Carriers also are asking for silicon that can turn a smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, which Broadcom already sells, Hurlston said. "They push like crazy to get that feature," he said. Another feature Broadcom has begun to supply is BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), a form of the personal-area network technology that can be used in athletic shoes for workout tracking and in health-care monitoring products, he said. Broadcom plans to incorporate BLE into all its chipsets for mobile phones, Hurlston said.
While the mobile operators that order phones from manufacturers are rabid for new features to distinguish their products, they aren't pushing as hard for longer battery life, Broadcom's Barrett said. However, the original equipment manufacturers that make the devices want to see all steps taken to keep power consumption low, he said.
"The OEMs are pushing us very hard on power, and they're asking us for every last milliamp ... sometimes to a very difficult degree," Hurlston said. Among other things, Broadcom builds in mechanisms to run the inner core of a chip at a lower voltage and to automatically turn off radios that are not currently in use. Meanwhile, the increasing density of Broadcom's chip designs leads to higher power efficiency.
"Everything we're doing now, from a circuit design perspective, is focused on power," Hurlston said.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.