U.S. mobile chipset manufacturer Qualcomm will host a special announcement on March 19, according to a recent tweet from the company. Qualcomm did not outright specify what the announcement will be about but the caption "Have you heard?" along with an attached promotional image featuring a speaker icon strongly suggest that the company might have some new audio-related mobile technologies to reveal.
Qualcomm and the wireless earphones' rising popularity
Bluetooth-based wireless earbuds have been around for several years now, but the segment experienced somewhat of a slow start partly because of the relatively high prices as well as the fact that wired alternatives have some benefits in terms of size, weight, and autonomy since they don't require a battery.
But last year as the segment strengthened its foundation, wireless earbuds have become more common and more OEMs began offering their wireless solutions at varying price points. Qualcomm confirmed this rising trend at Mobile World Congress last month when the chipset maker revealed that an increasing number of OEMs have adopted its own Bluetooth audio chipsets for their products.
Likewise, a previous report from the research firm IDC revealed that the wearable market benefited from a 27.5-percent year-on-year increase throughout 2018, and in part, this success was achieved by the rising popularity of wireless audio wearables.
Qualcomm might be preparing new Bluetooth audio SoCs
More than a year ago around CES 2018, Qualcomm introduced two Bluetooth-based audio chipset solutions designed primarily for wireless audio. The QCC30xx series was a low-power, entry-level solution for manufacturers of wireless earbuds, headsets, and speakers, while the QCC5100 series was positioned by the OEM as a premium-tier, ultra-low power solution for "a new generation" of wireless audio products.
These chipsets introduced more than a year ago have had a slow start as well, mainly because the market they were supposed to power was still in its infancy at the time of release. But as Qualcomm confirmed at MWC 2019, these chipset solutions have become more prevalent as OEMs including Cleer Inc., OPPO, Marvin, Jabra, and more have adopted them.
With this boost in popularity seemingly experienced by wireless earbuds, Qualcomm might be preparing to unveil new purpose-built Bluetooth-based audio chipsets next week and replace last year's solutions with more modern chipsets.
If so then one of the main areas where the new chipsets could improve is power consumption. The ongoing QCC30xx series introduced last year boasted up to 50-percent better power management whereas the QCC5100 high-end solution promised improvements in power consumption of up to 65-percent compared to previous chipsets.
Another improvement the company might have in store is a smaller package. Wireless earbuds are already constrained by their limited volume especially since truly wireless solutions need to include a battery in each bud, so any component that can be shrunk down further will have a considerable impact on how OEMs approach design from the early stages of development.
Not much has been confirmed so it remains to be seen exactly what audio-related technologies Qualcomm might have in store for mobile enthusiasts next week. A new audio chipset solution for smartphones is unlikely given that this component is generally integrated with the Snapdragon SoCs. For now, the safest bet remains a new audio solution for wireless earbuds.