When it comes to the mobile industry, Qualcomm is a force to be reckoned with, pretty much because they own the market. They might not own it the same way that Apple and Samsung do, but without Qualcomm and the Snapdragon processor it’s hard to imagine Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC, Motorola or anyone shipping anywhere near the sort of units that they do every year. Without Qualcomm’s beating heart, our smartphones wouldn’t be the type of devices they are today. Sure, Samsung makes their Exynos processors and MediaTek has been on the rise for some time now, but I ask you to tell me the name of just one high-end, international smartphone that uses an Exynos or MediaTek CPU. You can’t. Which has, for some, been a cause for concern, that big bad Qualcomm was keeping everyone else down. That the MediaTeks of the world aren’t as popular or as successful as they could be due to Qualcomm’s hold over the market. It’s not just Qualcomm to blame for that though, and if Qualcomm can make the amount of processors needed for devices like the LG G3 and Galaxy Note 4, then why not keep using Qualcomm?
The Snapdragon 810 might be the reason to stop using Qualcomm, but I’m not so sure the writing is on the wall for Qualcomm just yet. We’ve heard a lot of rumors surrounding the Snapdragon 810 and its heating issues, the problems with the RAM controller and even a fun rumor that said LG was to sue Qualcomm if they adapted the chip to better suit Samsung and the Galaxy S6. Now, we’re hearing that Samsung is to ship the Galaxy S6 with the Exynos 7420 and that the Exynos line is finally ready to make the big leagues. It’s beginning to look like the Snapdragon 810 has become something of a ‘problem’ for Qualcomm.
First of all, the Snapdragon 810 isn’t really what we’ve come to expect from a Snapdragon. It’s simply ARM’s core design wrapped up in their silicon, there’s no special sauce here. Unlike the Snapdragon 801 and 805 which featured Krait 400 and Krait 450 cores with lots of special attention from Qualcomm. This year though, the Snapdragon 810 doesn’t offer too much that MediaTek or Samsung can’t, aside from the new Adreno GPU. This isn’t great news for Qualcomm and a lukewarm response to the new chip (and the rumored loss of the Galaxy S6) could be what has led Qualcomm to cut its forecasted earnings for the year ahead. Not by much, of course, but it’s beginning to look like Qualcomm has lost a little of its shine.
Losing the Galaxy S6 is sure to give shareholders something to worry about, but it looks like Qualcomm has become a victim of its own success. The Snapdragon 800 was a fantastic processor, as was the 801 and the 805, but now people are expecting great things for next-gen, 64-bit octa-core CPUs and it looks like Qualcomm can’t deliver. Samsung and MediaTek have been working with big.LITTLE configurations like the Snapdragon 810 for years now, yet this is Qualcomm’s first. When putting something new into production, there are always going to be problems and perhaps the new octa-core design is what’s causing Qualcomm some issues, but we’re just going to have wait and see how well Qualcomm and their Snapdragon 810 fare throughout 2015. I’m sure Nvidia, Samsung and MediaTek sure wouldn’t mind muscling though.