Qualcomm is looking away from Samsung for the production of its Snapdragon 865 chipset and that could hurt Samsung's prospects. That's according to recent reports from Samsung's home region, indicating Qualcomm is choosing Taiwanese TSMC instead.
The move would be despite the fact that Samsung's foundry process roadmap, its plans for building chips, is months ahead. Meanwhile, less expensive and less technically challenging chipsets such as the Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 765G would be built by Samsung.
The reason for Qualcomm's decision is competition
Qualcomm's decision, the reports claim, is directly tied to Samsung being a competitor of the premier chip manufacturer. Qualcomm leads the market by a significant margin when it comes to chipsets. But it does not build its own chips. Instead, it parcels that work out to companies with foundries such as Samsung and TSMC.
Samsung has quickly grown in the interim. Its plans and growth in the number of factories and foundries indicate that it hopes to start taking significant market share in the chipset market with its Exynos chips.
Moreover, the company has been bringing itself further into direct competition with Qualcomm on 5G.
In September, Samsung announced the Exynos 980 mobile processor. That's its first SoC with an integrated 5G modem, something Qualcomm has avoided doing. Instead, Qualcomm is building chips that can integrate but are directly integrated with 5G.
The AI-powered SoC made by Samsung is manufactured using an 8nm FinFET process. It comes with an octa-core processor with two 2.2GHz Cortex-A77 cores and six 1.80GHz Cortex-A55 cores.
In addition to those specs, the Samsung-built Exynos 980 can support a camera system that sports up to 108-megapixels resolution. That's with syncing for up to five individual sensors and three of those can run at the same time.
For encoding and decoding, its multi-format codec (MFC) supports 4K UHD video at 120 frames per second (fps) and HDR10+.
All of that puts the Exynos 980 on strong performance footing compared to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865. That gives Qualcomm more reason for pause and more reason to choose one of Samsung's competitors rather than one of its own direct competitors for production.
What does Qualcomm's decision mean for Qualcomm?
Qualcomm's goal is reportedly to prevent Samsung from having access to its intellectual property. Namely, that's the technical documentation, drawings, and other IP needed to build a chip. It would need to provide Samsung with that information a year or more in advance.
If Qualcomm chooses Samsung, it opens itself up to Samsung seeing those designs. The Snapdragon 865 is by far Qualcomm's most advanced chip to date. Qualcomm is choosing to keep that information away from Samsung.
By contrast, Qualcomm hasn't designed the Snapdragon 765 and 765G to be quite as advanced as the Snapdragon 865. That's because they aren't for flagships. That leaves little room for Samsung to borrow from or be inspired by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chips. Choosing TSMC also leaves little room for the South Korean tech giant to see where Qualcomm might be headed or how far ahead it might be. So Qualcomm likely feels safe letting Samsung handle that production.
If the reports out of South Korea are accurate, the trend could continue as the battle for global chipset market share heats up.