Bloomberg have picked up on a rumor that Samsung tested the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor for consideration into their Galaxy S6 flagship handset, but decided not to use it and without offering (official) details. Instead, Samsung will be using their own internal Exynos processor family. Neither Samsung nor Qualcomm were prepared to comment on the story, which is not surprising given the potential sensitivity of this news. And yet! This does not surprise me, nor should it surprise any of our regular readers and here’s why: Samsung are in the business of making SoCs, or System on Chips (in other words, the modem, processor and graphical hardware gubbins of smartphones, wearables and tablets). They are also in the business of making smartphones, wearables and tablets and over the years, they have used their own in-house processors in their own in-house devices.
It’s also possible that Samsung have decided not to use the Snapdragon 810 because of rumors that the processor has been overheating. Malfunctioning scare stories of new processors have been headline news for a long time and perhaps Qualcomm’s previous processors had a completely trouble-free development process, whereas the 810 has suffered from some teething issues, but Samsung’s competitors have already announced that they will be using the new Snapdragon processor. For the last two Galaxy S flagship handsets, Samsung have used a higher performance version of the processor that many competitors use and perhaps their fear was that by working the processor harder than the competition, it would highlight any weakness.
I suspect that the truth is a little closer to Samsung’s $15 billion investment into a new processor factory outside Seoul, plus the Exynos chipset being able to catch up with the Qualcomm advantage. You see, one of the reasons why Qualcomm have been present in a huge number of Android smartphones is because the business very successfully integrates wireless technologies, including the modem, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC, into the processor design. Qualcomm’s recent advantage has been in incorporating 4G LTE modems into their chipset, which reduces design costs of the device. If Samsung have caught up, this is bad news for Qualcomm. It is also true that Qualcomm’s current generation of processor uses an ARM reference core rather than their own custom design, so essentially their processor has less to differentiate itself compared with other chipsets on sale. Qualcomm’s leaked roadmap points towards the business using a custom core in designs due later this year, but by then presumably Samsung will be working on the Galaxy S7.