2015’s introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S6 was interesting for a few reasons. One is that it marked a change in direction of Samsung’s Galaxy S line of flagship Android devices: the S6 was metal built, did not include a MicroSD card slot and the battery was not user replaceable. Samsung stuffed the Galaxy S6 with a number of new technologies aiming to have the best handset in the market such as fast charging, wireless charging and their very own System-on-Chip, the Exynos 7420. This particular chipset is notable as it is built on a 14nm process size rather than the more normal 20nm or 28nm process size at the time as well as being designed and built by Samsung themselves. The industry has made steps to catch up, but other than Intel there are very few mobile chipset manufacturers designing chips at this small a size let alone capable of building it.
These developments have supported Samsung’s chipset foundry business – that is, the factories and plants producing the semiconductors. For 2015, IC Insights and Gartner have announced that Samsung was the fourth largest manufacturer in the world. The largest foundry remains the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (or TSMC), followed by American business Globalfoundries, which has been boosted by acquiring IBM’s foundry business. Third place belongs to the UMC, a Taiwan business. Fourth we see Samsung Electronics and fifth is Chinese foundry, SMIC. However, whilst Samsung is ranked fourth, in terms of numbers it is some way behind the number one foundry. TSMC’s sales were close to $20 billion, almost 55% of the market. This compares with Samsung Electronic’s $3.4 billion giving them 5.3% market share.
Going forwards, Samsung have been working hard to promote their chipset foundry business. Samsung have approached a number of companies requiring chips, such as Apple, touting for business. Samsung is aiming to position itself as a technological market leader, which it may well be depending on how one calculates the technology edge that the business has. Samsung build the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, which is being used for a number of flagship Android devices, as well as winning deals with major market players such as Apple. As for their own chipsets, the company has plans to introduced a flagship chip built at the 10nm process size, with a second generation 10nm chipset under development. The company is also working on a revised, lower manufacturing process for 16nm chipsets.