Snapdragon 600 and 400 series
Qualcomm (QCOM) continues to dominate the premium mobile processor market with its Snapdragon 800 series. However, the mobile demand trend is shifting toward mid- and low-tier phones, which is visible in the increasing adoption of Qualcomm’s mid- and low-tier Snapdragon 600 and 400 series by Chinese (MCHI) OEMs (original equipment manufacturer).
On Qualcomm’s fiscal 2Q17 earnings call, its CEO, Steve Mollenkopf, stated that the company’s 600 series would be featured in more than 200 devices and designs, and its 400 series would be featured in more than 190 devices and designs.
Snapdragon 630 and 660 platforms
In May 2017, Qualcomm launched two new upgrades to its upper-midrange and midrange 600 series: the Snapdragon 630 and 660 platforms, which are successors to the Snapdragon 626 and 653 platforms. The new chipsets are built on Samsung’s (SSNLF) 14nm (nanometer) FinFET (fin field-effect transistor) process and provide the capabilities of the premium 800 series.
Processing power: Snapdragon 660 SoC (system-on-chip) features four Kryo 260 central processing units that deliver a 20% performance improvement. The 660 has a memory bandwidth of 29.9 Gbps (gigabits per second), nearly double that of its predecessor.
Machine learning: The SoC provides machine-learning capabilities to Smartphones through the Hexagon 680 DSP (digital signal processor) with Hexagon Vector extensions. It’s able to perform tasks such as facial recognition, voice recognition, language detection, and the filtering out of background noise.
Connectivity: The SoC features the X12 LTE (long-term evolution) modem, which was first featured in the Snapdragon 820 in 2016. This modem delivers up to 600 Mbps (megabits per second) of downstream and 150 Mbps of upstream connectivity. The Snapdragon 835 features a gigabit LTE modem.
Image processing: The SoC supports 4K through its Spectrum 160 ISP (image signal processor), which can capture high-definition 4K videos at 30 FPS (frames per second) and 1080p videos at 120 FPS. Snapdragon 835 features the Spectra 180 ISP.
Charging: The SoC features Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0, which the company claims can charge a phone for five hours of usage in just five minutes. This feature is also available in Snapdragon 835.
With this, Qualcomm is enhancing the performances of upper mid-range phones, bringing them closer to premium handsets.
Qualcomm in the low-tier Smartphone market
In March 2017, Qualcomm announced 205 mobile platforms with 4G (fourth-generation) LTE support targeted at entry-level feature phones. The company expects OEMs to launch their devices featuring these platforms in 2Q17.
Qualcomm has entered into a JV (joint venture) with China’s Datang Telecom and Jianguang Asset Management to develop low-cost Smartphone chips worth $10. This joint venture will likely give tough competition to Taiwan’s MediaTek and China’s Spreadtrum Communications, which cater to the low-tier Smartphone market.
Qualcomm is going beyond Smartphones and into alternative markets. We’ll take a look at this in the next article.