Apple Working With Intel on 5G Hardware for Future iPhones

Apple is "leaning heavily" towards choosing Intel's 5G modems for its future iPhones, according to Fast Company. Apple engineers are said to be already working with Intel on upcoming 5G technology.

Apple's discussions with Qualcomm about 5G modems, meanwhile, have been described as "limited."


Citing a source with knowledge of Apple's plans, Fast Company says that while Qualcomm 5G modems will offer more specialized carrier features, many of those features will not be adopted by carriers, leading Apple to believe Intel's hardware will be sufficient for future devices.
The end game, multiple sources have said, is to build the Intel modem onto an integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) that would also contain the CPU, GPU, and other iPhone components. The SoC would be co-designed by Intel and Apple and would be fabricated at an Intel facility.
Intel reportedly has "multiple thousands" of people working on 5G technology in an effort to catch up with Qualcomm and win the contract from Apple.

Intel this morning said that it had made "substantial advances" in its wireless product roadmap to accelerate the adoption of 5G. According to Intel, an end-to-end 5G call based on early 5G silicon has been completed successfully, which Intel says is a "key milestone in its development."

Intel expects its first 5G chips to roll out in 2019, ahead of the wide rollout of 5G networks. T-Mobile just today said that it is planning to roll out its fifth-generation network across the United States by 2020, and most of the carriers in the United States are already experimenting with limited trials.

5G is expected to deliver speeds that are 10 to 100 times faster than the average 4G connection, at a gigabit per second or higher, along with lower latency and other benefits.

Rumors that Apple is considering Intel's 5G technology are in line with previous reports that have suggested Apple is considering eliminating Qualcomm chips from its 2018 iPhones and iPads.

Apple and Qualcomm have been embroiled in a bitter legal battle since the beginning of the year, which has continued to escalate over the months. Apple believes Qualcomm charges unfair royalties for "technologies they have nothing to do with," while Qualcomm claims its technology is "at the heart of every iPhone."

Apple and Apple suppliers have ceased paying royalties to Qualcomm amid the dispute, while Qualcomm has filed several patent infringement lawsuits against Apple and has asked for import/export bans in the United States and China.

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Broadcom Offering to Buy Qualcomm in What Would Be the ‘Largest Technology Acquisition Ever’

Following a report last week that stated Broadcom was "exploring" the possibility of buying Qualcomm, which has made LTE chips for Apple's iPhone line for many years, today Bloomberg reports that this offer is moving forward. Broadcom has offered to acquire Qualcomm for $70 per share in cash and stock, in a transaction valued at a total of $130 billion. If completed, it would be marked as "the largest technology acquisition ever."

Through the deal, Broadcom would become the third-largest chipmaker in the world, behind Intel and Samsung Electronics, and the combined Broadcom-Qualcomm business would "instantly become" the default provider of certain components required to build more than one billion smartphones sold every year. The acquisition would eclipse Dell's $67 billion purchase of EMC in 2015, considered at the time the biggest in the technology industry.

“This complementary transaction will position the combined company as a global communications leader with an impressive portfolio of technologies and products," Hock Tan, resident and chief executive officer of Broadcom, said in a statement Monday. “We would not make this offer if we were not confident that our common global customers would embrace the proposed combination.’’
In the midst of the acquisition news, Qualcomm and Apple have been embroiled in a legal battle since January after Apple sued Qualcomm for $1 billion. Apple accused Qualcomm of charging unfair royalties for "technologies they have nothing to do with" and failing to pay for quarterly rebates. As the disagreement escalated throughout 2017, with a new lawsuit emerging just last week, Apple is said to be considering eliminating Qualcomm chips from its devices completely moving forward.

However, through a newly combined Broadcom-Qualcomm company, which could bring about new management, analyst Stacy Rasgon pointed out that the acquisition could finally "smooth things over" between Apple and Qualcomm.
If Broadcom can pull off a deal, it could help smooth things over with Qualcomm’s biggest adversary. A change of management at Qualcomm might help resolve the dispute with Apple more quickly, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Stacy Rasgon.
Broadcom also said that its offer stands whether or not Qualcomm completes its pending acquisition of NXP Semiconductor, which is currently facing regulatory scrutiny in Europe and resistance from NXP shareholders. Following the signing of a definitive agreement, Broadcom said it expects the proposed deal to be completed "within approximately 12 months."


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Qualcomm Accuses Apple of Helping Intel Using Qualcomm Software

Qualcomm on Wednesday filed yet another lawsuit against Apple, this time accusing the company of breaching software licensing terms and using Qualcomm code to help Intel, reports Bloomberg.

According to Qualcomm, Apple breached a contract that dictates the use of software that's designed to make Qualcomm chips work with other iPhone components. Qualcomm also believes Apple may have used its access to that software to help Intel with its own modem chip development.


Since 2016, Apple has been using LTE chips from both Intel and Qualcomm in an effort to diversify its supply chain and move some production away from Qualcomm. The iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus all use a mix of Qualcomm and Intel chips.

In light of the ongoing legal battle with Qualcomm, Apple is said to be considering eliminating Qualcomm chips from its devices all together, instead adopting chips from Intel and possibly MediaTek. Rumors suggest Qualcomm has been withholding software from Apple that Apple needs to test prototype devices for next year, forcing Apple's hand.

Qualcomm and Apple have been involved in an escalating legal fight since the beginning of the year after Apple sued Qualcomm for $1 billion. Apple has accused Qualcomm of charging unfair royalties for "technologies they have nothing to do with" and failing to pay for quarterly rebates.

Apple has since stopped paying royalties to Qualcomm until new licensing fees have been worked out, as have Apple suppliers, significantly impacting Qualcomm's profits.

Qualcomm has since levied several lawsuits against Apple, accusing the company of patent infringement and asking both the United States and China to block imports and exports of some iPhone models.


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Apple Considering Eliminating Qualcomm Chips From Next Year’s iPhones and iPads

Amid an escalating legal battle with Qualcomm, Apple is designing its 2018 iPhones and iPads without Qualcomm LTE chips, reports The Wall Street Journal. Apple is instead considering using only modem chips from Intel and perhaps MediaTek in its next-generation devices.

Qualcomm is allegedly withholding software that Apple needs to test LTE chips in its iPhone and iPad prototypes, necessitating the move.


The Wall Street Journal's sources say Qualcomm stopped sharing the software following the January lawsuit Apple filed against the company, hindering Apple's development efforts, but Qualcomm claims Apple has already tested the chip that would be suitable for the next-generation iPhone.
Qualcomm said its "modem that could be used in the next generation iPhone has already been fully tested and released to Apple." The chip company said it is "committed to supporting Apple's new devices" as it does for others in the industry.
Apple has used Qualcomm modem chips in its devices for many years, but began diversifying last year with the addition of Intel modem chips in the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus also use both Intel and Qualcomm chips. In the United States, AT&T and T-Mobile models use chips from Intel, while Verizon and Sprint models use chips from Qualcomm.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple's plans to stop using Qualcomm chips in its 2018 devices could still change. Apple could switch suppliers as late as June, three months before the launch of the 2018 iPhone.

Apple and Qualcomm have been embroiled in a legal battle since the beginning of the year after Apple sued Qualcomm for $1 billion, accusing the company of charging unfair royalties for "technologies they have nothing to do with" and failing to pay for quarterly rebates.

Apple stopped paying licensing fees to Qualcomm at that time, as did Apple suppliers. Apple maintains that Qualcomm charges excessive licensing fees by requesting a percentage of an iPhone's entire value, while Qualcomm says its technology is "at the heart of every iPhone."

Qualcomm has since countersued and filed several patent infringement lawsuits against Apple. Qualcomm has also asked the United States International Trade Commission to block imports of some iPhone and iPad models and has requested that China stop manufacturing and selling iPhones.

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Microsoft Claims Upcoming ARM-Powered Laptops Offer Multi-Day Battery Life

Microsoft and Qualcomm have revealed they hope to release ARM-powered laptops by the end of the year, with the two companies promising multi-day battery life from the new machines (via Trusted Reviews).

At its annual 5G summit in Hong Kong, Qualcomm revealed new details about the PCs it is developing in partnership with Microsoft. Known as "Always Connected PCs", the laptops are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and rely on an ARM emulation layer to run x86 Windows 10 desktop applications.


ARM processors require fewer transistors, which enables a smaller die size for the integrated circuitry. Their smaller size and lower power consumption are two reasons why they can be found in iPhones and iPads, but the increasing performance and efficiency of the chips is making the step up to laptops a realistic proposition.

Microsoft said it is already testing "hundreds" of the ARM-powered laptops internally on a daily basis, with battery life in particular exceeding expectations.
"To be frank, it's actually beyond our expectations. We set a high bar for [our developers], and we're now beyond that. It's the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don't take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It's that kind of battery life."

Bernard added: "I would consider it a game-changer in terms of the way people have experienced PCs in the past."
The first round of Always Connected PCs are said to be coming from the likes of Asus, HP, and Lenovo, but they aren't expected to be cheap. Qualcomm said more affordable Windows 10 Always Connected PCs should become available once the portfolio expands.

Apple is reportedly looking into using ARM-based core processor chips for future MacBooks, which would reduce the company's dependence on Intel. Industry sources claim that Apple would instead build its notebook chips using ARM Holding's technology, a British company that designs ARM architecture and licenses it out to other companies.


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Qualcomm Asks China to Stop Manufacturing and Selling iPhones via New Lawsuits

Qualcomm recently filed lawsuits in China in an attempt to stop Apple from selling and manufacturing iPhones in the country, reports Bloomberg. Much of Apple's iPhone assembly process takes place in China, as does the manufacturing of many iPhone components. China is also an important market for Apple, accounting for 22.5 percent of Apple's sales in 2016.

In a filing with the Beijing intellectual property court on September 29, Qualcomm claimed patent infringement and requested injunctive relief. "Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them," said a Qualcomm spokesperson about the filing.


According to Qualcomm, the lawsuits are based on three non-standard essential patents covering power management and the Force Touch technology that Apple uses in its touch screens.

Qualcomm and Apple have been embroiled in an escalating legal battle since the beginning of this year after the FTC complained that Qualcomm engaged in anticompetitive licensing practices. Shortly after, Apple sued Qualcomm for $1 billion and accused the company of charging unfair royalties for "technologies they have nothing to do with" and failing to pay for quarterly rebates.

Apple stopped paying licensing fees to Qualcomm at that time, as did Apple suppliers. Apple maintains that Qualcomm charges excessive licensing fees by requesting a percentage of an iPhone's entire value, while Qualcomm says its technology is "at the heart of every iPhone."

Qualcomm has since countersued and filed several patent infringement lawsuits against Apple. Qualcomm has also asked the United States International Trade Commission to block imports of some iPhone and iPad models.

Qualcomm is also facing an FTC lawsuit in the U.S. for using anticompetitive tactics to remain the dominant supplier of baseband processors for smartphones and was recently fined $773 million in Taiwan for violating antitrust rules.


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New Article Delves Into Origins of Ongoing Legal Feud Between Apple and Qualcomm

A new in-depth story about the ongoing legal fight between Apple and Qualcomm has been posted online today by Bloomberg Businessweek, going behind the scenes of the accusations and rebuttals made by the two tech companies. The fight centers upon the "Qualcomm tax," or the amount of money that Qualcomm charges smartphone makers for the internal components of a device that allows it to connect to a cellular signal, also known as the smartphone's modem.

According to court documents seen by Bloomberg Businessweek, the true origin of the feud is described as starting two summers ago at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. There, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee are believed to have "shared a quiet word," where Cook told Lee to "pressure" South Korean antitrust regulators into intensifying a Qualcomm investigation that had been open for about a year at the time.


Apple wanted to get itself in front of investigators and spur more questions about the Qualcomm tax, which it could do because it was in an agreement with the modem supplier. That deal had lowered the tax from $30 to about $10 per iPhone, with Apple promising not to challenge any of Qualcomm's patents. However, it meant that Apple could truthfully answer any question in an investigation about the supplier that was already under way -- which Qualcomm claims was exactly Apple's intent at the Idaho conference.
Qualcomm claims that at the event—almost certainly the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, which both Cook and Lee attended—the Apple executive urged Samsung to pressure South Korean antitrust regulators to intensify an investigation into Qualcomm that had been open since 2014. “Get aggressive,” the Apple executive said, according to Qualcomm's filing, adding that this would be the “best chance” to get Qualcomm to lower its prices.

Apple says nothing improper happened. “I don’t know what conversation they are talking about,” says Bruce Sewell, the company’s general counsel, in an interview at headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. “For Apple to have said to Samsung, ‘You guys are in Korea and you should be watching this case carefully,’ doesn’t seem to me to be anything beyond simply the kind of conversation two CEOs might have.”
The story then details a few other parts of Qualcomm's history, including its massive "Patent Wall" that greets visitors to its headquarters, displaying patents for Qualcomm's CDMA specification and others that the company claims to be for the first smartphone and app store. "I can't think of a keystroke that you can do on a phone that probably doesn't touch a Qualcomm invention," said CEO Steve Mollenkopf.

Apple was reliant on Qualcomm for this reason for many years, as it produced the highest quality modems in the supply chain and forced the Cupertino company to deal with the Qualcomm tax. That changed in 2015 when Intel began producing modems that would arrive in the iPhone 7. According to Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell, "What prompted us to bring the case now as opposed to five years ago is simple, it's the availability of a second source."

This introduction of a quality second source in the modem supply chain was met with another point by Apple: a smartphone modem is simply one of many components that make up an iPhone — and of "no special significance" as modern consumers rely less on the actual cellular features of the device. These two points encouraged Apple's decision to fight back against Qualcomm, ultimately leading to Apple's lawsuit earlier this year, a Qualcomm countersuit soon after, and more companies joining Apple in its fight.
“Cellular connectivity is important,” he says, “but it’s not as important as it used to be.” On another table behind Sewell, an Apple representative has laid out two versions of the iPhone 7: One model, which has 128 gigabytes of memory was sold by Apple for $750. The other, which has 256 GB, sold for $100 more. How is it fair, Apple asks, for Qualcomm to charge as much as $5 more for the technology in the more expensive phone, given that the two devices are otherwise identical?
In July, Qualcomm claimed that Apple infringed on six of its new patents concerning battery life and graphics processing in smartphones, and in August the U.S. International Trade Commission opened an investigation into Apple's alleged infringement with a decision date aimed around the time of the September 2018 iPhone launch. The patent infringement accusation is said to be designed to disrupt Apple's supply chain and "push the company to negotiate," with Qualcomm CEO Mollenkopf stating that all of the legal back-and-forth won't last forever, expecting Apple to settle soon.

That won't happen according to Sewell: "There's no way that this case settles, absent a complete reinvention of the licensing model that Qualcomm has adapted in the industry."

Check out the fully story by Bloomberg Businessweek right here.


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iPhone 8 Shows Modest Improvements in Cellular Network Bandwidth Tests

With a number of iPhone 8 and 8 Plus devices now in the hands of users, Ookla's network benchmarking suite Speedtest.net has been able to gather data on how the latest iPhones are performing compared to previous-generation models and has shared details with PCMag.

Based on data collected by Ookla, improvements appear to be around the 10 percent mark for most users, but users in Australia could expect up to nearly 25 percent faster speeds thanks to their network structure. Those users can expect up to the full 80 MHz carrier aggregation bandwidth in the phone due to Telestra's use of the appropriate bands.

iPhone 8 download speeds compared to previous generations

Beyond speed comparisons to previous-generation iPhones, PCMag also compares the iPhone 8's cellular architecture to competing phones, such as the Galaxy S8.
The iPhone 8 is missing one of the components needed for gigabit LTE, or LTE category 16, in the US. The Qualcomm X16 modem can do Category 16, as we've seen on the Galaxy S8 and Moto Z2 Force. The phone supports 256QAM encoding and 4x carrier aggregation to 80MHz of spectrum, but not 4x4 MIMO antennas, which would improve both speed and signal strength. In theory, that would make this an 800Mbps phone, also known as LTE category 15.
The lack of 4x4 MIMO antennas is something we touched on at MacRumors on Tuesday. While the Qualcomm and Intel modems in the new iPhones are likely more power efficient, the cellular front-end and back-end supporting them are largely unchanged in structure from the iPhone 7 models.

The article goes on to point out can that this can result in loss of coverage due to deficient receiver diversity compared to other phones, complete with a New York subway test.
The lack of 4x4 MIMO is probably why the iPhone still falls short of the Galaxy S8 when it comes to recovering from dead zones, a notorious iPhone problem. We took an iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8 on the New York City subway, where they dropped in and out of T-Mobile coverage. The Galaxy S8 recovered faster in 8 out of 11 tests, and where it did, it was an average of 16 seconds faster than the iPhone at regaining LTE signal; when the iPhone won, it did so by 5 seconds on average.
Users looking for an unlocked iPhone should probably still opt for the Verizon or Sprint model, featuring the Qualcomm modem. While it boasts higher peak speeds than the Intel modems in aggregated user data, it is not clear whether it is superior for coverage, which would require more in-depth testing.

Finally, users looking ahead to the iPhone X should expect the same dichotomy of models and performance, given the iPhone X's tech specs page matches that of the iPhone 8 models in number of models and bands supported. The form factor will likely not have any impact on the antenna structures that will directly impact users in a meaningful way.

Moving forward, adopting 4x4 MIMO antenna structure would be one of the biggest advancements Apple could make for future iPhones' speed and coverage robustness.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: Intel, Qualcomm
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iPhone 8 Teardowns Reveal Advanced Modems Likely Selected for Power Improvements

Apple released the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus on Friday, September 22, and device teardowns were underway within hours, courtesy of iFixit and TechInsights. The firms received different models for teardown, with iFixit's model featuring a Qualcomm baseband while TechInsights' featured an Intel modem, continuing Apple's trend of opting for Intel modems in phones which do not require CDMA network support.

The baseband parts in each iPhone were revealed to be new chips from their respective vendors, with the CDMA phone featuring Qualcomm's new X16 gigabit-class modem and the Intel-based model featuring the similarly new XMM 7480 modem. Each model also included an update to the transceiver module to go along with the modem, but the functional changes in the RF signal chain mostly stopped there.

Qualcomm X16 and X12 feature comparison

In addition to higher peak speeds compared to their predecessors, both of these modems offer other potential benefits. Comparing the network compatibility pages of the iPhone 7 against the iPhone 8 shows that the bands supported are largely unchanged, and this is reflected in the small changes to the power amplifier modules (PAMs) found within the RF chain.

Besides gigabit-level peak theoretical speeds, the X16 modem brings several other advances, including up to 4x carrier aggregation for a total bandwidth of up to 80 MHz compared to the 60 MHz found in the MDM9645M (X12) powering the iPhone 7. Qualcomm's X16 modem also supports T-Mobile US's new 600 MHz LTE spectrum, Band 71. Apple does not list support for Band 71 on the model sold for use on T-Mobile, which means that either Intel's modem does not support it for the appropriate T-Mobile model or Apple elected not to include support for it in the phone's antenna/PAM structure.

Intel's XMM 7480 feature highlights

The Intel XMM 7480, by contrast, only has a maximum theoretical peak of 600 Mbps, and while it also supports up to 4x carrier aggregation, two of these channels are limited to 10 MHz, capping overall bandwidth at 60 MHz. Intel has boosted its band support to a total of more than 33, claiming an industry leading number, but there are likely other deficiencies compared to the Qualcomm modem which have been accepted due to Apple's desire to have supplier diversity for this component.

Regardless, it is clear that both of these modems are improvements over their predecessors, yet Apple dedicated no time to talking about advanced cellular capabilities for any of its phones in the media event earlier this month. Instead, the main reason for upgrading to these new modems likely lies in power consumption.

The teardowns have revealed that Apple has reduced the size of the batteries in the iPhone 8 lineup while maintaining battery life claims across the board. The squeeze on the iPhone X will be even worse, given Apple's claims of iPhone 8 Plus-like battery life in a non-Plus type form factor. While there are several other advancements likely behind the scenes there, it seems clear Apple wanted to get more efficient in its cellular radio chains.

This will also be an area to watch in the iPhone X, as the cellular RF chain is one of the biggest consumers of space in the phone. According to its spec page, the iPhone X will support the same bands across two models as its 8-branded brethren, so space may have to come from elsewhere.

The advancements in baseband modem power efficiency likely come from two different sources for Qualcomm and Intel. The X16 is built on a 14nm FinFET process according to Qualcomm, which likely has several advantages over the 28nm RF process utilized in its previous modems.

Intel, on the other hand, claims up to 15 percent lower power usage compared to its previous-generation modem, which could be thanks in part to the newly included envelope tracker for voltage control, which reduces power usage and heat. While it is not clear which process Intel's modem is built on, it seems likely it is still a 28nm process from TSMC, as Intel still works on the technology lineage from its Infineon acquisition. Nevertheless, future iPhones will be well-positioned to include higher bandwidth and more diverse network capabilities in the future, even if the modems they use stay the same.

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Tags: Intel, Qualcomm
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Qualcomm’s 3D Sensing Technology Two Years Behind Apple’s

Apple's progress in 3D sensing design and mass production is 1.5 to 2 years ahead of Qualcomm's, according to a new investor's note released today by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Kuo believes that Qualcomm is behind in both software and hardware development for 3D sensing, and won't be able to ship the technology until 2019. As Qualcomm is the "most engaged" company when it comes to 3D sensing components for Android devices, Android smartphones could lag behind Apple devices for some time.

An iPhone 8 dummy depicting the location of the front-facing camera and 3D sensors
While Qualcomm has excelled in designing advanced application processors and baseband solutions, it lags behind in other crucial aspects of smartphone applications like dual-camera (many Android phones have instead adopted solutions used to simulate optical zoom from third-party vendors such as Arcsoft (US)) and ultrasonic fingerprint scanner (while a new reference design has been released, there is no visibility on mass production). So while Qualcomm is the most engaged company in the R&D of 3D sensing for the Android camp, we are conservative as regards progress toward significant shipments and don't see it happening until 2019F.
According to Kuo, Qualcomm is dealing with immature algorithms and an unfavorable hardware reference design for smartphones due to form factor design and thermal issues. Qualcomm may also be impacted by Apple's choice of suppliers. Many key component suppliers have already allocated resources to Apple, so Qualcomm has to find different suppliers in order to obtain sufficient resources. Kuo also outlines the suppliers each company is using:


In general, Kuo says the "Android camp" appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach to 3D sensing, which also does not bode well for Qualcomm's 3D sensing technology. Android manufacturers are said to be waiting to see how Apple will use 3D sensing and whether it will offer an "innovative user experience" with features like facial recognition.

Xiaomi's 2018 flagship device is said to be the only potential adopter of Qualcomm's 3D sensing technology, and if the OLED iPhone doesn't see positive feedback following launch, Kuo believes Xiaomi may drop the project.

Apple is rumored to be introducing a front-facing camera with 3D sensing functionality that will enable a new facial recognition system to replace Touch ID, which the company could not build under the display of the device due to production issues. Apple's "iPhone 8" with 3D sensors is expected to debut in just a couple of weeks.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tag: Qualcomm

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