If you pick up a high-end Samsung smartphone, like the Galaxy S5, it will be running a Qualcomm processor, despite Samsung’s large and sophisticated chipmaking business. That’s because Qualcomm has been basically the only chip maker that can include an LTE radio on its SoCs. But that’s changing, as Samsung announced on Thursday that its new Exynos ModAP chip comes with an LTE radio built in.
The processor itself is quad-core, although Samsung makes a series of chips with eight cores. But because those chips lack an LTE radio, they have been relegated to tablets and phones with sluggish 3G service. As LTE becomes the dominant connectivity standard across North America, Europe, and Asia, the Exynos ModAP represents huge earnings potential for Samsung’s microprocessor division.
Although Samsung claims its modem supports LTE-Advanced, as we’ve pointed out before, that’s just marketing. Samsung’s chip is a Category 4 LTE chip, supporting the same speeds and capabilities as other high-end modems on the market today. Both Qualcomm and Intel have developed Category 6 chipsets, which can theoretically deliver twice the speeds of the Exynos when used on the right networks.
The ModAP is built on a 28nm die, and there’s also an image signal processor on the die, which is capable of supporting an 8-megapixel camera as well as processing 1080p video at 30fps. Samsung also included a “Exynos RF companion chip,” which will help devices switch between various types of connectivity.
Samsung didn’t give an estimate of when to expect its ModAP chip in devices. We’ll see if it’s available in time to be included in the Galaxy Note 4 expected to come out this fall.