The smartphone market is changing quickly, and it obviously won't stop now. Two years ago, you would never tell that Xiaomi, a 5-year old startup from China would become the 4th largest smartphone maker in the world and that it would kick giants like Apple and Samsung from the top spot in China, the largest consumer market on the planet. What not many people know is that as the smartphone market goes through a shakedown, the companies that make the processors powering these devices are also going through a lot. Until 2013, Qualcomm had about 95% of the mobile market, but this number has dropped to 51% last year, mainly thanks to increasing competition from MediaTek and other chipmakers that have been emerging in the past couple of years.
If two years ago Qualcomm was the only option for a high-end smartphone, today manufacturers have a plethora of options to choose from. MediaTek is the main source of nightmares for Qualcomm, with their high-end Helio X10 System-on-Chip (SoC), which is seen on several flagship phones this year. Intel has been dormant on the mobile processor market for years but now they are trying to catch up with the rest and you can already see "Intel inside" on some smartphones from Asus, for example. Samsung has been in the mobile processor making for years now, but their chips were only used on some of their own smartphones. This has changed this year and the South Korean company has completely ditched Qualcomm in favor of the Exynos line – although the upcoming Galaxy S7 is rumored to use a Snapdragon chipset too. The thing is, Samsung is also selling their chips to other manufacturers, with the newest Meizu Pro 5 running the Exynos 7420. Last but not least, Huawei is also on the game with their latest HiSilicon Kirin 950 which is reportedly a power beast and the most powerful smartphone chip as of today.
All that said, you can see the mobile processor market is going to be interesting for the next few years. With so many good options to choose from, chipmakers will have to work hard to differentiate from the competition. Since raw processing power is not that important anymore as these processors have reached a peak, we are talking about interesting new features such as fast/wireless charging technologies with even reduced charging times, faster LTE basebands, 3D-enabled display chips, better power efficiency, fingerprint sensors, real-time machine learning and more. It will be interesting to see what these companies have in the works to make us choose them, and we will see these results in the near future.