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Coronavirus is Hitting Tech Companies Hard And Could Soon Hurt Your Wallet Too

Street view of Wuhan, Hubei province, China. (Reuters)

Street view of Wuhan, Hubei province, China. (Reuters)

China accounts for 16% of global production output. Coronavirus has forced companies to shut stores and offices with factories and supply chains disrupted.

  • News18
  • Last Updated: February 10, 2020, 1:21 PM IST

By the time the deadly Coronavirus outbreak was finally declared as a global health emergency at the end of last month, the impact on the various sectors of the Chinese economy was already being felt. Tech remains hit badly, with production stalled, supply chains have come to a grinding halt and companies shutting offices in the country to keep employees safe. As time has passed, the impact of what is happening in China because of the Coronavirus is being felt globally too.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that a US$675 million global response plan is needed to fight Coronavirus, even as the global infections have surged past 30,000. The global death toll has also crossed 800 while Chinese authorities have confirmed 3062 new cases and 97 more deaths, which takes the toll to 908 deaths and 40,171 cases in the country. China’s economy accounts for more than 16% of the global production output, and that includes everything from iPhones to copper.

With that as the backdrop, tech companies have over the past few weeks taken the decision to shut down offices and stores in China. Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Tesla, to name a few, took the decision to not reopen offices post the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays last month, or extended the break with the policy to work-from-home. The same is also true for Chinese companies, including Xiaomi, Huawei, Vivo and Oppo. Most companies have also restricted employees from traveling to China. Starbucks has closed 2000 outlets in China, while KFC has also shuttered thousands of outlets in the country after one of their employees was diagnosed with the Coronavirus. Yum China, which operates Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC outlets in more than 1,300 cities in China, has introduced what it calls “contactless food deliveries” to protect their employees. According to reports, videos on the Chinese social media site, Weibo show delivery drivers having their temperature recorded before wearing Hazmat suits and face masks and disinfecting all food packaging while leaving the restaurant.

Factories are also non-operational in China, which is grinding the supply chain to a halt. Electronics manufacturing is disrupted significantly. At the same time, materials and components that may be required by factories located outside China, are also not being shipped. The ripple effect, unprecedented in terms of something we have never seen before. Product shipments will be hit at least in the next couple of quarters. This will also hurt the next set of product launches, because the prototyping, build stages and advance production is not happening as we speak. Perhaps, TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s forecast should put things in perspective. “Our latest survey indicates that the iPhone supply is being affected by the coronavirus and, therefore, we cut the iPhone shipment forecasts by 10%,” he said. Foxcon and Pegatron, two of the biggest employeers in China, make almost all of the iPhones, but that’s just one thing they do. The Nikkei Asian Review reported that the Chinese authorities have not allowed Foxcon to reopen its Shenzhen plant over Coronavirus prevention concerns. Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant has also not reopened. Apart from being the largest production base for Apple iPhones, the Foxcon factories also churn out electronics and gadgets for the likes of Google, Amazon, Dell, HP and Huawei, to name a few.

“The local governments do not want to risk the potential virus spreading in such a labor-intensive working environment. No one wants to bear the responsibility of restarting work at this critical moment,” the Nikke Asian Review reported.

Consumer prices in China have already recorded their biggest jump since 2011 as prices rose 5.4% in January as the effects of the Coronavirus disaster became clear, according to numbers by the National Bureau of Statistics, reported by the Financial Times.

Earlier this month, Asus had warned customers that there will be delays in the availability of their popular gaming phone, the ROG Phone II. They also cited the “disruption in supply chain” for the temporary shortage.

Chip maker Qualcomm has already said that the Coronavirus outbreak will cause significant uncertainty regarding supplies needed to produce smartphone processors. This will have a significant impact on the company’s ability to produce these critical components which phone makers will then use in the phones they make.

It is not just global brands who are facing delays and uncertainty. Chinese companies such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Huawei and Lenovo are facing operational delays because of the Coronavirus. “Companies which rely on components from Hubei will be the most impacted, such as Lenovo. For companies like Huawei, whose operations are in Guangdong, the situation is less severe, although no company right now will be able to resume factory operations at 100 percent capacity,” Nicole Peng, mobile analyst at Canalys, told the South China Morning Post. Oppo is relying heavily on production facilities in India and Indonesia to soften the blow.

Xiaomi is already looking at a situation where several of their products are already out of stock. “The planned release of new products has been disrupted and we are making adjustments,” said Lu Weibing, vice-president of Xiaomi in a Weibo post last month. “The smartphone industry will face difficulties this year,” Lu Weibing added.

In the short term globally, there will a gradual reduced availability of a lot of tech products that emerge out of Chinese factories, or rely heavily on components from the region. This will lead to lesser availability of products in the near future, but a lot of that will depend on how long the factories remain shut in China. Eventually, prices of tech products will also see an upward correction, which will directly hit the consumers’ wallets and budget.

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Tech

Poco X2 Will Not Be a Direct Successor to the Poco F2

The upcoming Poco X2 might not come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series processor.

Poco X2 Will Not Be a Direct Successor to the Poco F2
The upcoming Poco X2 might not come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series processor.

Poco is finally expected to launch a new handset and has confirmed that it will be called the Poco X2. While fans have been eagerly waiting for a successor of the original Poco F1, we believe that things are going to be a little different this time. As the name suggests, the Poco X2 could go on to be a completely different series.

Apart from the name itself, there have been various leaks and rumours suggesting that it will be a rebranded Redmi K30 which has already launched in China. The company itself has confirmed a few features including the fact that it will come with a 120Hz RealityFlow display. Notably, the Redmi K30 also comes with a 120Hz LCD display. Ecommerce website Flipkart recently confirmed that the X2 will support 27W fast charging. If you remember, Xiaomi India was selling a 27W fast charger for Rs 999 when it launched the Redmi K20 and K20 Pro in India.

Some of the leaked specifications say that the handset will feature a 6.67-inch display with a quad-camera setup on the back including a 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 main camera. As for the processor, it could feature the Snapdragon 730G just like the Redmi K30. This might go on to disappoint Poco fans as the F1 came with the flagship Snapdragon 845 back in August 2018. But as we said, the X2 could be a completely different offering and hopefully, Poco will launch more handsets during the course of the year.

The Poco X2 will be launching in India on February 4 and will be sold via ecommerce portal Flipkart. We are expecting the starting price to be anywhere around the Rs 15,000 price mark considering the Realme X2 is the only phone with the Snapdragon 730G chipset having a starting price of Rs 16,999.


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Tech

Realme to Launch Smartphone With New Snapdragon 720G Chip in India

Qualcomm recently announced three new mobile chipsets in India.

Realme to Launch Smartphone With New Snapdragon 720G Chip in India
Qualcomm recently announced three new mobile chipsets in India.

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Realme’s CEO Madhav Sheth on Tuesday announced to launch a smartphone with the new Snapdragon 720G SoC (system-on-chip) in India. Speaking at the Qualcomm Summit here, Sheth said the company will be among the first smartphone brands in the country with this next-gen chip.

“It’s time for the big reveal! #realme will be among the first smartphone brands to launch the @qualcomm_in Snapdragon 720G in the upcoming smartphones,” tweeted Sheth after the event. The new SoC model is aimed to provide fast 4G connectivity alongside supporting Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

The new chip includes Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming features and is said to provide smooth HDR gameplay, dynamic colour range and contrast along with high-quality sound with Qualcomm aptX Adaptive. The chip is also capable of supporting 4K video recording and capturing 192-megapixel still images. The company claims the latest chipset offers 60 percent performance boost as compared to its predecessor. The Snapdragon 720G, which comes as the watered down version of the Snapdragon 730G, has Snapdragon X15 LTE modem with support for 3-carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO on two carriers, and 256-QAM modulation for download speeds up to 800Mbps.

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Tech

Qualcomm's New SoCs Bring NavIC Support, Better Performance, Camera to Budget Phones

Qualcomm has announced three new chipsets targeted at budget and mid-range smartphones. The new chipsets, namely Snapdragon 720G, Snapdragon 662 and Snapdragon 460, are the first SoCs to support India’s Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) geolocation services. Furthermore, they bring Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 to the mid-range and budget segments, as well as overhauls in the image signal processors to bring support for 192-megapixel sensors to the Snapdragon 720G and triple camera setups to the other two chipsets, targeted possibly at budget smartphones.

The Snapdragon 720G is the most decked up chipset in the range, featuring the aptX Adaptive engine for better audio performance, the Spectra 350L ISP for unlocked 4K video recording or 192-megapixel photographs. Predictive engines onboard include the 5th generation AI engine, and the Hexagon Tensor Accelerator for better background performance. The Snapdragon 720G is based on Qualcomm’s 8nm architecture, and features Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity. By the sound of things, the Snapdragon 720G is a great fit for mid-range premium devices that are targeted at specific areas such as gaming, or photography.

In contrast, the Snapdragon 662 features the 3rd generation AI engine, and the Spectra 340T image processor that facilitates triple camera setups in mid-budget range devices. The Snapdragon 460, meanwhile, makes a tall claim of 70 percent processing power and 60 percent graphic power improvement over previous generation Snapdragon 4-series processors, which felt like a clear compromise. It even features the 3rd gen AI engine, coupled with the Hexagon co-processor and the Spectra 340 ISP for triple camera photography. All things considered, it is the Snapdargon 460 that sounds the most interesting and improved package of the lot.

While smartphones based on the Snapdragon 720G are expected by March 2020, the other two chipsets are said to be available in production devices by end 2020. Both Xiaomi and Realme have announced that they will be among the first to launch a smartphone powered by the Snapdragon 720G, which as per announcements, should be available within the next two months.

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Tech

MediaTek Unveils Helio G70 Chipset for Gaming-Centric Mobile Phones

MediaTek’s Helio G70 Chipset features Mali-G52 2EEMC2, which runs on 820Mhz and the display resolution can be up to 1080p with a 21:9 aspect ratio.

MediaTek, Sensio MT6381, biosensor module, Chipset, Technology News
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(image: Reuters)

MediaTek has launched a new chipset in a bid to bring an improved gaming experience on budget smartphones. After introducing chipsets like Helio G90 and G90T, the Taiwanese semiconductor company has now listed the specifications of Helio G70 SoC on its official website. The gaming chipset is yet to be unveiled and as per the details available, the chip houses two Cortex-A75 cores at 2GHz, along with six A55 cores at 1.7 GHz. It is similar to the setup in Helio G90, which has A76 cores instead of A75 and comes with a faster speed.

The chip features Mali-G52 2EEMC2, which runs on 820Mhz. The display resolution can be up to 1080p, with the aspect ratio up to 21:9. It also has a modem capable of dual 4G VoLTE and 300Mbps downlink. Surprisingly, it has a 1080p/60fps cap on video capture. Additionally, the MediaTek Helio G70 also builds in VoW (voice on wakeup) capability, which optimises platform size and minimises power use for voice assistant services.

One can check the complete specifications of the MediaTek Helio G70 chipset here. For years, Qualcomm and MediaTek are the two companies that had worked towards producing chipsets for gaming smartphones. While Qualcomm introduced Snapdragon 730G and Snapdragon 765G, MediaTek previously came with G90 and G90T.