WiGig (802.11ad), smartphone sales and why 4K is wanted on the smallest screen

June 30, 2016 // By EDN Europe
Mark Barrett – CMO, Blu Wireless Technology
There has been a lot of doom mongering about Apple’s earnings report and iPhone sales, with it failing to achieve quarterly growth for the first time in 13 years.

Most of the analysts and press put this slump down to a saturated market, with phones lasting longer, and as the New York Times said, “the lack of another hot product to pry open the wallets of customers.”

It is definitely true that new functionality has been thin on the ground for the smartphone and tablet market, but this could be about to change and new connectivity standards - particularly 802.11ad Wi-Fi (aka WiGig) - will be playing a key role in this.

With nine generations of iPhone (and six of iPad) and looking back at the first few, what drove the success was simple: the first iPhone gave access to the web via a proper browser (not a terrible WAP interface) for the first time. The iPhone 3G added a fast web connection while on the go. The iPad made it easier to view video and read content. As it continued, people demanded ever-better screen resolutions, cameras and processors. In short, media is what has driven sales and the demand is definitely still there.

The proof of this comes from Google Trends - a service that allows you to analyse how the popularity of a search term changes over time - with records dating back to 2004. In this case, just look at the change for 4K TV and HDTV.

Google Trends data for 4K TV (blue) vs HDTV (red) search volumes - March 2011 to March 2016

People want better quality and 4K TV has finally overtaken HDTV in terms of the public’s mindshare. And this is not just of interest for TV. Strategy Analytics predicts ( February 2016 ) that over 1.5 billion smartphones will have shipped with 4K capability by 2020.

We know that people will want to access this very high resolution content via their smart phones, not just to watch while on the move, but because they’ll also be able to use the devices’ on-board storage as video libraries for renting films and streaming them to the big TV.

Video is once again the killer app and connectivity - especially WiGig - will once again be an essential enabling technology

Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Google have repeatedly shown that people want to access higher resolutions, indeed Netflix now shoots the vast majority of its own content at 4K. Even phones - such as the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium - are beginning to be shipped with 4K displays. And according to TechRadar, Apple didn’t announce it, but the iPhone 6 can play 4K videos .

The problem is that accessing content from the phone is hard. You certainly wouldn’t get many 4G data packages that allowed you to stream a 4K UHD film - roughly 60 GB of data. And even if you download it over wired, rather than mobile internet, there are complications.

Netflix, which has been streaming content at 4K since February 2014, says it can deliver it over a stable download speed of 15.6 Mbps; but the firm’s chief exec’s statement saying those with a 50Mbps connection would be “fine” suggests this will fluctuate