There is no doubt that the smartphone sector has undergone a significant evolution over the years. The smartphones we currently have are not only more stylish and more attractive, they are also more powerful, They have a much wider range of functions and are capable of many tasks with a really good degree of specialization.
Do you think we are exaggerating? Not at all, think for a moment about the quality of the rear camera that had your first smartphone, and now compare with the quality that your current smartphone achieves. The difference is enormous, but it is not the only one, also think about the quality of the screen, the complexity of applications and games that you can run and in everything you can do today with your smartphone.
This enormous evolution has been possible, to a great extent, thanks to the development of increasingly powerful SoCs (“System on a Chip”). An SoC integrates such important elements as the processor or CPU, the graphic unit or GPU, the LTE modem and other fundamental parts for the correct operation of our smartphone, such as the DSP, for example.
Developing increasingly powerful SoCs allows the smartphone industry to continue to advance, but we are reaching a point more and more complicated due to the challenges this represents for a type of device where available space, and current designs and form factors, greatly limit the cooling systems that we can use.
When Qualcomm launched the snapdragon 810 We had the opportunity to see how important the cooling system was and the problems that a high performance chip could cause if it is not accompanied by proper dissipation. Many terminals that used this SoC, such as the LG G Flex 2, the HTC One M9 and the Sony Xperia Z4, ended up having serious temperature problems. The situation was so serious that even Samsung decided not to use said SoC and opted instead to mount its Exynos chip on the entire Galaxy S6 series.
Growing power and 5G: two challenges facing the smartphone sector
The big players in the sector need, more and more, to look for effective cooling solutions that are not only able to cope with the increasing power of high-performance SoCs used in the most powerful smartphones of the moment, but also must maintain reasonable cost and have an acceptable impact inside the terminal, since otherwise this it would end up being too thick, too heavy, or both.
This helps us understand a little better why we have said that refrigeration is a major challenge for the industry. It is not as simple as saying “I am going to build a high performance cooling system”, this has to be lightweight, economical and compact, three keys that end up limiting the real dissipation potential of most current systems.
But power is not the only factor that affects the heat generated by an SoC, we must also take into account the weight of 5G connectivity, a standard that offers high performance and that is destined to become one of the most important leaps in the telecommunications sector, but whose implementation involves an increase in cost, occupies a considerable amount of space on the PCB and adds an important amount of heat to dissipate.
This reality leads us to a very interesting, and very important conclusion, which is that the major players in the smartphone sector are immersed in a constant search for new dissipation solutions with which to cope with the increasing heat of high-performance SoCs, and this could lead to considerable changes at the design and form factor level.
It will be interesting to see how cooling evolves in the smartphone in the coming yearsWhat measures do the big players in the sector end up taking to face this important challenge, both internally (distribution of components) and externally (materials and design), and what options are implemented to displace the classic graphite sheets and systems steam chamber.