Qualcomm’s aptX HD & the Future of Bluetooth Audio

Qualcomm has become the world’s leading chip maker for modern-day mobile devices; seemingly in a swift and effortless fashion. All this is due to their widespread vision of what the world of mobile computing can be, and the necessities involved in making their SoC platform be the backbone of the inevitable evolution in the current mobile ecosystem. Although it was not front page news, Qualcomm quietly made the acquisition of company that can assist them in the aforementioned evolution of their Snapdragon chipset; this being CSR plc back in August of 2015.

To some, this acquisition would be one of many attempts that most current day mobile titans have made common place in the present marketplace. Seek, invest, and acquire an upcoming tech company that can boost the feature set of one’s own product. However, unlike most acquired companies, CSR plc has been a household name in the arena of sound tech for many years. Their influence can be dated back to household Hollywood blockbusters such as Jurassic Park; a movie that redefined the theatre experience with the  unification of a visual and audio perspective. It has since revolutionized wireless technology to deliver high quality audio in over 30,000 radio stations and 20,000 cinemas across the world. Prior to being acquired by Qualcomm, CSR also saw the future of the mobile ecosystem expanding to wireless and became the leading audio brand behind 320 top brands back in 2009.  CSR has continued to cultivate the craftsmanship of high-quality audio since their dawn,  so much in fact that Qualcomm decided to adopt their technology for a cool 2.4 billion dollars. Now the press release will clearly state that this acquisition is meant to bolster the “complementary strengths in connectivity, audio technologies and system-on-chips”. This is in fact true, but only a glimpse of the true intentions of Qualcomm, and this newly acquired company.

In order to understand the true vision of where Qualcomm is headed, you must breakdown the tech itself. aptX HD is has been the marketing term used  by Qualcomm to incorporate the technology CSR has built. Wireless is the future of all things mobile and the technology behind aptX HD is meant to make the transition indistinguishable to the modern-day consumer. It takes the concept of wireless enabled devices and attempts to deliver high-definition audio by preserving sound data through the audio transmission, resulting in a “better-than-CD” listening experience. This may seem miniscule in terms of audio standards, but for wireless audio this is extremely difficult to produce on a mass scale. I myself was very skeptical on this claim as although improving wireless technology can and has been done, discerning the actual difference from standard audio quality is the glaring difficulty of it all. During my extensive stay at the Qualcomm booth at Mobile World Congress 2017, I was able to converse with the group behind the tech and get a sampling of how it is incorporated into the Qualcomm chipset. Simply, the sound improvement is discernible amongst all metrics of the audio; from bass and acoustic levels, to all around clarity of the sound itself. Qualcomm and CSR have come together to make the improvement of sound quality as simple as turning/selecting an on-and-off a toggle in the notification bar of Android devices. aptX HD supports 48zHz, 24 bit LPCM audio data, backwards compatibility with existing products, the ability to enhance standard resolution content, and the claim of indistinguishable quality from High Resolution audio (which I can attest to).

The aptX HD has already begun to launch in products such as the LG G5 and the Vertu Constellation Octane. The technology is baked right into the SoC platform and from my discussion with the team behind it, it will be a key marketed feature set in the newly launched Snapdragon 835 processor. This leads me back to the forefront of what Qualcomm is truly doing with the Snapdragon chipset. aptX HD is not merely a gimmicky marketing stunt to enhance the feature portfolio of the SoC platform. Implementation of technologies such as this is meant to expand the foundational capabilities of the platform itself. Qualcomm is attempting to cultivate the ultimate chipset the hits all metrics of high quality standards; a Swiss army knife of the mobile chipset arena so to speak. Qualcomm already dominates the chipset space and is now looking to solidify the platform itself as a ubiquitous placeholder for multiple avenues of success. Quite simply, Qualcomm wants to power the entire mobile space with concrete results, not marketing. The totality of their growing feature set will do the marketing all on it’s own. I for one can’t wait what else Qualcomm has in store in their attempt of furthering their vision of world dominance.