MediaTek's Helio X30 Demand Is Lower Than Expected

MediaTek's upcoming Helio X30 flagship chip will doubtlessly find its way into a number of Chinese flagship phones in the near future, but as its second-quarter release date draws near, MediaTek is finding demand projections lower than they initially expected. MediaTek has yet to hear from regular customers Oppo and Vivo about this year's offering, and though they had initially hooked Meizu and LeEco, LeEco backed down from the deal due to their finances not looking to be up to the task. Meanwhile, smaller players and foreign customers have mostly been silent. As a final blow to the chip's projected demand, Xiaomi, one of MediaTek's biggest regular customers, seems to have lost interest in MediaTek in favor of pursuing their own Pinecone chipsets alongside their usual use of Qualcomm's Snapdragon lineup for their flagships.

While this could merely be players leaving their options open, the relatively low commitment from manufacturers compared to previous years is putting pressure on MediaTek to be judicious about the deployment of their upcoming flagship chip. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that many of their usual customers are going global and beginning to tend more toward Qualcomm's chips, and those who had leaned on MediaTek for budget flagships in the past are shifting toward Qualcomm's upper mid-range solutions like the Snapdragon 650. Meanwhile, Samsung, Huawei, and now apparently Xiaomi are all making their own chips, taking a huge chunk out of MediaTek's potential customer base. MediaTek had earlier refuted rumors that they were planning on cutting orders for the chip from TSMC by up to 50%.

MediaTek's upcoming Helio X30 will be competing closely with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 due to both of them being 10 nanometer chips, though where the Helio X30 will strike a balance between energy use and performance, the Snapdragon 835 is going to be a full-throttle chip that packs in Google's TensorFlow machine learning backend and the ability to emulate x86 PC instruction sets. The rivalry extends to manufacturing, as the Snapdragon 835 will be manufactured mainly by Samsung, TSMC's main rival in the chip manufacturing space. The first Snapdragon 835 phone on the market will be Samsung's Galaxy S8, reportedly coming in April, while the Vernee Apollo 2 will bring the Helio X30 to Mobile World Congress later this month.

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