Nvidia has announced that they aren’t going to pursue the high-end smartphones, at least for this year, and instead are going after mid-range smartphones. They are making it sound as if this is a choice, but considering the products they’ve launched this year, it looks more like something they have to do, rather than want to do.
Tegra 4 is definitely going to be a powerful chip, however it’s only destined for tablets due to its high power consumption. This is not an official thing, but all hints point to that. Nvidia can’t put Tegra 4 in a smartphone, and that’s why they made the Cortex A9-based Tegra 4i for smartphones. The problem with that strategy is that Tegra 4i is not nearly as good or as interesting as the Qualcomm S600/S800 or Exynos 5 Octa for high-end devices. So that’s how Nvidia got its mid-range “strategy”.
That being said, it’s about time Nvidia also focused on the mid-range of the market, and they also should focus on the low-end market, too. But I don’t think Nvidia cares that much about these markets because they are usually not as profitable, and as I said I think Nvidia entered the mid-range market with both Tegra 3 for tablets, and now Tegra 4i for smartphones.
However, dominating the mid-range market and the low-end market is also how Qualcomm has maintained and has grown its domination in the mobile chip market. When manufacturers buy a high-end chip from Qualcomm, they are much more likely to buy one for their mid-range or low-end devices, too. If they buy one from Nvidia, they wouldn’t be able to get a chip from them for a low-end devices anyway (at least until recently). If Nvidia wanted to become the “Intel” of mobile chip market, then they should’ve covered all markets from low-end to high-end like Intel did in the PC market. But they didn’t, and that’s exactly what Qualcomm did.
So in a way, Nvidia is moving in the right direction (whether they like it or not), but in the same time not really, because now they are going after the mid-end market, but are quitting the high-end market for smartphones. And that’s definitely not good either, because Qualcomm uses its “hero” high-end chips to become popular with consumers and OEM’s.
Nvidia can only do that in tablets right now, and probably not even that very well, because Tegra 4 is not a very efficient chip, and in my book it shouldn’t really be considered a “mobile” chip if it can’t also be used in smartphones. It just means it’s less efficient, and even if it has a bigger battery to use, it uses it in a much less efficient way than a smartphone chip would.
Nvidia will need to fix this problem, and launch a chip that is very efficient and can be used in both high-end tablets and phones, and they should also be making separate mid-range and low-end chips, just like Qualcomm, if they want to become more popular in the mobile chip market, and gain more market share.