GF innovation opens the door to new era of more in smartphones

Two hours and fifty-five minutes. That’s how long the average American spends on their mobile phone every day. And the amount of time is only expected to increase.  

That doesn’t mean we actually spend almost three hours talking on the phone. Because our smartphones aren’t just compact and lightweight telephones. They are also an incredibly powerful computer, a sophisticated camera and accompanying photo album, a music player that can store a massive catalog of songs, a video monitor that can stream live meetings, news and sporting events, a personal address book, a news, encyclopedia and research center, a control panel for appliances and cars that may be thousands of miles away, and a whole lot more. 

And all of this is consolidated into a single device that we can fit in our pocket weighing less than half a pound. 

In the last 10 years, the share of Americans that own a smartphone has more than doubled from 35% to 85%. 

We want more, now 

The more our phones can do, the more we want them to do. And we want our mobile phones to perform all of these functions and more, but do it better with faster speeds, better image, video and sound quality, and fewer dropped calls and video meetings, all while consuming less battery power. 

Adding new functions and improving upon the features and apps our phones already have requires stronger connections to data, such as video. For example, we have quickly come to expect the same phone and video call quality and reliability in places like a stadium, arena or on a beach as we have while working in an office or at home.  

We want our credit card and bank information protected, especially when making $3.56 billion in mobile purchases last year, more than triple the $1 billion in purchases made just four years earlier.2  

And we want this without having to carry any back-up batteries, or without our smartphones getting any bigger or heavier.  

Is it possible to fulfill these competing expectations? 

Because of the innovators at GlobalFoundries® (GF®), the answer is yes. GF has been helping smartphone manufacturers overcome the toughest challenges necessary to meet consumers’ growing expectations for years. In fact, nearly every wireless call, text, email, photo or video, either taken or watched on smartphones in the last few years, was made possible through GF semiconductor chips inside. 

GF solutions making more possible with smartphones 

At its annual Tech Summit, held virtually on Sep. 15, 2021, GF introduced a series of innovations in connectivity, display, imaging, audio, security and power management that will bring “a new era of more” to life in smartphones.  

Connectivity 

“Connectivity is the oxygen of the mobile device user experience,” said Shankaran Janardharan, vice president for Mobile Radio and Wi-Fi at GF. “The connectivity enhancements being introduced today build on GlobalFoundries’ leadership in developing innovative solutions to meet consumers’ growing expectations for consistent connection quality, no matter where they are or the number of devices around them competing for connectivity.” 

At the GlobalFoundries Technology Summit on Sept. 15, GF announced the addition of new switch and low noise amplifier (LNA) features as part of its existing RF (radio frequency) - SOI (silicon on insulator) solutions so RF chip designers can provide a stronger and more reliable 5G connection. The new features show that GF is already developing solutions to meet future sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G requirements. 

The market for 5G mmWave-enabled handsets, which use frequency bands in the 24 GHz (gigahertz) to 47 GHz range, is expected to grow ten-fold between 2020 and 20253. Last year, many of the newest smart phones sold in the U.S. were equipped with 5G mmWave technology.  

Sales of 5G-enabled smartphones are expected to more than triple from $108 billion this year to $337 billion in 2025, when 5G-compatible devices will represent a majority of smartphone sales for the first time.4  

At the GlobalFoundries Technology Summit, GF also announced that its FDX™-RF process design kit (PDK) 22FDX™-EXT version 1.0_3.0 PDK now includes a new generation of RF mmWave functionality with a best-in-class, fully integrated power amplifier (PA). 

Enhanced GF Wi-Fi solutions based on its 12nm and SiGe (Silicon Germanium) PA platforms were also announced. Both PDKs are available now.  

For smartphone users, it will mean fewer dead zones that result in phone calls disconnected in the middle of a conversation, smoother video streaming and the speed made possible by a stronger connection. 

New features include better RF and PA features and functionality for the latest Wi-Fi 6 and 6E so that chip designers can provide a higher performing, stronger Wi-Fi connection for the newest generation of Wi-Fi-enabled products for more coverage and more connections. 

GF announced that its unique RF (radio frequency) – SOI (silicon-on-insulator) Solutions on its 130 nm (nanometer) platform are now available in PDK (platform developers kit) CSOI8SW version 1.3.  

The new version includes low and ultra-low voltage and low latency (the amount of time between a user’s request and a response) options, another way designers can integrate features that optimize the device for user preferences and habits. 

“With accelerating demand for RF front-end products in a 5G world, robust low-power semiconductor solutions are critical,” said Christian Block, senior vice president and general manager, RFFE, QUALCOMM Germany RFFE GmbH. “Our collaboration with GlobalFoundries, and their leadership in RF-specific, feature-rich foundry solutions, helps to ensure that we’re able to meet the high-performance requirements of our cutting-edge 5G products.”  

To learn more about GF’s agreement with Qualcomm Technologies, please click here.

Display 

GF is taking smart device displays to an entirely new level. The company’s recently launched display solutions feature enables “variable refresh” that identifies the type of content being viewed by the user.  

The feature improves the user experience for applications such as gaming, which require a higher rate of refreshing, while saving battery power through a lower refresh rate for the display of static or slow content. The user’s viewing experience is also superior by providing a “stutter-free” refresh rate for faster gaming content, and a “flicker-free” refresh rate for static or slow content.  

GF Display Solutions are available in the GF HV platforms at 28nm, 40nm and 55nm, and the new features are offered in 28HV-25V PDK versions 0.5 available to customers now.  

Successful prototyping at high yield - meaning the silicon is proven - has been demonstrated with this latest PDK. GF has already shipped more than 60,000 wafers in total from production-qualified 28HV technology. 

Imaging 

The proliferation of 5G-enabled mobile phones and the more reliable, responsive connectivity that comes with it is making major advances in mobile imaging, such as how content is captured and created, possible. Innovations such as 3D sensing and hyper-spectral sensors, 8K resolution, higher frame rates and new compression formats are making more immersive experiences possible for smartphone and smart device users.  

In 2019, the average smartphone had between one and three sensors. By 2025, it is expected to grow to four to five. GF’s image sensor technology is being embraced throughout the smartphone industry.  The company’s imaging solutions now offer new features that allow image sensor designers to enable stacked complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors with more than 200 pixels of resolution, high-dynamic range, slow motion and lower power for the newest generation of smartphone cameras.    

GF Imaging Solutions are available as both a general foundry offering in the 28nm platform and as custom offerings. The 28nm internet service provider (ISP) platform Version 1.0 PDK is available now. To date, GF has shipped 120 million units for mobile smartphones.  

PDK version 1.0 is available for users to design the logic of die of stacked complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors in 28SLPe technology. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D sensors are the key feature to enable touchless control, face identification (ID) and future augmented reality (AR). GF’s 22FDX platform with embedded AI is designed for fast and power-efficient local decision-making used in this type of application. 

Audio 

In the second quarter of 2022, GF Audio Solutions PDK version 1.0 will be offered, adding embedded flash (eFlash) to its 55BCD (binary-coded decimal) Lite platform for audio amplification and haptic (touch) response.  

The addition of this feature will provide smartphone users with improved audio quality with minimal noise or distortion, as well as virtual buttons with touch sensing (technology sensing human touch on a smartphone) and haptic feedback (the transmission of data or a response as a result of that touch) for gaming applications.  

Today, five of the top seven smartphone manufacturers use GF audio amplification solutions, and the company has shipped more than three billion high-end audio amplification units. 

Security 

GF has been the leader in technology enabling secure mobile payment and protecting the privacy of consumer information, including innovations such as touchless transactions and tap-and-pay. In fact, more than two billion smart phones have been shipped with GF security solutions inside. 

The company unveiled the next generation of GF Secure Solutions features including embedded resistive random-access memory (eRRAM) with a test-chip capable PDK (0.5) available in the fourth quarter of 2021. Embedded memory will provide users with the highest level of security without the vulnerability of external interfaces. 

GF has shipped more than two billion units of secure near-field communication (NFC) chips to customers to support premium smartphones. 

Power management  

GF is also the smartphone industry leader in developing innovative solutions to extend battery life and maximize the user experience on a single charge.  

At the Tech Summit, GF introduced the industry’s most advanced power management platform - 28BCDLite – which enables analog functions in the digital domain with integrated high-voltage and eRRAM. Platform version 0.5 will be available for test-chip design in the second quarter of 2022.  

Users will benefit from longer battery life, faster charging and smaller form factors. 

“All of the new features being announced today are a product of collaborating with our customers and building an understanding of the market and their business in ways we haven’t before,” said Jamie Schaeffer, vice president of Mobile and Wireless Infrastructure at GF. “The innovators at GlobalFoundries are developing unique solutions that improve the user experience, extend battery life and bolster data security without making smartphones larger or heavier.”  

GF smartphone solutions available for other smart mobile devices 

GF’s innovative solutions in connectivity, display, imaging and audio are also being offered for use with other smart, internet-connected mobile devices, such as watches, earbuds, headsets, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) glasses and more. 

To learn more on how GF is enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), click here.

To learn more about GF’s mobile device solutions, click here.