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MediaTek is working to get certifications with Verizon and AT&T, the two largest US wireless carriers, so smartphones using its chips will pass the famously rigorous carrier testing process. It hopes to come out with new devices on their networks starting late this year or early next year, said Mohit Bhushan, head of US business development for MediaTek. "That's well within our reach," he said, adding that a long-term trend away from phone subsidies is "playing to our advantage."While competing on price will be important to growing in the US, company executives emphasized that they are spending more money on research and development to make their chips more competitive with Qualcomm's products. Hsieh said MediaTek plans to capture consumers' attention by using its long-term experience in TVs to help it provide higher-end video features in affordable phones.

But he admitted his company's modem chips are still several years behind Qualcomm, so it's ramping its development work to catch up, The company has increased R&D spending to 19 percent of sales in 2013, from 8 percent in 2006, according to Morningstar analyst Kai Bi, "They're addressing some of those gaps in their product portfolio to make themselves more attractive in the best iphone screen protector xs max US market," Gartner's Erensen said, At the same time that MediaTek is working to grow into higher-end devices by creating more sophisticated chips, Qualcomm is making more low-end designs in hopes of challenging MediaTek's core business in emerging markets, For now, though, Qualcomm has faced challenges in China, with a long-standing antimonopoly investigation there interrupting its plans, "It's not our concern," Hsieh said about Qualcomm's push in low-end chips, saying his company can provide better specs at a better price..

Qualcomm products executive Raj Talluri disagreed. "I think we're extremely competitive," he said of Qualcomm's lower-end offerings. "We've seen a lot of good designs, so I think the customers like our products."In the US market especially, Talluri said, customers have high expectations for their smartphones, with buyers wanting a long-lasting and fast-charging battery life, with top-of-the-line video, audio and display quality. He said Qualcomm is especially good at offering those features across its portfolio, from high to low end, instead of what may end up being a cheaper but "good enough" product.

"I think the user experience is what sells phones and we spend a lot of time on that," he said, The next few years will be critical for MediaTek as it works to establish itself in the US and elsewhere, MediaTek's Bhushan said the rise of affordable phones with high-end specs "will be felt" in best iphone screen protector xs max the US, "But it's not going to happen overnight," he said, The Taiwanese company, which supplies mobile chips in Asia, is gearing up for an expansion into the US, That could mean more affordable smartphone options..

Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, which owns Three, has offered to pay Spanish company Telefonica -- which owns O2 -- a whopping £10.25 billion in cash for the network, which only a few months ago was in talks to be acquired by BT. "Telefónica has entered into an exclusivity agreement with Hutchison Whampoa in relation to Hutchison's potential acquisition of O2 UK," Telefonica said in a press release this morning. "The exclusivity period will last several weeks, allowing Telefónica and Hutchison Whampoa Group to negotiate definitive agreements, while the necessary due diligence process on O2 UK is completed."O2 boasts over 23 million customers. Combined with Three's eight million, the two networks would lay claim to a bigger slice of the UK's mobile market than anyone else -- EE would be the next-largest network, with 27 million customers. The deal comes hot on the heels of BT's confirmed intention to buy EE, and as such, has sparked fears of reduced competition and higher prices.

"Any agreement would provoke heavy scrutiny from competition authorities," said Kester Mann, analyst at CCS Insight, "Unlike the proposed acquisition of EE by BT, this deal would reduce the number of mobile operators from four to three, Ofcom has worked hard to maintain the UK as a four-player market and would have significant reservations."Mann notes that the European Commission would get the final say-so on both the O2 and the EE deals, but told CNET, "Having agreed a similar deal in Germany last year, it may have set a precedent that could see the deal receive the green light, albeit with best iphone screen protector xs max significant concessions..

"The deal might not necessarily be good news for consumers," Mann continued. "Evidence in other European markets shows that mobile tariffs tend to rise following in-market consolidation. Regulators will be keen to ensure this is not the case in the UK."A Three-O2 merger would see the UK's four competing mobile networks becoming three, with Vodafone the only network not allying itself with another major provider. Experts say that being able to offer not just phone service but TV and broadband too is becoming increasingly crucial.

"A lot of people want a bundle," said John Delaney, analyst at IDC, "And if you don't offer one you're effectively not in contention for their business."Vodafone is one firm that currently only offers mobile service, and is now facing owning only a very small slice of the UK market, Is a Vodafone alliance on the cards?, "Vodafone will be looking very best iphone screen protector xs max hard at a transaction," Delaney said, "Of course at the moment it wouldn't be a mobile operator because there are none left, so it'll be looking hard at an Internet service provider (ISP)..