Apple: iPhones Facing Clear And Present Threat From Qualcomm?

September 27, 2016 - photo frame

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) has announced that a auxiliary Qualcomm Technologies has introduced a new mobile camera technology, called Qualcomm Clear Sight. This record could be a diversion changer for a association as good as for a cameras of Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL)-owned Google’s Android-based smartphones. Meanwhile, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has launched a iPhone 7 and 7 Plus with suggestive improvements in camera operations.

In a prior article, we presented my perspective that Apple’s arriving iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will see poignant direct essentially due to their modernized camera systems. Apple didn’t defect buyers with a camera systems. With a dual-lens camera of iPhone 7 Plus, Apple will spin a camera of a device into a DSLR camera regulating AI (artificial intelligence) after this year (when it will recover a program update). The large doubt is can Apple say a camera lead in a stream and destiny iPhones with a appearance of Qualcomm’s mobile camera technology?

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Apple vs. Qualcomm in Making Smartphone Cameras

Apple used a A10 Fusion quad-core processor in a latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus smartphones. The iPhone-maker has finished a processor’s onboard ISP (image vigilance processor) meaningfully modernized in terms of record compared to a ISPs of progressing versions of a processors. On a singular print frame, a ISP can routine over 100 billion operations in only 25 milliseconds. This can furnish images and videos of higher peculiarity for a smartphone, nonetheless according to some new reviews, Samsung’s (OTC:SSNLF) Galaxy S7 camera with f/1.7 orifice (compared to iPhone 7’s f/1.8) is roughly equally impressive. Wider orifice has helped both a companies urge their camera systems.

Qualcomm’s latest record involves mimicking a tellurian eye to furnish improved peculiarity images. The ISPs of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 and 821 processors, famous as Qualcomm Spectra, have been designed to impersonate a rod and cone cells of tellurian eye. Rod cells constraint light in low-light conditions while cone cells constraint color. The record uses a dual-camera complement with apart picture sensors, one monochrome (black and white) sensor to impersonate a rod cells and another tone sensor to impersonate a cone cells.

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Image Credit: Qualcomm

Investor Takeaway:

Qualcomm’s record is zero new. In fact, Chinese smartphone-maker Huawei’s P9 smartphone’s dual-lens camera complement works in a same way. For building a camera system, Huawei partnered with Leica, a German optics company. It’s notable here that their partnership is still stability and they have announced that they will open a new investigate and creation core during Leica’s domicile in Wetzlar, Germany.

Apple’s record is different, that seeks to broach improved picture peculiarity by enhancing a energy of a ISP of a A10 Fusion SoC and widening a orifice of a lens. As an investor, we trust Qualcomm’s record has a intensity to transcend Apple’s record for 3 reasons.

  • Boosting picture peculiarity driven by enhancing a ISP’s estimate energy and widening a orifice of a lens has a extent compared to achieving a same driven by dual-lens optics. Making a improved camera ignoring a laws of production and biology isn’t possible. Since a dual-lens camera’s monochrome sensor is means of capturing some-more sum of a stage compared to a tone sensor due to accessibility of adequate light (the tone sensor needs to filter out light for anticipating out a end of any color), a final picture shaped by merging information performed from both a sensors will outcome in a high peculiarity sketch in terms of sharpness and reduction sound in low light. By regulating AI-based algorithms, Qualcomm will make a final picture higher in each respect, including tone and contrast.
  • AI-based algorithms play a essential purpose in smartphone cameras. Earlier this year Qualcomm introduced a new appurtenance training SDK for a Snapdragon 820 processor-line formed on a Zeroth AI platform, that will concede device-makers to run their possess neural networks for confidence cameras (which are distant some-more complex), among many other devices. Since Apple has no AI height that is on standard with Qualcomm’s Zeroth platform, as an financier we am some-more bullish on Qualcomm’s new camera technology.
  • In a iPhone 7 Plus, Apple incorporated a dual-lens camera complement for delivering abyss mapping. How would Apple broach abyss mapping as good as crook and reduction loud images in low light concurrently around a singular dual-lens camera system? A third lens competence be necessary, that could make a iPhone even some-more expensive.

Apple’s Competitive Advantage: Depth Mapping

Among a dual 12-megapixel cameras of iPhone 7 Plus, one has a 28mm wide-angle lens with f/1.8 orifice (the camera of iPhone 7 also has this lens, as mentioned above), and a other has a 56mm telephoto lens with f/2.8 aperture. Although an tangible telephoto lens doesn’t start next 70mm, let’s assume that a 56mm lens is a telephoto lens, as Apple calls it, given it offers 2x visual wizz and 10x digital zoom.

For producing DSLR-quality effects on images, a dual lenses will work in tandem. The wide-angle lens will constraint an picture and a telephoto lens will supplement depth-of-field (also called bokeh effect) on a prisoner picture around abyss mapping. The onboard ISP of A10 Fusion processor will make a iPhone 7 Plus know a calm of an picture around a arriving program update’s appurtenance training algorithm so that a device can apart a credentials from a calm (or foreground). Once separating a credentials from a forehead is done, a camera will be means to fuzz a credentials in genuine time. This will capacitate it to emanate abyss mapping for achieving DSLR-quality bokeh effect.

Investor Takeaway:

For higher picture peculiarity in terms of sharpness, color, contrariety and reduction sound in low light, we have seen that a purpose of a processor’s onboard ISP is limited. However, that’s not a box for abyss mapping, where a purpose of processor’s ISP is significant. For receiving abyss information, a ISPs of a dual lenses of a dual-cam with opposite focal lengths concede a camera complement to routine live images. This is finished with a assistance of program that can make triangulation calculation.

What is triangulation calculation? Well, it’s a mathematical calculation for anticipating out a stretch of an area formed on a array of triangles. Since a stretch between a lenses of a dual-cam is known, that forms a side of a triangle, anticipating out a stretch or abyss is probable by deducing a angles and a lengths of a other dual sides of a triangle around requesting triangulation calculation.

Since for abyss mapping a purpose of a smartphone processor and a ISP is significant, Apple has a rival advantage in this box compared to Qualcomm’s identical technology, that a association expelled final year. This is since Apple can adjust a specifications of a processor and ISP according to their dictated use, that Qualcomm can’t since a processors and ISPs are targeted for mixed smartphones with opposite camera features.


Since we am bullish on both Apple and Qualcomm, a adversary between a companies in terms of building improved smartphone camera systems is indeed profitable for me as an investor. Qualcomm’s rival advantage lies in a new record that can emanate a improved camera for ubiquitous purpose use, while Apple’s rival advantage lies in a camera record dictated for specialized use.

Disclosure: I am/we are prolonged AAPL, QCOM.

I wrote this essay myself, and it expresses my possess opinions. we am not receiving remuneration for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). we have no business attribute with any association whose batch is mentioned in this article.

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