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Apple’s sales declined in Q2 2023 due to seasonality. Its Pro series did better.
MediaTek’s shipments increased slightly in Q2 2023 with reduced inventory levels and growing competition in the entry-level 5G smartphone market. New smartphone launches in the low-to-mid-end segments increased the shipments of Dimensity 6000 and Dimensity 7000 series. The Dimensity 9200 Plus was added to the premium tier.
Qualcomm’s shipments increased in Q2 2023 due to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s adoption in Samsung’s flagship smartphones and by Chinese OEMs. The launch of Samsung’s Flip and Fold series also contributed to this growth. Qualcomm refreshed the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 and Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 series to gain some share back. However, the premium segment’s growth remained in focus.
Samsung’s shipments increased in Q2 2023. The Exynos 1330 and 1380’s launch added volumes to the low and mid-high segments.
UNISOC’s shipments grew in Q2 2023 after a weak Q1. It gained some share in the $100-$150 LTE segment. In H2 2023, as entry-level 5G smartphones pick up in regions like LATAM, SEA, MEA and Europe, UNISOC will gain some share.
For a more detailed smartphone AP-SoC shipments & forecast tracker, click below:
Global Smartphone AP-SOC Shipment & Forecast Tracker by Model – Q2 2023
This report tracks the smartphone AP/SoC Shipments by Model for all the vendors. The scope of this report is from the AP/SoC shipments from all the key vendors like Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Huawei, Samsung, UNISOC and JLQ. We have covered all the main models starting from Q1 2020 to Q2 2023. We have also included a one-quarter forecast for Q3E 2023. This report will help you to understand the AP/SoC Market from the shipment perspective. Furthermore, we have also covered key specs for these AP/SoC covering market view by:
Network (4G/5G AP/SoC)
Foundry Details (like TSMC, Samsung. etc.)
Process node (5nm, 6nm, 8nm, etc.)
Manufacturing Process (FinFET, N7, N5, etc.)
CPU Cores Architecture and CPU Cores Count
Secure Element Presence
For detailed insights on the data, please reach out to us at sales(at)counterpointresearch.com. If you are a member of the press, please contact us at press(at)counterpointresearch.com for any media enquiries.
ADAS penetration in global car shipments will reach 78.7% by 2024 as new players help drive the ADAS chip market.
Level 2 category will have a revenue market share of 44.4% in 2022 and 60% in 2024 due to higher safety criteria and lower component prices.
The share of Level 4 SoCs in revenue will reach 24% in 2030. These SoCs will be used in luxury automobiles and robotaxis since they have a higher entrance barrier and cost more than Level 3 SoCs.
Semiconductors are becoming more important for automobiles as electrification and intelligence continue to advance. Among these, the level of intelligence has emerged as an essential factor that customers consider when buying a vehicle. The accuracy and efficiency of autonomous driving are determined by the computational capabilities and manufacturing process of the chip. Therefore, the increase in demand for autonomous driving is pushing the demand for advanced processes and will significantly increase the market size of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)/Autonomous driving (AD) chips. The computational capability of ADAS/AD processors must meet the requirements of the corresponding autonomous driving level. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines the various levels of autonomous driving as follows:
The TOPS (trillion operations per second) of Level 2 ADAS/AD chips is typically between 10 and 100, but the TOPS of Level 3 is between 150 and 200 and the TOPS of Level 4/Level 5 is more than 400 and will reach 1000+. Each level is divided further based on functionality. Basic Level 2 features include only adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane-keeping system (LKS), and can be achieved by an SoC with only 10 TOPS. However, advanced Level 2 may require up to 75 TOPS to achieve advanced ACC, which can maintain the lane center and pre-control the speed at upcoming curves.
The global ADAS/AD SoC market is expected to reach $30 billion by 2030 with a CAGR of 26.3% between 2022 and 2027. SoCs in the Level 2 category will have a revenue market share of 44.4% in 2022, which will reach a record high of 60% in 2024 due to an increase in safety requirements and a decrease in component prices. Level 3 AD systems will take a few years to gain the public’s trust, but by 2027, they will replace Level 2 as the standard. Compared to Level 3 SoCs, Level 4 SoCs have greater computational capability and bandwidth to process more high-resolution images and make a quick response. As a result, the entry barrier and cost of Level 4 SoCs are much higher than those of Level 3 SoCs, hence they will mostly be utilized in luxury vehicles and robotaxis.
The entry barrier to Level 1 and Level 2 ADAS SoC is low. Therefore, ADAS penetration can increase significantly when the cost of ADAS sensors, such as cameras and radars, continues to decline. Counterpoint expects that the global penetration of ADAS in car shipments will reach 78.7% by 2024. At the same time, multiple new players will enter the ADAS chip market. These startups are capable of AI chip design and mass production, and their solutions can swiftly fulfill localized requirements, such as local language and localization algorithms, at competitive prices. Therefore, emerging car OEMs will favor these new solutions. However, traditional automotive chips, such as Renesas and NXP, are also providing solutions. Level 3 employs more sensors and more efficient computing units than Level 2. The most significant difference between Level 3 and Level 4 is the improvement in artificial intelligence, as Level 4 autonomous vehicles must be able to take rapid decisions.
On the other hand, the development of autonomous driving (AD) chips is primarily driven by established consumer electronics giants such as NVIDIA and Intel (Mobileye). The R&D expenditures and entry barriers for AD chips are significantly greater than those for ADAS. In addition to the core AI chip, AD solutions should also incorporate connectivity, sensing systems, image training models, ADAS map development, route planning, vehicle control, driver monitoring systems (DMS), natural language processing (NLP) and intelligent cockpit solutions. Moreover, the AD chip must be able to deliver tailored and region-specific algorithms. This must be accomplished through the collaboration of automotive OEMs and AD chip companies. All of these factors make it challenging to create a good AD chip and the payback time is also lengthy.
Advantages, Disadvantages Faced by 3 Primary ADAS/AD Chip Vendors
In the past, there used to be a distinct division of labor between car OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers and chip vendors (Tier 2). The chip vendors might be either fabless firms or IDMs, and both would place orders to the foundry. Since the demand for semiconductors in the automotive industry was modest and all semiconductors used in automobiles were manufactured with mature processes, the foundry was less important. However, the performance and features in future automotive processors will play a crucial role in migrating to autonomous driving and electrification. Consequently, the ecosystem of collaboration between OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers and chip manufacturers is beginning to shift. Chip providers which were once Tier 2 are beginning to collaborate directly with OEMs. In addition, these three types of companies may engage directly with foundries to secure chip sources.
Mobileye is the leading Level 1 and 2 supplier due to its early entry. However, because of a lack of flexibility and superior alternatives, Chinese automakers want to replace Mobileye with NVIDIA or Horizon robots. Additionally, its solution has less computational power than those of its competitors. To keep up with other companies, Mobileye also introduced at CES 2022 its EyeQUltra, EyeQ6 Light and EyeQ6 High SoCs for L4, L2 and L1/L autonomous driving, respectively.
NVIDIA has aggressively entered the automobile autonomous driving market with its expertise in GPUs for the AI business. The benefits of NVIDIA’s AD processors include high computational power, extensive software tools and a complete environment allowing clients to create their own algorithms. In terms of clientele, NVIDIA works with the majority of automakers and Tier 1 suppliers worldwide. Atlan, the most recent AD chip from NVIDIA, has been released in 2022 with 1000 TOPS of computational capacity and is expected to enter mass production by 2025, aiming at L4/L5 autonomous driving solutions.
Qualcomm is a pioneer in smart cockpits but a follower in autonomous driving technology. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Ride, a high-performance, low-power autonomous driving solution that supports L1-L5 degrees of autonomy, is aimed at the mid-to-high-end autonomous driving market.
Horizon Robotics, one of the few autonomous driving chip solution vendors in China, will likely supply to Chinese automakers in the coming years. Horizon has positioned itself as a competitor to Mobileye and NVIDIA. A new participant in the industry, it has introduced many products that correspond to Mobileye’s solution. In contrast to NVIDIA’s general-purpose processors, Horizon’s AD SoCs are ASICs, which consume less power and are more efficient than general-purpose CPUs. However, they are less flexible and may experience the same difficulty when moving to Level 3 and beyond.
Despite macroeconomic headwinds and investors’ angst with a declining smartphone market, Qualcomm reported great quarterly results. Qualcomm was aided by its one technology roadmap which connects the intelligent edge, even during a weak smartphone market. There were two major stories of the quarter. First, despite a shrinking smartphone market, which Counterpoint Research Market Outlook predicts will decline by 3% in 2022, Qualcomm’s handset business grew a whopping 59% YoY. Despite weakness in the low and mid-tier smartphone market written often about within Counterpoint Research, Qualcomm benefitted from its focus on the high-tier and a favourable mix of handset chips.
The second large story of the quarter was that Samsung and Qualcomm inked a licensing agreement through 2030 and the 6G era. Qualcomm will power future Galaxy devices with high-end Snapdragons within smartphones, PCs, tablets, and XR. Qualcomm’s percentage of Galaxy devices will likely continue to grow. Note that Qualcomm is currently designed into about 75% of the Galaxy S22 family. Qualcomm specifically highlighted that the same royalty terms are in place. This means it is highly likely other OEMs will agree to the same royalty terms upon renewal. Huge win for Qualcomm.
Source: Qualcomm Investor Relations
Other highlights from the quarter:
The design wins within automotive continue. Its digital chassis solutions revenue pipeline increased to $19 billion, up $3 billion YoY. Its latest design win is CARIAD, Volkswagen Group’s software company. CARIAD will use Qualcomm’s system-on-chips (SoCs) to enable its assisted and automated driving functions up to Level 4. This solution delivers 700 TOPs (trillions of operations per second).
IoT revenues grew 31% YoY driven by edge networking and industrial IoT with combined revenue growth of more than 40%. Qualcomm will profit from the growth of Windows on Snapdragon and ARM-based computing. There are over 225 enterprise companies, more than 100 ISVs, and over 15 channel partners supporting the Snapdragon compute platform. Price points and performance continue to expand the value proposition. Further edge networking, Wi-Fi 7, and the robotics platform will be a key segment for growth for IoT.
Qualcomm recently announced a new wearables platform, which saw a large leap in specs. Briefly, it is built on a 4nm process, 50% lower power consumption, 2x performance, and 30% smaller size. This redesign will push more processing to the co-processor. The power upgrade vastly helps kids/senior watch space. 4nm & performance will enable new sensors and the high-end. This will vastly help the smartwatch space allowing for better tracking (think kids/seniors), better health monitoring, and new applications in development. It remains a hurdle that too often the smartwatch is on the charger and not collecting data on the wrist. Qualcomm’s solution will greatly help this. OEMs will be able to scale with two platform options. There are 25 design wins and growing.
RFFE grew 9% on an annual basis and will be a key part of Qualcomm’s diversification strategy. A large share of the Qualcomm RFFE is driven by smartphones. As per Counterpoint’s Smartphone RFFE Revenue report, Qualcomm led the smartphone RFFE market with 23.5% in Q1 2022. Qualcomm has a complete modem-to-antenna solution for 5G thereby supplying the end-to-end needs of smartphone OEMs. In the coming years, RRFE growth will come from Auto and IoT. The current RFFE design pipeline for the automotive segment is around $900 million. Also, in IoT, there is an opportunity for next-generation Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 7) and Bluetooth for RFFE modules. The ASP growth in RFFE content from mid-end to premium smartphones is less when compared to mid-end and premium smartphone chipsets.
There were limited comments about Qualcomm’s move into open, virtualized 5G RAN. However, the company recently announced partnerships with Hewlett Packard offering a next-gen 5G virtual DU solution. Qualcomm’s differentiation is lower power requirements, which the company explains are 60% lower for operators. The move to open RAN will likely be a rolling change with potentially more of a shift during the 6G transition.
Qualcomm guided Q3 2022 revenues in the range of $11 billion to $11.8 billion driven by the Auto and IoT segment in QCT. Considering the global macro-economic conditions and the slowdown in consumer product purchases, Qualcomm’s forecast for the handset has been reduced to mid-single digits. Qualcomm can mitigate revenue declines if the premium segment performs much better than the low and mid-tiers.
Revenue growth this quarter was driven by the handsets due to a higher premium mix, automotive was driven by the digital cockpit solution, and demand in edge networking and industrial IoT in the IoT segment. Looking at the second half of 2022, handsets may be affected by slowing consumer demand, similar to some applications in consumer IoT. But, automotive and IoT (industrial and edge) will continue to drive growth.
Both Qualcomm and MediaTek posted healthy growth in Q1 2022. MediaTek recorded an impressive set of numbers for the quarter with revenues growing 32% YoY and 10.2% QoQ to reach $4.8 billion. Qualcomm saw its third consecutive quarterly record revenue in Q1 2022 at $11.6 billion. Its business units recorded annual growth of between 28% and 61%.
MediaTek led the Android smartphone SoC market in 2021 with a 44% share, followed by Qualcomm with 35%, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Global Handset Model Sales Tracker.
Qualcomm’s focus on the premium smartphone segment (>$500) has helped it to grow revenues. Its Snapdragon 800 series and Snapdragon 700 series, notably the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and Snapdragon 778G, are both key volume drivers. Furthermore, Qualcomm has gained a 75% share of Samsung’s Galaxy S22 series shipments. In previous Samsung flagship models, there was a more equitable split between Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered SKUs and Samsung Exynos-powered SKUs. Qualcomm is also driving more revenues with its RFFE (RF Front End), allowing it to capture a higher share in the BoM.
MediaTek dominates the low-mid tier wholesale price segment ($100-$299), driven by its Dimensity 700 and Dimensity 900 series. Also, the 4G SoC in the <$199 price band is driven by the P35, G80 and G35 chipset models. MediaTek has entered the premium segment with the Dimensity 9000 series, but the sales will only start to pick up in Q2 2022.
AP Chipset Share for Android Smartphones by Price Band, Q1 2022
Qualcomm is focusing on the premium (>$500) and mid-high ($300-$499) segments for revenue growth. Qualcomm is an industry benchmark when it comes to premium smartphones.
Qualcomm’s focus is on the 7 and 8 series Snapdragon chipsets, which drive higher revenue and profitability. Qualcomm acknowledged it has seen a slowdown in the low- and mid-price tiers. But this was more than offset by strong premium-tier sales.
Further, the design wins with 75% of sales of the Galaxy S22 family, up from 45% of the S21 family, helped Qualcomm strengthen its position in the premium Android segment in Q1 2022.
Qualcomm’s share in the >$500 band increased from 47% in Q1 2020 to 71% in Q1 2022, growing 23% YoY in Q1 2022, owing to the launch of its Snapdragon 888 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipsets.
Focus on the premium segment will help Qualcomm ride out the slow China market, global macro-economic situation and high inventories.
MediaTek dominated the <$299 price tier and drove significant volumes both for 4G and 5G in this tier. Entry of the Dimensity 9000 enables MediaTek to capture share in the premium band (>$500). This is the first time MediaTek has entered this tier. MediaTek has already announced design wins with Chinese smartphone OEMs like OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi and HONOR. This opens more competition and opportunities for growth in the premium segment.
The volume in the ≤$99 price band was driven by LTE smartphones, where MediaTek captured a 47% share. LTE SoCs have been affected by the ongoing shortages and will be in short supply in 2022.
In the $100-$299 price band for Android, MediaTek captured a 60% share in Q1 2022 driven by its Dimensity 700 and 900 series.
MediaTek will continue to gain share in the $100-$299 price band as 5G penetrates markets like India, APAC others, LATAM and MEA. Smartphone OEMs like Xiaomi, Samsung, OPPO and vivo will likely launch affordable 5G smartphones under $200.
MediaTek has entered the premium segment with its Dimensity 9000 series. However, the sales are only expected to pick up in Q2 2022.
Overall, we forecast around an 8% share for MediaTek in the premium segment in 2022. MediaTek growth in Q2 2022 is expected to come from mid-high range phones due to the shifting of demand from LTEto 5G AP/SOCs. Further, with the launch of the Dimensity 8000 series, MediaTek wants to focus on and consolidate the $300-$499 price bands. This will also help MediaTek pivot volumes from the low-mid segment to mid-high to premium segments.
Samsung Exynos’ share declined in Q1 2022 due to the loss in share to Qualcomm in the Galaxy S22 series and also due to the low yields of the 4nm premium Exynos chipsets.
Share in the premium segment declined from 34% in Q1 2021 to 23% in Q1 2022.
Samsung has launched the Galaxy A33 and A53 with its Exynos 1280 SoCs. These are the volume drivers that will help it to regain share from MediaTek and Qualcomm through the rest of 2022.
In the low-mid segment ($100-$299), Samsung’s share declined to 7% in Q1 2022 from 10% in Q1 2021 due to outsourcing of its models (A, F and M series) to ODMs, which integrated mostly Qualcomm, MediaTek or UNISOC solutions in different models depending on the target price bands.
In the low tier, Samsung is using UNISOC SOCs in the Galaxy A03 smartphone. The share of Samsung smartphones is almost negligible in this segment.
UNISOC continues to gain share in the low bands (<$99) driven by the LTE portfolio. Its share in the <$99 band grew to 47% in Q1 2022 from 20% in Q1 2021.
With realme, HONOR, Motorola and Samsung launching phones with its Tiger series SoC, UNISOC has expanded its customer base with design wins at ZTE and TECNO and entry into the Samsung Galaxy A series.
It has also captured an 8% share in the $100-$199 price band with HONOR, realme and Samsung.
For 2022, we expect UNISOC to maintain the momentum with its portfolio catering to LTE smartphones, as MediaTek struggles with supply issues for 4G chipsets and Qualcomm focuses on 5G solutions. Also, a few design wins with 5G chipsets will add to its overall volumes and help support its value growth.
We expect HiSilicon volumes to decline in 2022 as the inventory is depleted. Huawei has already started using Qualcomm SoCs in its new launches, but these are limited to 4G due to the prevailing US sanctions.
Qualcomm’s share reached 30% driven by the premium tier.
UNISOC had a strong Q4 with its share reaching 11%.
Qualcomm led the 5G baseband market with a 76% share.
Seoul, Taipei, Beijing, New Delhi, London, Boston, Toronto, Hong Kong – February 24, 2022
The global smartphone AP (Application Processor)/SoC (System on Chip) chipset shipments grew 5% YoY in Q4 2021, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Foundry and AP/SoC service. 5G smartphone SoC shipments were almost half of the total SoC shipments.
Research Director Dale Gai said, “MediaTek led the smartphone SoC market with a share of 33%. Its smartphone SoC volumes declined this quarter due to the high shipments in the first half and inventory corrections from Chinese smartphone OEMs. Many customers had built chipset inventories to manage uncertainties in the supply situation.”
On the growth outlook, Gai added, “We expect revenues to grow in Q1 2022 driven by the flagship chipset (Dimensity 9000) for smartphones. Higher 5G penetration will offset the lower seasonal demand. The increase in chipset prices after TSMC’s wafer price hike is reflected from Q4 2021 onwards. 5G migration in regions like APAC, MEA and LATAM and continued LTE demand will help MediaTek have a strong 2022.”
Global Smartphone AP/SoC Shipment Market Share (%), Q4 2020 vs Q4 2021
Source: Counterpoint Research Quarterly AP/SoC/Baseband Shipments Tracker, February 2022
Commenting on Qualcomm’s performance, Senior Analyst Parv Sharma said, “Qualcomm recorded a very strong quarter, growing 18% QoQ and 33% YoY despite component shortages and foundry capacity not being able to keep up with demand. Qualcomm was able to prioritize high-end Snapdragon sales, which come with higher profitability and less impact from shortages than mid-end and low-end mobile handsets. The company was also able to increase supplies from its major foundry partners by dual-sourcing key products. It captured a 76% share in the 5G baseband shipments driven by Apple’s iPhone 13 and 12 series and premium Android portfolio.”
Commenting on the growth opportunities, Sharma added, “Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 flagship mobile platform will start shipping from Q1 2022. The performance in Q1 2022 will be driven by design wins in the Samsung Galaxy S22 series and launches in the Chinese New Year. Overall, the next inflexion in growth will be in H2 2022 with the launch of 5G handsets by major OEMs. The share of revenues from Android is also growing as more OEMs are adopting Qualcomm’s modem-to-antenna RFFE solution across tiers.”
Global 5G Smartphone Baseband Shipment Market Share (%), Q4 2020 vs Q4 2021
Source: Counterpoint Research Quarterly AP/SoC/Baseband Shipments Tracker, February 2022
MediaTek led the smartphone SoC market in Q4 2021 with a 33% share. Shipments declined due to inventory correction as many customers had built inventories due to supply chain constraints.
Qualcomm grew 18% sequentially due to the premium segment and dual-sourcing from foundries. It dominated the 5G baseband modem shipments with a 76% share, driven by basebands for Apple and premium Android.
Apple maintained its third position in the smartphone SoC market in Q4 2021 with a 21% share. The iPhone 13 launch and festive season drove the shipments.
UNISOC continued with shipment growth this year and reached an 11% share in Q4 2021. On an annual basis, its SoC shipments more than doubled in 2021. It has expanded its customer base, securing design wins with HONOR, realme, Motorola, ZTE, Transsion and Samsung.
Samsung Exynos slipped to the fifth position with a 4% share as Samsung is in the middle of rejigging its smartphone portfolio strategy of in-sourcing as well as outsourcing to Chinese ODMs. As a result, the share of MediaTek and Qualcomm has been growing across Samsung’s smartphone portfolio, from the mid-range 4G and 5G models manufactured by ODMs to the flagship ones.
HiSilicon was unable to manufacture Kirin chipsets due to the US trade ban against Huawei. The accumulated inventory of Kirin SoCs is on the verge of being exhausted. As a result, Huawei is launching its latest series with Qualcomm SoCs but is limited to 4G capabilities.
For our comprehensive research on foundries to chipsets to devices, feel free to get in touch with us at the contacts given below.
Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.
Research Director Dale Gai said, “MediaTek led the smartphone SoC market with a 40% share, driven by a competitive 5G SoC and high demand for the 4G SoC. MediaTek’s revenues grew sequentially as the mix of the mid-end and high-end SoC portfolios grew. The blended ASP will continue to increase due to the launch of flagship products in Q1 2022 and an increase in chipset prices starting Q4 2021. 4G chipsets continued to be in strong demand due to the ongoing shortages, which have affected 4G SoCs more.”
Global Smartphone AP/SoC Shipments Market Share, Q3 2020 vs Q3 2021
Commenting on Qualcomm’s performance, Research Analyst Parv Sharma said, “Qualcomm’s smartphone SoC shipments grew both QoQ and YoY in Q3 2021. The key to Qualcomm’s revenue growth was its ability to dual-source manufacturing of key components, namely the Snapdragon 800 series SoCs and its premium 5G modem. Qualcomm led the 5G baseband market with a 62% share. It gained from the 5G baseband modem chipset win in the Apple iPhone 13 series and demand for its complete 5G SoC chipsets, from the flagship 8 series to affordable 4 series. MediaTek also saw strong momentum from the Dimensity 700 and 800 series in the low-mid segment.”
Global 5G Smartphone Baseband Shipments Market Share, Q3 2020 vs Q3 2021
MediaTek dominated the smartphone SoC market in Q3 2021 with a 40% share. It gained share in the low-mid segment 5G portfolio. LTE SoCs further helped it to strengthen its market position.
Qualcomm grew 9% sequentially due to dual sourcing from foundries. It dominated the 5G baseband modem shipments with a 62% share. The refreshed portfolio in the Snapdragon 7, 6 and 4 series will further help it gain share in Q4 2021.
Apple maintained its third position in the smartphone SoC market in Q3 2021 with a 15% share. With the launch of the iPhone 13 and festive season, its share will grow further in Q4 2021. However, component shortages will affect its festive season sales.
UNISOC shipment growth continued for the third consecutive quarter in Q3 2021. Its market share entered double digits during the quarter at 10%. The company has succeeded in expanding its customer base, securing a series of design wins with major OEMs like HONOR, realme, Motorola, ZTE and Transsion. Further, it also had a design win in Samsung’s Galaxy A series.
Samsung Exynos slipped to the fifth position with a 5% share as it is in the middle of rejigging its smartphone portfolio strategy of in-sourcing as well as outsourcing to Chinese ODMs. Therefore, the share of MediaTek and Qualcomm has been growing across Samsung’s smartphone portfolio, from the mid-range 4G and 5G models manufactured by ODMs to the flagship ones.
HiSilicon remained affected by the US trade ban. Huawei was unable to manufacture the HiSilicon Kirin chipsets. The accumulated inventory of Kirin SoCs is on the verge of being exhausted. As a result, Huawei is launching its latest series with Qualcomm SoCs but limited to 4G capabilities.
For our comprehensive research on foundry to chipsets to devices, get in touch with us at the contacts given below.
Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.
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As smartphones become an important part of our daily lives, the environment has got highly competitive as it is driven by a handful of brands with access to the same supply chain. This makes it difficult for smartphone makers to differentiate their devices from others. As a result, they are segmenting their portfolio by having different sub-brands, focusing on unique features for a particular segment.
Some OEMs operating on a thin hardware margin business model are trying to recoup the revenues from the ecosystem. This puts pressure on other brands to differentiate and add new features while keeping the Bill of Material (BoM) cost pressure in check. Smartphone makers are trying to innovate by adding multiple chips and software algorithms to enhance the overall user experience and save on BoM costs. Some brands are using innovative solutions from companies like Pixelworks to bring premium visual experiences to differentiate their affordable smartphones.
How Pixelworks is Helping OEMs Offer Better Display Solutions
According to Counterpoint Research (report) studying user behavior patterns, users spend more than five hours a day on their smartphones. The usage varies from surfing the internet to playing games.
As video has become the key content consumed, OEMs are looking to add advanced displays for enhanced viewing and judder-free experience. But as we discussed earlier, the cost of adding these features is significant, and every dollar saved is important for brands in this cut-throat competitive landscape. Companies like Pixelworks with its long heritage in display and video processing for over two decades are offering solutions to drive BoM cost efficiencies and savings while enhancing the user experiences.
Pixelworks portfolio offers a couple of solutions – its “Iris 5” hardware chipset and a software-based “Soft Iris“ solution. The Pixelworks Iris 5 is a tiny low-power visual co-processor for image and video processing to enhance the smartphone display experience. Using this solution, OEMs can unlock a whole gamut of features from color accuracy, smooth and natural motion for high refresh displays, contrast and sharpness enhancements to SDR-to-HDR upscaling alongside a less expensive mid-tier SoC. The solution thus helps OEM offer visually perceptive experience while saving on the BoM costs.
Pixelworks Iris Visual Co-Processor Chip
Iris is Pixelworks fifth-generation visual co-processor, that sits between the SoC and the display driver IC. It supports displays with up to WQHD+ resolution, and up to 120Hz refresh rate. The Iris chip is currently optimized to work with Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs and OEMs can leverage the power of this chip for Qualcomm powered smartphones.
The latest generation Iris 5 key capabilities include:
For local videos, movies or live-streaming, Iris 5 with dual MIPI offers a smart MotionEngine that can detect and compensate for frame rate mismatch to offer blur-free content in real-time while processing the graphical and video layers separately. This also enhances gaming experiences with smooth, judder-free viewing.
HDR10 is mostly supported in premium devices, but with Iris 5 which supports native 10-bit processing can offer certified HDR10 and HDR10+ playback with most accurate tone mapping for mid-tier budget devices. For all other content, an Always-on HDR experience, converts standard video or game SDR (16 million color shades) content to HDR (one billion color shades) in real-time for a richer, more immersive viewing.
Iris 5’s Auto Adaptive Display capability adjusts the light, tone, and temperature based on different scenarios. For instance, in bright outdoor conditions, the brightness and contrast will be enhanced for ease of viewing. Similarly, at night or in ambient lighting conditions, the screen brightness will be dimmed dynamically while also reducing blue light to ease the strain on your eyes.
OEMs can also integrate a cheaper Iris 3 chipset for mid-tier chipsets for devices upto 90Hz Display with Single MIPI spec and capabilities such as SDR to HDR, HDR 10, TrueView™ Auto Adaptive, picture quality and color tuning, management and so forth.
Pixelworks Soft Iris Software Solution
Pixelworks also offers a Soft Iris software that can be embedded right into Qualcomm 800-tier premium SoCs as a complementary solution to leverage the advanced display pipelines. Embedding Soft Iris and OEM can offer more accurate color calibration, custom tone, sharpness tuning, Auto Adaptive Display capability and certified cinematic-grade HDR10 & above experience. Soft Iris is, for example, used in Asus ROG Phone II to optimize the display for a superior lag-free gaming experience.
Pixelworks is adopting an ecosystem approach to enhance content on the device and also in the cloud. For example: Pixelworks partnered with China’s leading video content platform YouKu to bring high-quality HDR video to a large ecosystem of mobile devices in China. YouKu is using Pixelworks’ TrueCut® platform to enhance its existing and upcoming content to HDR quality for its half a billion active smartphone user base.
Smartphones with Pixelworks Inside
Number of OEMs are adopting Pixelworks solution to bring advanced viewing experiences to their mid-tier Qualcomm powered devices as well as to further enhance some of the premium Snapdragon-powered devices as well. The Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe was one of the first smartphones to come with Pixelworks solutions. However, the turning point was the Nokia 7.1 that launched in 2019, followed by smartphones like the Nokia 7.2, Nokia 6.2 and the latest Nokia 8.3 5G, Asus ROG Phone and ROG Phone 2, BlackShark-series gaming smartphones and ZTE Axon 9 Pro. The recently launched Oppo Find X2 and Find X2 Pro also comes with a high refresh rate display, and Pixelworks Iris 5 chip.
These smartphones range between $200 – $1,300 segment, with different use-cases. For instance, the ROG Phone-series and BlackShark-series are gaming-centric smartphones. The focus on these phones is to improve the screen refresh rate and improving the dynamic range for a better visual experience. Similarly, on mid-range smartphones like Nokia 7.2, Nokia 6.2, and the latest Nokia 8.3 5G, the chipset improves image and video viewing experience with HDR capabilities, display lighting management for devices sporting LCD displays.
With the dawn of the 5G era, supporting high-resolution, immersive and low-latency video, cloud gaming and Augmented Reality experiences are going to be the key differentiators. Solutions such as Pixelworks will help will assist OEMs to offer these experiences even at affordable price points.
Commenting on the importance of this approach, Counterpoint’s Component Practice’s Research Analyst, Shobhit Srivastava, said, “Delivering premium quality content (HDR, 4K, 8K) experiences on a smartphone warrant a flagship-grade application processor paired with OLED displays, which increases the cost of the device. However, OEMs looking to differentiate and deliver enhanced video or display experiences using mid-range application processors can benefit from Pixelworks’ Iris co-processor solution. This companion solution can allow OEMs to save anywhere between 5% to 15% of the overall BoM cost. And smartphones sporting economical OLED and SoC, these savings can be further optimized.”
While the Pixelworks solution will help unlock a premium visual experience, we may see a similar approach from OEMs to trickle down advance features on affordable smartphones. The trend to add DSP-centric advanced co-processors will be on the rise from enhancing the audio experience (Hi-Fi lossless audio) to companion AI chip (for multiple use-cases – biometrics, graphics, etc) to a dedicated camera ISP to drive advanced imaging and photography features to affordable phones.
The smartphone market is going through a wave of change as we are at the horizon of the 5G era. 2020 is going to be the breakout year for 5G NR. While 5G has begun to proliferate in the Western markets and China, the developing markets will reap the 5G benefits at mass-market level post-2022. Hence, the 4G LTE and advanced versions will remain the primary cellular access technology over the next four to five years. Counterpoint estimates over 5 billion 4G LTE smartphones will be sold over the next six years in total. Thus, there is a significant opportunity for the overall mobile industry to bring the 4G smartphone experience almost closer to 5G NR adding advanced features over the next few years. Qualcomm has been baking in advanced features across its smartphone chipset portfolio generation after generation and commercializing it along with its ecosystem of partners.
Qualcomm is the the leader in the sub-US$400 smartphone price segment sporting the Snapdragon 4, 6 & 7 series chipsets powered smartphones.
Thus, to extend its leadership and stimulate the 4G LTE smartphone opportunity, Qualcomm at partner and media event “Snapdragon Media Day” in New Delhi announced a refresh for its Snapdragon 4, 6 and 7 series platforms focusing on this multi-billion opportunity. The new System-on-Chip (SoC) platforms announced are Snapdragon 460, Snapdragon 662 and Snapdragon 720G. Alex Katouzian, SVP and General Manager of Mobile, talked in his opening keynote about Qualcomm’s 5G momentum while also stressing on how 4G is also an important complementary technology to 5G rollout globally, chiming with our viewpoint.
Qualcomm has been actively focusing on bringing multiple cutting-edge features from its flagship 8 series portfolio to the mainstream and mass-market devices. Qualcomm’s Kedar Kondap, Vice-President of Product Management, introduced the newest Snapdragon platforms, its capabilities and what it means for the consumers.
Some of the features which are prominently featured now across the price-tiers include:
Advanced Connectivity: Advancement in modem and RF Front end, now supporting LTE Cat 13 (DL speeds 390 Mbps) with 2xCA to LTE Cat 15 (up to 800 Mbps) with 3xCA, Dual SIM Dual VoLTE (DSDV), VoLTE with SRVCC to 3G/2G, Ultra HD voice (EVS), Wi-Fi Calling with call continuity between 4G & Wi-Fi, High Power transmit (HPUE), 802.11ac /802.11ax ready Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1, first to support NavIC GPS and more. These features are very important for emerging markets such as India, Philippines, Africa and prepaid 4G segments in developed markets not only from a consumer but also from an operator perspective unlocking newer features and business models.
Artificial Intelligence: Advanced Qualcomm’s heterogeneous computing leveraging its powerful Adreno GPU, Kyro CPU, Hexagon DSP and highly power-efficient Qualcomm Sensing hub for fusing contextual and rich data from sensors even in Snapdragon 4 series. This unlocks on-device AI capabilities potentially enhancing the user experience for multiple use-cases from audio, video, imaging, safety, fitness, and gaming.
Advanced Entertainment: The enhancement in Qualcomm’s Spectra ISP now supports dual 14-bit ISPs, multiple camera sensor setup, high-resolution image capture (e.g. 48 MP), high-speed zero shutter lag, multi-frame noise reduction, HEVC/HEIF support, 1080p video capture @60 fps in 4 series to 4K @ 30 FPS in 7 series, power efficiencies and more. Powerful imaging capabilities in a smartphone is one of the top user requirements. Pairing these features with sharper displays, GPU and technologies make the smartphone content capture and consumption richer starting from Snapdragon 4 series smartphone chipsets.
Summarizing the individual capabilities and outlook for the newly announced Snapdragon platforms today:
Snapdragon 400 series has been a key driver for Qualcomm in 2019, representing almost one in five smartphones sold globally. The key features which will drive further adoption in 2020 would be the advanced camera capabilities, faster Snapdragon X11 LTE modem with Dual SIM Dual Standby and AI engine capabilities which has been introduced for the first time in Snapdragon 4 series. Latin America, Rest of Asia and Middle East Africa remain the key markets for Snapdragon 460’s adoption in 2020.
Snapdragon 600 series has been equally as popular as Snapdragon 400 series but primarily catered to $150-$300 price point smartphones in 2019. This has been the sweet spot in markets such as China and India where the platform is highly successful competing with Samsung Exynos 7 series, MediaTek Helio P series, and Huawei Kirin 700 series. The key Snapdragon 662 capabilities that OEMs will look to leverage in their offerings in 2020 include the 3rd gen Qualcomm AI engine with Qualcomm Sensing hub, dynamic high-resolution multi-camera capabilities, Dual SIM Dual VoLTE (DSDV), Ultra HD Voice and Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo technology among others. India, China, Indonesia, Middle East and prepaid markets of Europe will be the key markets for Snapdragon 660 in 2020.
Snapdragon 730G which was launched last year brought premium imaging, gaming and connectivity experience from Snapdragon 8 series to a more affordable premium segment for the first time. The Snapdragon 720G extends such select premium experiences at a more affordable price-point. The primary features smartphone brands will look to highlight in their offerings, when integrating the 720G platform would be around gaming. The powerful Adreno 618 GPU offers a 75% performance increase over the previous generation along with HDR mobile rendering for smooth gaming, support for latest gaming APIs, Snapdragon Elite Gaming features (e.g. fast loader) and Qualcomm’s aptX adaptive audio technology for a high-quality synchronized audio experience while gaming. The other potential capabilities worth highlighting are the accelerated on-device AI and the latest Snapdragon X15 LTE modem capabilities with 3xCA and FastConnect 6200 mobile connectivity subsystem for advanced real-time connected gameplay.
Qualcomm’s Ecosystem Differentiation
The event was attended by top executives from most of the partners’ OEMs from OnePlus, Xiaomi, Realme, HMD Nokia, Samsung, Asus and others to channel partners Flipkart, Amazon and so forth.
Qualcomm is leveraging its strong ecosystem partnerships to enhance the experiences on these platforms right down to Snapdragon 4 series. Closely working with these different partners across geographies helps tightly optimize OEMs hardware, software and services experiences with these platforms. We believe this is the biggest differentiator and value-add for Qualcomm compared to the competition.
Thus, Qualcomm continues to offer an industry-leading smartphone solutions portfolio that spans across price-tiers and integrates a plethora of capabilities allowing OEMs to bring advanced features and optimized experiences via partners to the masses. 2020 will be the breakout year for 5G NR capable smartphones, but at the same time, the 4G smartphones and users are poised to enjoy advanced 4G LTE-driven smartphone experiences. Bringing in 4G LTE capabilities and features remains as important as the 5G NR rollout considering close to five billion 4G LTE smartphones will be sold over the next six years.
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