Qualcomm’s “Affordable Premium” Strategy Blossoms with Latest Snapdragon 660/630 Platforms

Counterpoint Analysts participated at Qualcomm’s latest launch events for its Snapdragon 600 platform’s latest solutions 660 and 630 at Snapdragon Tech Day in Singapore as well as at the launch event in Beijing. The launch timing and the features of these platforms are important as these bring flagship-grade experiences at relatively affordable price-points. This is important because $250 to $399 wholesale price bands has been the fastest growing price segment globally recently (see here). While the combinations of (Bill of Materials) BoM costs across brands can vary, but the Snapdragon 660/630 will be featured in devices crafting advanced experiences in the price range of US$300 to US$500 retail price points.

Growth of Affordable Premium Phones:

Source: Counterpoint Research: Q1 2017 Global Market Monitor
  • Eight out of Ten mobile phones sold globally now are smartphones
  • The smartphone user base has been swelling as more feature phone users have upgraded to smartphones over the last three years globally
  • The smartphone user base is getting more and more matured and beginning to see smartphones as one of the most important tool central to their lives and can afford to shell out more for a realtively latest and greatest device
  • In key emerging markets such as India, China which are mostly “mobile first” markets, we have seen the smartphone upgrade cycles a bit shortening (see here) and more so driven by proliferation of LTE networks in these markets and data plan getting cheaper to enjoy more and more services on the smartphones
  • This has been driving share of more advanced specs phones higher than mid-range or low-end phones lately, a trend which will continue for some time now as users move up the smartphone experience curve
  • Furthermore, in many markets operator subsidies on devices have been declining which has also catalyzed the need for power-packed “Affordable Premium” smartphones with a relatively lower upfront costs
  • As a result, depending on the OEM and its Bill of Materials (BoM) strategy, we are seeing powerful smartphone specs and experiences between $250 to $400 wholesale price segments.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 660/630 Hit The Sweet Spot:

Source: Qualcomm & Counterpoint Estimates
  • Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660/630 platforms hits the sweet spot of this important $250-$400 segment which will continue to grow and broaden over the next couple of years
  • The most important features 660 platform is manufactured on the highly efficient 14nm FinFET process node technology with the powerful 8x Kyro 260 CPU, and Hexagon 680 DSP which can be optimized for bringing in the advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities via Qualcomm’s baked in on-device Snapdragon Neural Processing engine to the device supporting Tensorflow & Caffe/Caffe2 AI architectures. OEMs are running high on integrating AI & ML capabilities into their devices (see here) and its going to be a common theme for next entire decade
  • It also sports the latest X12 LTE modem enabling theoretical LTE download throughputs of 600 Mbps (Cat 13 at 3x20MHz +256QAM Carrier Aggregation) in addition to integrating 2×2 802.11ac and MU-MIMO (Multi User). Many operators globally are rolling out next generation LTE networks with millions of LTE subs on their network (see here) and this is going to be important to make your $400 device future proof
  • The modem supports VoLTE with SVRCC (3G&2G). VoWIFi as well as Enhanced Voice Services (EVS) to enable Ultra HD Voice experiences on the network. VoLTE is becoming important feature not only for high or premium tiers but also for entry-tier mobile devices (see here), so integrating premium VoLTE experiences such as HD or Ultra HD voice becomes important even at $250 or $400 device
  • The platform also supports LPDDR4 dual channel DRAM memory along with the latest UFS NAND memory support. This is also a key feature to enable premium experiences as DDR4 memory becomes important for experiences as well as “marketshare” for Qualcomm’s OEM partners (see here)
  • Camera has always been a key feature for mobile phone users and now a window to future Augmented Reality (AR) experiences. The 660 platform also features its latest Spectra 160 Image Signal Processor (ISP) with 14-bit dual camera ISP enabling a maximum of dual 16 MP cameras configuration along with advanced Computer Vision capabilities and Qualcomm Clear Sight camera features

Source: Qualcomm
  • Qualcomm has also strengthened audio performance – Qualcomm Aqstic Audio (with aptX support), baked in Qualcomm mobile security framework as well as Adreno 512 GPU which is designed to enhance AI/ML to video playback to OpenGL ES 3.2 and Vulkan support

Growth & Competition

In summary this is a very powerful platform for Qualcomm to drive the overall growth and offset some de-growth in the premium segment lately as key brands in premium-tier (such as Apple, Samsung and Huawei) become more vertical integrated adopting their in-house or a mix of competing solutions. This also means it will put immense pressure on MediaTek to push it down further to mid0tier segment a strong blow to Helio lineup. This will also make it difficult for likes of Huawei and Samsung to compete with Qualcomm with their own solutions especially in mid- to high-tier segments. We believe Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, LG and others will remain the key brands to adopt and drive this latest platform in volumes.