ever-shrinking hard drives (or maybe an alternative memory format) in order to store the massive amount of content these new megabit networks and advanced handset give users access to.