updated 12:25 pm EDT, Sat May 31, 2008
Infineon XMM 6180 3G Chip
Infineon on Friday introduced a 3G chipset that should provide much faster Internet performance with the iPhone next year. A combination of the XMM 6180 app processor and an X-GOLD 618 baseband for the connection itself, the chipset is one of the first from Infineon to support the full HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) spec for 3G cellular data. In peak conditions, the chipset can not only download at up to 7.2Mbps but upload much more quickly than older HSDPA hardware -- up to 2.9Mbps, Infineon claims.
Such improved upstream speed is often regarded as necessary for more advanced two-way Internet features on cellphones, including video calling and sending photos or videos directly to the web. Infineon also notes that the general application processing of the new chipset supports image processing for up to a 5-megapixel camera and the ability to encode or decode VGA (640x480) video in real time.
The chipset is also much more efficient than past models, the company says. The XMM 6180 platform reduces the number of chips needed from three to two and halves the number of components needed; this not only shrinks the size of the hardware by 40 percent but reduces the power draw. Power use in standby mode drops by as much as 30 percent, giving any phone using the technology more useful lifetime thanks to more of a charge kept between calls.
Both enhancements are likely to make the new hardware an ideal match for the iPhone, which is already slated to receive a current Infineon chipset for the initial transition to 3G but will likely make a number of compromises for the sake of its faster data speeds. Apple chief Steve Jobs has already warned that inherent battery life problems with 3G often cut the practical running time of supporting phones in half when used for calling, which is frequently necessary in countries such as Japan and Korea, where GSM is absent and a form of 3G is required to make any calls. Case molds and other purported leaks have also suggested that the imminent 3G device may have a rounded back to accommodate the extra space required for additional chipsets.
Infineon itself cautions that the XMM 6180 isn't available in the immediate future, however. Sampling of the hardware for testing by handset makers starts in June, with mass production not anticipated until the latter half of 2009.
The addition of full HSPA will nonetheless coincide with AT&T's network expansion plans. The US carrier plans to introduce the faster 3G variant to 350 markets by the end of 2008 and so will have support for the faster uploads across most if not all of its more important service areas by that time. A number of other networks worldwide are also transitioning to these services in the near future.
It should also be noted that Infineon's launch also includes two more feature-limited chipsets. The XMM 6160 also supports full HSPA and offers an improved 5.8Mbps upload rate but lacks most of the media functions, while the XMM 6170 is limited to the simpler HSDPA standard, quarter VGA (320x240) video recording, and 2-megapixel cameras.