Just ahead of MWC, Qualcomm has a pair of announcements to make regarding new Bluetooth wireless technologies, beginning with enhancements to their TrueWireless Stereo technology; a fully wireless solution for devices such as earbuds and the 'hearables' category supported by Qualcomm's new QCC5100 Bluetooth SoC, introduced at CES 2018. This update to TrueWireless Stereo promises "an easier pairing experience with no need to pair individual earbuds" along with "the ability to autonomously role switch each earbud between primary and secondary roles in order to balance power consumption more evenly between the buds for longer playback time".
The combination of the new QCC5100 SoC with the Snapdragon 845 is said to offer improved battery life thanks to enhancements lowering power consumption, and the combination of lower latency and a better pairing experience makes this very interesting as we enter a year that will see many Smartphones powered by the new SDM845 platform. Earbuds connected via TrueWireless Stereo Plus each pair with the device individually, rather than the common method of a single earbud connection – "cross-head Bluetooth transmission" – with a second Bluetooth wireless connection from one earbud to the other stereo channel. If that sounds confusing, it really is, and with standard fully wireless options you are at the mercy of the relay connection as far as compression, latency, and channel separation is concerned.
TrueWireless Occluded Earbuds Example Design
"Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus is an additional mode of the technology designed to eliminate the need for cross-head Bluetooth transmission by simultaneously connecting the mobile device to both earbuds. In this new operating mode only the relevant audio content is engineered to relay to each bud helping to improve robustness and more evenly balance power consumption. When paired with a QCC5100 series based device and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus can help to reduce power consumption by up to an additional 10 percent, typically helping to deliver an extra hour of listening time before recharge is needed. Additionally, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus supports an even simpler pairing experience when connecting earbuds to the mobile device and helps to reduce latency because both buds are connected directly to the smartphone."
Another annoucement on the Bluetooth audio front comes as Qualcomm's Broadcast Audio technology is being made available on the Snapdragon 845 platform. What is Broadcast Audio? We aren't talking LTE or even FM radio here, as it simply allows "one Bluetooth source to stream audio to numerous headsets or speakers with near perfect synchronization".
As Qualcomm explains:
"The technology is designed to support Bluetooth to be used for one-to-many sound broadcasting – helping to extend the capabilities of traditional Bluetooth. Qualcomm Broadcast Audio supports ad-hoc multi-speaker parties, sharing headphones and listening to the same music from a single smartphone, or for group audio tours."
Qualcomm's list of features for Broadcast Audio includes:
- Simpler set-up and pairing of devices and device management helping users to more easily manage which devices can join
- Broadcast to numerous devices within Bluetooth range
- Built-in robustness, automatic retransmission and packet-loss concealment
- Encrypted audio stream designed to help reduce the risk of eavesdropping
This integration will not be limited to the Snapdragon 845, as devices using the new QCC5100 SoC as well as others in Qualcomm's range of Bluetooth chips will support Broadcast Audio.