Qualcomm may have just confirmed no Snapdragon in the Galaxy S6

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Credit: Samsung

Recently we heard various reports of Qualcomm’s latest mobile chip overheating, which led to the expectation that Samsung was planning to use its own processor in the upcoming Galaxy S6. Qualcomm has refuted the heat problem, as did LG which is using the Snapdragon 810 in its new G Flex 2 phone. But heat or no heat, it doesn’t mean Samsung isn’t pushing forward with plans to use an Exynos processor in the Galaxy S6. In fact, Qualcomm appears to be expecting that to happen.

The company announced its quarterly earnings on Wednesday and I noticed this in the part about future expectations, emphasis mine:

We have lowered our outlook for the second half of fiscal 2015 in our semiconductor business, QCT, largely driven by the effects of:

— A shift in share among OEMs at the premium tier, which has reduced our near-term opportunity for sales of our integrated Snapdragon™ processors and has skewed our product mix towards more modem chipsets in this tier;
— Expectations that our Snapdragon 810 processor will not be in the upcoming design cycle of a large customer’s flagship device; and
— Heightened competition in China.

A “large customer’s flagship device” could mean any number of phones or tablets but my money is on the Galaxy S6. There are other large customers of [company]Qualcomm[/company], but Samsung is the top device maker that uses Qualcomm chips. So it’s not unreasonable to think that the Galaxy S6 — or possibly the next Galaxy Note or Note Edge — will be Exynos powered.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Qualcomm has long had the advantage of superior LTE modem integration with its Snapdragon chips, but Samsung has been engineering its own product as of last year. Samsung’s chips may not support the highest possible speeds a network can provide by comparison, but they’re certainly capable of fast mobile broadband throughput.

Qualcomm’s chips are capable of pretty impressive theoretical speeds of 450 Mbps, while Samsung is still at an early point in the LTE device spec, maxing out at 150 Mbps. Bear in mind however that most carrier networks aren’t yet at the point they could support the full force of Qualcomm’s tech, so in most cases, you probably won’t notice much difference between a Samsung or Qualcomm chip. Regardless, Samsung is rumored to have caught up when it comes to speed so this could be a moot point.

Perhaps Samsung follows the same approach it always has with a Galaxy phone by creating two versions of the handset, one with silicon from Qualcomm and one with in-house chips. But it looks like Qualcomm isn’t counting on that.

3 Comments

Shiggity

As much as it pains me to say this, Apple is LEAGUES ahead in chip development. They’re beating 8 core chips with their dual core.

malcolmtucker1

Here’s the thing– Qualcomm has negotiated patents with virtually everybody in the wireless industry. Many of those patents have since changed hands, and are with other companies now. Consider the mess Samsung will have getting patent licenses negotiated from the Nortel Patent portfolio. Those patents have changed hands many times..!

Additionally, I’d say it’s very likely that in the US, both Verizon and T-Mobile will both require extensive testing before the devices are sold. When any RF and Baseband chips are designed, the fastest I’ve seen is one year for approvals. Most of the time it’s 2+ years for carrier approval.

In the situation of the iPhone, only when Apple changed to Qualcomm was T-Mobile US interested in carrying the iPhone because the Infineon Chips were so cheap, when they powered on, they caused other people’s calls to drop in adjacent cellular coverage areas. (remember all the AT&T complaints..? They went away when Apple changed to Qualcomm.)

Qualcomm may not be cheap, but Samsung must desire to make the Galaxy 6S a Sprint-only phone; and that’s OK. Sprint outsources engineering so they can focus on creating compelling marketing deals and ads. The less that Sprint has to listen to engineers, the more marketing people it can hire at Boost, Virgin, or the other 25 brands Sprint has.

Come to think of it, I vaguely remember Sprint announcing an agreement to use Samsung as a network equipment manufacturer for 5G. (some sort of a pilot or test; a part of “Network Vision”).

So most likely, the Galaxy 6S is a Sprint-only device, but to be backward LTE and 4G compatible, (Sprint hasn’t finished LTE upgrades yet) or for legacy CDMA compatibility, Samsung would need to negotiate patents for LTE and CDMA by itself, and patiently wait a few years for carrier testing/approval before getting the green light.

But… Sprint will probably approve it before it’s on the boat.

jjj

The even bigger news was in the call (live now) they said their next chip will use a custom 64 bit core on the most advanced process and it will be sampling in the later part of calendar 2015 – the timing being the big news, custom core and process were evident.

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