This week, Qualcomm is hosting press and analysts on Maui for its annual Snapdragon Summit. Sadly, we’re not there, but a couple of weeks ago, Qualcomm gave us a preview of the news. There’ll be three days of news and the company decided to start with a focus on 5G, as well as a preview of its new Snapdragon 855 mobile platform. In addition, the company announced its new ultrasonic fingerprint solution for sensors that can sit under the display.
It’ll probably still be a while before there’ll be a 5G tower in your neighborhood, but after years of buzz, it’s fair to say that we’re now getting to the point where 5G is becoming real. Indeed, AT&T and Verizon are showing off live 5G networks on Maui this week. Qualcomm described its event as the “coming out party for 5G,” though I’m sure we’ll hear from plenty of other players who will claim the same in the coming months.
In the short term, what’s maybe more interesting is that Qualcomm also announced its new flagship 855 mobile platform today. While the company didn’t release all of the details yet, it stressed that the 855 is “the world’s first commercial mobile platform supporting multi-gigabit 5G.”
The 855 also features a new multi-core AI engine that promises up to 3x better AI performance compared to its previous mobile platform, as well as specialized computer vision silicon for enhanced computational photography (think something akin to Google’s Night Light) and video capture.
The company also briefly noted that the new platform has been optimized for gaming. The product name for this is “Snapdragon Elite Gaming,” but details remain sparse. Qualcomm also continues to bet on AR (or “extended reality” as the company brands it).
The last piece of news is likely the most interesting here. Fingerprint sensors are now standard, even on mid-market phones. With its new 3D Sonic Sensors, Qualcomm promises an enhanced ultrasonic fingerprint solution that can sit under the display. In part, this is a rebranding of Qualcomm’s existing under-display sensor, but there’s some new technology here, too. The promise here is that the scanner will work, even if the display is very dirty or if the user installs a screen protector. Chances are, we’ll see quite a few new flagship phones in the next few months (Mobile World Congress is coming up quickly, after all) that will feature these new fingerprint scanners.
Revolut launches stock trading in the US – TechCrunch
Fintech startup Revolut is rolling out stock trading in its app in the U.S. The company already lets you buy and sell shares if you’re a British user. And now, Revolut has received approval to become a licensed U.S. broker-dealer in the U.S.
Revolut users will be able to trade 1,100 securities, such as shares on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. The company will also offer access to 200 ETFs. When it comes to features, Revolut offers fractional shares and several order types, such as limit and stop-limit orders.
In the app, you’ll find market graphs, a selection of news headlines and information about the top ten holdings of each ETF. Users can set up price alerts as well. When you buy and sell an asset, you don’t pay any commission. Like on all trading platforms, there’s some spread between the buy and sell price though.
With this new feature, Revolut competes more directly with Robinhood and Cash App. Over the past few years, Revolut has positioned itself as a financial super app.
In the U.S., users can use it as an alternative to a traditional checking account. You can order a debit card, create a virtual card, send and receive money, and put some money aside in a savings vault.
More recently, Revolut has started to expand beyond payments. In the U.S., it has partnered with Paxos to launch the ability to trade cryptocurrencies in the app. And now, there’s stock trading.
Of course, Revolut users in the U.K. still have access to more features. But it’s interesting to see that Revolut is still releasing new features in the U.S. in order to build a financial super app that works across multiple markets.
Many consumer fintech companies that started in Europe have ditched plans to enter the U.S. For instance, N26 recently announced that it’ll stop its operations in the U.S. Revolut currently has 18 million customers.
Apple returns to No. 1 as global smartphone shipments grapple with supply chain concerns – TechCrunch
Supply chain issues continue to have a major impact on smartphone manufacturers per newly released figures from analyst firm Canalys — global shipments grew only 1% year over year in the final quarter of 2021. The numbers come on the tail of Q3 reports, which saw an overall drop of 6%, citing similar issues over component supply.
The firm also factors in a resurgence of COVID-19, courtesy of the omicron variant, which has sent a number of locals into shutdown reminiscent of the pandemic’s early days roughly two years ago. Canalys notes that this impact is greatest among the smaller manufacturers in the market, who have had the greatest issues finding new suppliers.
“Component manufacturers are eking out additional production, but it will take years for major foundries to significantly increase chip capacity,” the firm’s Mobility VP Nicole Peng said in a statement tied to the new figures. “Smartphone brands are already innovating to make the most of their circumstances, tweaking device specs in response to available materials, approaching emerging chipmakers to secure new sources for ICs, focusing product lines on the best-selling models and staggering new product releases.”
Larger companies remain less impacted overall by shortages and bottlenecks. The quarter also saw Apple return to the overall top spot in the global market, after three quarters away. The company’s rise is attributed to the success of the iPhone 13 and an extremely solid performance in Mainland China — the world’s largest smartphone market.
Apple’s overall marketshare ticked up from 12% to 23% of the market since last quarter. The previous drop owed in part, to the company’s trouble meeting demand in a number of regions in recent quarters.
“Apple’s supply chain is starting to recover, but it was still forced to cut production in Q4 amid shortages of key components and could not make enough iPhones to meet demand,” says analyst Sanyam Chaurasia. “In prioritized markets, it maintained adequate delivery times, but in some markets its customers had to wait to get their hands on the latest iPhones.”
Samsung, meanwhile, dropped to second, from 23% to 20% of the total market. Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo rounded out the top five for Q4.
Block’s Cash App adopts Lightning Network for free bitcoin payments – TechCrunch
Late last year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down from his position in order to give his full attention to his other company Square, now called Block, which had become increasingly invested in blockchain technology and cryptocurrency — just like Dorsey himself. Now we’re starting to see the results of Block’s embrace of crypto, as this morning Cash App announced it’s integrated with the Lightning Network, allowing its U.S. users to send bitcoin for free to anyone worldwide.
The feature had been slowly rolling out to Cash App customers before today, but Cash App had not yet made a formal announcement. The company says the rollout is expected to complete over the “coming weeks,” reaching all U.S. Cash App customers.
Once live, Cash App users will be able to send bitcoin internationally to any external compatible wallet, including those for family or friends or a self-managed wallet, like Chivo Wallet, BlueWallet, or Muun Wallet, for example. Users will also be able to send bitcoin to any merchant that accepts Lightning Network payments, with zero fees. While this isn’t yet a mainstream activity, a few merchants have begun to accept Lightning payments, allowing customers to do things like order a pizza over the Lightning Network or buy gift cards.
The Lightning Network’s integration into Cash App could also help to empower the growing creator economy, as fans could send bitcoin to show their support for an individual creator or cause if they accepted Lightning payments.
Cash App explains the advantages of this system, noting that typical Bitcoin network transactions can take some time to process and see higher fees, compared with Lightning Network — whose name is meant to convey its speedier capabilities. Its transactions also take place independently of the blockchain (off-chain), which helps to reduce the fees, time, and energy usage that would otherwise be involved. But the Lightning Network will still benefit from the blockchain’s technology and decentralization, as the transactions taking place on the network are later consolidated and recorded to the main Bitcoin blockchain.
Dorsey himself had demonstrated interest in the Lightning Network, tweeting back in 2019 that it was a “cool example” of the experimentation taking place among #BitcoinTwitter users. More recently, Block’s bitcoin-focused company, Spiral, presented its Lightning Development Kit (LDK) which offers a way to easily integrate bitcoin payments into any application. The new Lightning integration on Cash App is also powered by Spiral’s LDK — and Cash App is also the first and largest payments app to integrate with LDK at this time, the company notes.
The rollout of LDK is also an example of Block’s strategic vision in action, where one arm may build the tools that are adopted by other Block-owned businesses.
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