Mobile processor brands AH_2

Android Headliner: Can Other SoCs Challenge Snapdragon 820?

January 24, 2016 - Written By Kristijan Lucic

There are quite a few mobile processor manufacturers currently active out there. Some of those manufacturers are more popular than others, and I’m sure that pretty much everyone reading this have heard of Qualcomm (company), or, at least, their Snapdragon processors which are powering tons of smartphone, tablets and smartwatches all over the world. Well, Qualcomm is just one company out there, and even though they’re quite probably the most popular ones, other companies have created quite a bit of competition for the US-based giant last year. Well, 2016 is certainly going to be an interesting year for mobile processor manufacturers, and Qualcomm is looking to battle quite a few companies in order to stay ahead, read on.

As some of you might know, Snapdragon 810 was Qualcomm’s flagship processor for 2015, and unfortunately for the company, that SoC was quite problematic (at first). The first iteration of the Snapdragon 810 SoC haven’t been performing all that well, the term ‘overheating’ was used all too often when this SoC is concerned, and that gave other companies a chance to get closer to Qualcomm in terms of market share, and also to promote their name on the expense of this US-based giant. Samsung’s Exynos 7420 14nm 64-bit octa-core processor is, by many people, regarded to be the best mobile processor of last year. Samsung’s very own chip offered great performance and didn’t experience issues similar to Snapdragon 810. Samsung’s Exynos 7420 processor was used in only 5 devices last year though, four Samsung flagships, and one additional handset, read on.

Exynos and Snapdragon AH

The Exynos 7420 has been included in the Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5. Samsung has also shipped the Exynos 7420 over to Meizu, a China-based smartphone manufacturer which has utilized this chip in their PRO 5 flagship which has been introduced in September last year. Meizu is one of the fastest growing smartphone manufacturing companies these days, but their brand is nowhere close as popular as Samsung’s, of course, so even though Exynos 7420 was one of the best (if not the best) SoC of 2015, it wasn’t exactly used by that many companies, like the Snapdragon 810. Next year looks far more promising though, rumors say that Samsung intends on releasing two flagship processors, and they will be almost identical. The Exynos 8890 will, allegedly, going to be used by Samsung only, and the Exynos 8870 will be available to other companies. The only difference between these two chips will be clock speed, the Exynos 8890 will have a slightly higher clock speed than the 8870.

That being said, the Snapdragon and Exynos brands aren’t the only ones out there, not by a long shot. These two processors might be considered to be the most powerful ones in 2015, but other companies are looking to mess with Qualcomm’s and Samsung’s plans. MediaTek has been around for quite some time now, this Taiwan-based company was initially making only low and mid-range SoCs, but their Helio X10 64-bit octa-core flagship processor was extremely popular last year, and the Helio X20 64-bit deca-core chip will soon be available, and is looking to compete with the two aforementioned brands. Another company is worth mentioning here, Huawei. Their Kirin-branded processors have been around for a long time now, but unfortunately, only Huawei’s devices have been using them. The Kirin 950, which was announced a couple of weeks ago, has proved to be truly great. This processor is powering Huawei’s Mate 8 flagship phablet, and has showed not only great benchmarking results, but great performance as well. We still don’t know if Huawei intends on offering their Kirin SoCs to other OEMs in 2016, but we do hope that will happen, it would bring more competitions to the market, which is always great for the end consumer (all of us). Now, there’s also LG’s Nuclun flagship SoC which is expected to arrive this year. LG’s first Nuclun chip had issues with overheating and LG decided to go back to the drawing board and improve their offering. Well, we’ve seen several reports claiming that this is LG’s year, and that their Nuclun SoC might be ready for launch. We still don’t know much about this, so we’ll just have to wait and see, but it was sure worth mentioning, if nothing else.

MediaTek Helio X20_2

So, there are basically four SoC brands we’ve mentioned here, the Snapdragon, Exynos, Kirin and MediaTek. All of the companies behind these processors are going to release not only flagship processors, but also a number of low and mid-range offerings as well, but let’s focus on their flagship chips, shall we. Based on leaked benchmarks and all sorts of info, Snapdragon 820 and Exynos 8890 are the frontrunners this year, but Kirin 950 and Helio X20 have also offered great results in various benchmarks, and it will surely going to be interesting to see can they challenge Qualcomm and Samsung.

It is almost certain that Snapdragon SoCs will, once again, going to be most used in various devices across the globe, especially by the most popular companies out there. LG, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, and a number of other manufacturers will almost certainly going to utilize Qualcomm’s chips, but considering how fast Chinese and Indian markets are growing (especially the latter one), MediaTek has a great chance of stealing some market share away from others, and basically increase their profits in 2016, especially if they play their cards right. I won’t comment on Kirin considering Huawei still didn’t say if they’ll ship their SoC to other OEMs, we’ll make sure to report back if something like that happens, of course.

Huawei Kirin logo_1

The most interesting battle this year will be between Qualcomm and Samsung, Snapdragon 820 and Exynos 8890 will go head-to-head in the market, and considering Samsung will probably offer their Exynos 8870 SoC to other OEMs (aside from Meizu), it is going to be interesting to see how many companies will actually use it. Meizu is probably going to deploy the Exynos processor once again, but what about others? Well, we’ll see, but Qualcomm is in a great position of remaining at the very top of the pile, even though this US-company will have to accept the fact their market share will shrink this year. Keep in mind these are only assumptions, we won’t know anything for sure until the end of this year, of course.

So, can MediaTek challenge Qualcomm and Samsung? Well, it all depends on what do you mean by ‘challenge’. If by that you mean steal some market share from these two companies, then yeah, they probably can. Helio X20 looks extremely promising, and chances are it is going to perform really well, as did the Helio X10, but as far as sheer power goes, this processor will not be able to compete with the Snapdragon 820 or Exynos 8890. MediaTek’s processors might be really popular in Asia, but in the rest of the world they’re still not that well known, and quite frankly people trust Qualcomm and Samsung more. I believe the same thing can be said for certain companies out there, whether we like it or not, brand name matters, especially if a great product stands behind it.

This year seems to be really promising as far as technology goes, and especially mobile technology. We’ll see even more wearables than last year, home security systems are on a rise as well, and we’ll, of course, also see tons of great smartphones hit the market as well. We do believe that Snapdragon will remain on top, and that MediaTek will manage to increase their market share, while Exynos 8890 sure looks promising, and might even compete directly with Qualcomm’s flagship processor. Either way, what do you think? Feel free to share your opinions with us, and let us know what is your favorite mobile SoC manufacturer, and who do you think will make the biggest progress this year.