Lowest H2’12 device cost SoCs from Spreadtrum will redefine the entry level smartphone and feature phone markets

And this is not a speculation but already a reality as the new Lenovo A288t came to market this month for ¥ 569 in retail [US$ 89] and as low as ¥ 479 in wholesale [US$ 75]. Such a breakthrough was enabled by Spreadtrum’s SC8810 SoC and Lenovo Mobile’s ability to exploit such an opportunity in only 5 months. Lenovo Mobile BTW became #2 behind Samsung on China’s smartphone market in June (just thanks to an earlier Mediatek based opportunity), aiming to become #1 in one or two years. So it is safe to say that with a number of other 1st tier vendors and even a kind of revitalised whitebox ecosystem soon joining the Spreadtrum (展讯处在) SoC opportunity, the H2’12 market in China will radically be redefined, with “earthquake-like” consequences for the global smartphone market as a whole. In this way the process indicated earlier in China becoming the lead market for mobile Internet in 2012/13 [this Experiencing the Cloud blog, Dec 1, 2011] will become even more dramatic.

SIGNIFICANT NEW UPDATE: Yes, indeed the revitalised whitebox ecosystem is doing the job, and in the most wonderful way, see $48 Mogu M0 “peoplephone”, i.e. an Android smartphone for everybody to hit the Chinese market on November 15 [Nov 9, 2012], which is the first “lead post” on my trend tracking blog because of such enormous significance.

Updates: Haier Adopts Spreadtrum’s Smartphone Platform [Spreadtrum press release, Aug 16, 2012]

Spreadtrum Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD; “Spreadtrum” or the “Company”), a leading fabless semiconductor provider in China with advanced technology in 2G, 3G and 4G wireless communications standards, today announced that Haier, one of the global leaders in home appliances, has adopted Spreadtrum’s 1GHz TD-SCDMA Android platform, the SC8810. The Haier HT-I617, a smartphone designed to address the needs of the mass-market consumer, has completed China Mobile’s certification testing, paving the way for commercial launch through China Mobile channels.

Spreadtrum’s SC8810 integrates a 1GHz Cortex A5 processor, 3D/2D Mali graphics accelerator, a 5 megapixel camera sub-system and supports resolution up to WVGA and wireless connectivity including Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS. The SC8810 delivers low power multimode TD-SCDMA/EDGE/GPRS/GSM operations with dual-mode automatic switching and supports TD-HSDPA at 2.8Mbps and TD-HSUPA at 2.2 Mbps. The SC8810 is delivered with turnkey Android and systems software.

Counterfeiters rebrand themselves in China’s smartphone market [Want China Times, Aug 5, 2012]

THL, the new face of a man who once sold counterfeit Samsung phones and decided to starting producing his own brand of smart phone.

After experiencing a major drop-off in sales, the makers of counterfeit cell phones in China, known commonly as “shanzhai” phones, are now breaking back into the market under their own brand names.

Previously reliant on co-opting the names of top leading to sell their bootleg products, the new generation of cell phone manufacturers are focusing on producing budget smartphones under their own brand names.

Stores for these new brands are proliferating in Huaqiangbei, a well-known consumer electronics market in Shenzhen. These new “shanzhai” smartphone producers mostly rely on supplies of chips from MediaTek in Taiwan.

After some initial mishaps, MediaTek belatedly rolled out its first-generation smartphone chip 6513T in the second half of 2011. The move has prompted many shanzhai phone manufacturers to switch to the production of smartphones, some with their own brands.

Shanzhai smartphone makers target mainly the lower and middle end of the market for products priced at around 1,000 yuan (US$156). Huang Jixian, a shanzhai cell phone producer in Shenzhen, opened 210 stores for his new “THL” smartphones throughout China in the first four months of this year. Huang plans to increase the number of his stores to over 300 to bolster the brand image of his products.

In addition to directly owned and franchise stores, Huang has also opened online franchise stores on the platforms Taobao and 360buy. Wang Xuekai, sales manager for THL, says that the different stores play a critical role in the company’s operations, since the shopping and user experience is essential in attracting business. Online sales channels play a supplementary role, Wang said.

Spreadtrum Communications’ CEO Discusses Q2 2012 Results – Earnings Call Transcript [Seeking Alpha, Aug 10, 2012]

Leo Li – Chairman and CEO

In the second quarter of 2012, we achieved revenue of $173.1 million, which is in line with the guidance we gave previously and 7.5% increase over the first quarter. I am very pleased to update you on the progress we have made with our smartphone products.

This quarter we achieved a strong volume ramp-up of our 1 Ghz TD-SCDMA Edge smartphone chipset, shipping more than 1 million units as expected. Customers such as Huawei, Lenovo, [Pryor], Hisense and others have completed China Mobile’s certification test, launched low-cost smartphones based on our products. Many are targeting a new [ratio] price in the range of RMB500 to RMB700 [US$ 79 – US$ 110], which is making TD-SCDMA smartphone even more affordable and attractive for mass market consumers.

We are seeing very strong demand for our smartphone products and are raising our shipment focus. We now expect to ship more than 10 million smartphone chipsets in the third quarter alone. In the high end of TD-SCDMA market, we expanded our business with the first-tier OEMs, growing shipment of our best-in-class TD-SCDMA-based modems. In our customers, our customers use these modems in very high-end smartphone designs.

Our baseband and RF transceivers are shipping in flagship handsets, that is recently launched, including Samsung’s Galaxy S3, HTC One XT and the other devices from first-tier China OEMs.

With the continuing growth in our smartphone chipsets and modem business, we have firmly established our leadership position in TD-SCDMA smartphone market. Our best-in-class modems are designed into top-of-line handsets and our smartphone chipsets are in neighboring 1 Ghz devices at a price of as we low as RMB500 [US$ 79].

Recently, China Mobile has taken steps to speed up TD-SCDMA handset sales in the second half of this year. At a recent conference, China Mobile discussed a plan or plans to increase their investment in TD-SCDMA. In addition, they also encouraged handset makers to sell their TD-SCDMA product through open market with China Mobile providing support with the quality monitoring.

With the China Mobile’s handset replacement market now approaching 100 million units per year, this shift in distribution model will make the TD-SCDMA devices even more broadly available and help speed up the 3G adoption in China.

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2012, we have some exciting product introduction on that. We will be introducing our 1.2 Ghz single-core and dual-core smartphone platforms, our new WCDMA and connectivity products. These products will increase our total addressable market in China and overseas regions and position us for continuing business expansion in 2013.

Randy Abrams – Credit Suisse
Okay. My second question is on your outlook for TD-SCDMA. I think, one, from just a market perspective, volume, maybe what you expect smartphone and feature phones, and how you expect your market share. And I think you did well on recent tenders, maybe how you expect your product positioning. [Marvel] has been talking about a new platform for early next year and with MediaTek and MStar, how you see your market churn positioning and then overall market.
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
I feel very confident that the TD overall volume for this year, I think what I said before in the last earnings call, is around 80 million to 90 million total units, both including the so-called central procurement, which you mentioned, and open market, which is the non-mentioned. I think the open market in particular next year, I can see a stronger and stronger demand for TD-SCDMA market in China.
So I certainly know for sure or I think next will be well above 100 million units for the total TD demand. So we at the moment, I think we’re about more than 55% market share in TD-SCDMA business. We hope with the technology leadership and also with the business model and then the quality of the products and everything else, we hope that we’ll maintain the leadership position in the future.
Mike Walkley – Canaccord Genuity
Okay, thanks. One question for Leo. Leo, with the MobilePeak hitting the milestone, can you just update us on your WCDMA progress and how you see the competitive landscape as you’re coming to market with that product later in the year?
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
Sure. Yeah, they’re making nice progress there. I think it’s mostly [inaudible] type of the milestones for their WCDMA. I think also combine the 40nm technology and some other 2.5G product rolls, EDGE, GPRS and GSM, I think we’re making the progress for both modem and smartphone products towards the end of the year. So I think at this moment all the development are on track, so I’m pretty happy.
Jack Lu – RBS
Yeah, hi, Leo. One question for you. Can you talk about your 2012 smartphone full-year target? Because I think last call you mentioned a figure of 15 million to 20 million. Now, given that you are shipping more than 10 million alone in Q3, what’s your thought on that number for this year?
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
This is a kind of — yeah, we usually only predict for the next quarter, which I did, right, around more than 10 million unit smartphones. If you really put me in a corner, so if I have to say anything to that question, I would like to say at least 25 million units for the whole year. So, yeah, it’s up number from 10 million to 15 million, what I said in early Q2.
Jack Lu – RBS
Okay. One last question if I may, can you talk about expectations for ASPs going to Q3 for both TD feature phones and smartphone products?
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
Yeah, feature phones, unfortunately the volume dropped sharply. I mean this is unexpected a little bit. The switching from feature phone to smartphone is so quick. It’s quicker than most people expected. But as the pricing there stabilizes, the volume drops very sharply. And at this moment actually for the ASP for smartphones, it’s there quite nicely. We — actually it’s not the pricing pressure issue, rather it’s a whole [inaudible]. There’s a huge demand there. It’s just so strong that it really surprised many of us.
Andrew Lu – BarCap Research
Thank you. Earlier you also mentioned WCDMA smartphone solution will be introduced next year. Did you say Q1 next year?
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
Actually we will try to introduce production small customers first. You know that, right? With big customers, takes longer time. So, Q1, maybe it could be the right time, and then Q2, something, yes.
Donald Lu – Goldman Sachs
Good morning. Leo, can you give us more color on how can China Mobile help the open market? By open market, I mean mobile probably is not going to subsidize, but can mobile help with distribution or marketing or anything like that?
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
Sure. Recently there are high-level executives went to Shenzhen, the headquarter [inaudible] right, several times. And then recent one is a very high level China executive went there, had meetings with — we don’t call them free market or [inaudible] anymore, we call them a small brand, right? And actually the meeting, the result is very encouraging, because down the road, you know that year over year subsidies will be reduced and reduced, not increased and increased. So the China Mobile very much encouraging the vendors and the makers of the handsets to engage with open market. Like I said, someone asked me the question, and then, some of my customers already shipping their products in open market without any subsidies. So this is encouraging.
But I think the reason it has been now, not only encouraged by China Mobile, also because the quality of the products and the price of the smartphones, more importantly, we are facing the major trend that the smartphone is replacing the features phones in big way, in such a big way in China that we very much encourage open market people to engage.
Donald Lu – Goldman Sachs
I mean, how — I man, can China Mobile really help? Because China Mobile really is the biggest carrier in China, but can — I mean, let’s say, China Unicom and China Mobile all are encouraging open market. I mean —
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
Remember, China Mobile was not very encouraging, remember. I mean, like last year, it was totally you had to go through, any product go through the central procurement program, passing quality acceptance test and with the subsidies and this and that, and then whatever type of handset has been determined selected by China Mobile. And now actually I think with the leadership change and then with the new kind of a thinking, I think it’s really helpful that China Mobile has this open market engagement. So they are encouraging this to — okay. And also they say that TD-SCDMA over WCDMA, very much over 2.75G for that matter actually is making a lot of sense because, one, it’s cheaper than WCDMA; two, you don’t need to pay the royalties to the WCDMA. I like that, obviously many folks, right? So they are cheaper price, high quality, and the networks are much improved, and the products much more varieties and more attractive, and the pricing obviously much more affordable.
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
… EDGE type of smartphone is important for emerging markets. What you said is true. However, for their shipments of other company, I think the majority unfortunately is still in China, not in emerging markets. For the emerging markets, take India and Africa for example, I think at this moment the huge majority is still the low-end feature phone, not even middle-end feature phones.
So that I agree with the statement that EDGE smartphones are very much needed for emerging market, and even Qualcomm come up with the so-called platform, that means the rest of the [inaudible]. However, the volume ramp-up may not be as high as people expected. Only in China that the smartphone demand is so strong. There are other countries, I’m talking about emerging countries, there’s a demand but not as strong as this. Still majority — even the economic situation in some of the emerging countries, they’re actually deteriorating, it’s not improving. In that regard, actually putting pressure to reduce the high-end handsets actually going towards the low end. And then the demand for smartphones is there but not as strong. And then I think it will be — need maybe a couple of years to see the stronger demand, yeah.
Hao Guo – CICC
Okay, thank you. So if I may, follow up two questions. I heard from the industry that Qualcomm going to launch very low-end 3.5G solution in Q3, maybe Q4. Maybe it’s targeting for MTK and for low-end competition. So do you heard about — something about this? And can you comment on this? …
Leo Li – Chairman and CEO
The first one, I don’t comment on other people’s the product introduction. But the thing is I heard a similar type of thing and that means this EDGE smartphone is kind of important. And then as I said, I think most of that type of things being shipped in China, not necessarily shipped in overseas markets. So I think — but also I said in my opening statement and then in my Q&A that in China I think with the TD-SCDMA, to compete with the 2.5G, 2.75G type of smartphones, at least the TD-SCDMA offers some kind of [inaudible] still offer some kind of better connectivity than 2.75G, compared with WCDMA, yes, it’s cheaper and without paying the royalty, right?

End of updates

Note: MediaTek has definitely something going against Spreadtrum in this newly opening space. See: this very online (www.veryol.com)  article of July 17, 2012:
Cottage “big change in the situation (translation by Google)
山寨”大变局 (Chinese original)
For Cheng Rainbow Mobile general manager Wang Zhongcheng, really hard over the past 12 months. As one of the hundreds of small and medium-sized mobile phone manufacturer in Shenzhen, Wang Zhongcheng these eight characters of the “dire straits, lean” to describe his current situation.
Wang Zhongcheng company an area of about seventy to eighty square meters, about 10 young people in this office, mostly for sales staff. … Sitting in the office of Wang Zhongcheng, he showed reporters the company’s newly developed intelligent machines. These new MediaTek 6513T chip, more than 800 frequency, 3.5-inch capacitive screen, Android 2.3.5 operating system, ex-factory price of 400 yuan [US$ 63]. The target consumer groups positioned second and third tier cities in the country. …

Spreadtrum strengthening cooperation with Samsung, threatening MediaTek market position [DIGITIMES, July 23, 2012]

China-based handset solution vendor Spreatrum Communications has stepped up its cooperation with Samsung Electronics and may double its shipments by the fourth quarter of 2012, threatening MediaTek’s leading market position in China, according to industry sources.

Spreadtrum, through the cooperation with Samsung, won a number of TD-SCDMA solution orders from China Mobile in the first half of 2012, while MediaTek secured only one order, the sources revealed.

Spreadtrum has expanded its cooperation with Samsung to include 2.5G/2.75G/3G solutions, and Samsung’s handset shipments to China in the fourth quarter of 2012 will nearly all adopt chipset solutions from Spreadtrum, the sources indicated.

Samsung is expected to ship 70 million handsets to China in 2012, the sources estimated.

Meanwhile, Spreadtrum’s development and trial production of quad-core and 4G solutions is also ahead of MediaTek’s by over six months, indicating Spreadtrum’s improving capability, the sources added.

Note that this Spreadtrum’s cooperation with now world #1 Samsung may have an even bigger impact on Windows Phone. According to a latest report Windows Phone shipments in June were just less than 200,000 units in China which accounting for only 1.6% share of the smartphone market there.
See this it.sohu.com article of July 24, 2012:
Acclimatized! Microsoft Windows Phone Chinese Long Way (translation by Google)
微软Windows Phone中国路漫漫 (Chinese original)

Spreadtrum Smartphone Chipset Undercuts MTK by USD 1 [Marbridge Daily, July 5, 2012]

Adopted from National Business Daily article of June 29, 2012:
Cost of smart phones “counter-attack” the chip manufacturers to bring down program costs to ¥ 300 (translation by Google)
智能手机成本“逆袭” 芯片厂商拉低方案成本至300元 (Chinese original)

Chinese baseband chipset vendor Spreadtrum (Nasdaq: SPRD) has announced that its 8810 chipset is priced at USD 7-8, approximately USD 1 less than MediaTek’s 6573 solution, lowering the price of a 3.5-inch smartphone chipset solution to RMB 450-500 [US$ 70-78]. Spreadtrum currently supplies the 8810 to several major brands, including Samsung, HTC, Lenovo (0992.HK), ZTE, Huawei, and Tianyu (K-Touch). Spreadtrum estimates that its smartphone chipset shipments will exceed 20 mln in 2012.

Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek received orders from major brands such as Huawei and ZTE (0763.HK; 000063.SZ) in early 2012. MediaTek aims to capture 50% of mainland China’s smartphone chipset market, and expects 60% of business to come from brand clients, while independent handset design firms will account for the remaining 40%.

Qualcomm senior VP Jeff Lorbeck disclosed that many handset vendors, including Lenovo, TCL, and Longcheer, have begun offering 3.5-inch HVGA smartphones using the Qualcomm Reference Design platform priced at USD 50.

MediaTek and Qualcomm have signed an agreement to offer chipsets at market prices, not below cost, according to an industry source. China’s three major domestic chipmakers produce solutions for entry-level smartphones costing under RMB 300 [US$ 50] to produce and sold at a retail price of RMB 600 [US$ 94].

Indeed a week ago came official information on SC8810-based Lenovo A288t becoming available through online channels and retail stores at 599 RMB [US$ 94] list price:

Lenovo Smartphone Based on Spreadtrum’s 1GHz TD-SCDMA Android Platform Completes China Mobile Certification Testing [Spreadtrum press release, July 19, 2012]

Spreadtrum Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD; “Spreadtrum” or the “Company”), a leading fabless semiconductor provider in China with advanced technology in 2G, 3G and 4G wireless communications standards, today announced that the Lenovo A288t, which is a Lenovo TD-SCDMA smartphone based on Spreadtrum’s 1GHz Android smartphone platform, the SC8810, has completed China Mobile’s certification testing and is expected to achieve sales of more than one million units in the third quarter.

China Mobile’s certification test is a required step and important milestone in the operator’s procurement process and is used to confirm the maturity and stability of TD-SCDMA mobile terminal products.  Lenovo’s completion of China Mobile’s certification process with its Lenovo A288tsmartphone validates Spreadtrum’s 1GHz low-cost smartphone platform as fully compliant with China Mobile’s commercial requirements.

“China Mobile’s certification testing is a key milestone for manufacturers and a prerequisite for mobile phone purchasing by its provincial offices,” said Dr. Leo Li, Spreadtrum’s president and CEO. “The certification of the Lenovo A288t demonstrates its commercial readiness by China Mobile. China Mobile will kick off the purchase of TD-SCDMA phones after completing its certification testing, and this will build the confidence of handset manufacturers in the open market to design the Spreadtrum SC8810 platform into more low-cost smartphones.”

“Lenovo is committed to promoting China’s 3G terminal development.” said Feng Xing, vice president of Lenovo. “We recently completed China Mobile’s certification testing with the Lenovo A288t, which is based on Spreadtrum’s SC8810, and expect to achieve sales of more than one million units of this model in the third quarter, underscoring the popularity of low-cost smartphone devices. This is a milestone in our strategy of vigorously promoting 3G uptake in China by bringing Chinese consumers cost-effective mobiles that are comparable to the world’s top smartphones. The Lenovo A288t is commercially available to consumers now through online channels and retail stores at 599 RMB [US$ 94].”

Spreadtrum’s SC8810 integrates a 1GHz Cortex A5 processor, 3D/2D Mali graphics accelerator, 5 megapixel camera sub-system and supports resolution up to WVGA and wireless connectivity including Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS. The SC8810 delivers low power multimode TD-SCDMA/EDGE/GPRS/GSM operations with dual-mode automatic switching and supports TD-HSDPA at 2.8Mbps and TD-HSUPA at 2.2 Mbps. The SC8810 is delivered with turnkey Android and systems software that reduces the design time and resources required to deliver new handsets to market.

imageCurrently Lenovo A288t is sold for ¥ 569 in retail [US$ 89/94] and as low as  ¥ 479 in wholesale [US$ 75]. It has quite impressive parameters:

  • Network type: Mobile TD-SCDMA, GSM
  • Designs: straight
  • Screen Size: 3.5 inches
  • Resolution: (HVGA) 320 x 480 pixels
  • Touch ways: capacitive screen (multi-touch)
  • Pixels: 3.2 million pixels
  • Operating System: Android the OS 2.3
  • Memory: 256MB RAM
  • Body[?ROM?] size: 512MB
  • Type: Lithium battery, 1500mAh
  • Weight: 105.0g
  • GPS Module: Built-in GPS support A-GPS

Such aggressive exploitation of the SC8810 opportunity is no surprise as today came the report that China market: Lenovo takes up No. 2 in smartphone ranking, says Sino [DIGITIMES, July 26, 2012]:

Lenovo outperformed Huawei, ZTE, and Coolpad to capture the second-rank title in China’s smartphone phone market in June with a 13% share, trailing after only Samsung Electronics which took up a 15-16%share, according data compiled by Sino Market Research.

The launch of low-priced Android-based smartphones and cooperation with the top-three China-based telecom carriers contributed to Lenovo’s success in the smartphone segment, according to industry sources.

Lenovo’s capability to roll out a wide range of smartphone models targeting different price segments is also credited for its prevailing smartphone business, said the sources, adding that Lenovo plans to launch as many as 40 models of its Lephone lineup in 2012.

Following the steps of Lenovo, Acer has recently teamed up with China Mobile and China Unicom to promote its smartphones in China.

Note that Lenovo was probably the most successful vendor to adopt Mediatek’s MT6575 SoC that was leading the H1’12 smartphone market, see the Lenovo A60 related information in Boosting the MediaTek MT6575 success story with the MT6577 announcement [this Experiencing the Cloud blog, June 27, 2012] such as “China Unicom’s top selling handset in the sub-RMB 1000 [sub-US$ 157] smartphone category”. Today’s it.sohu.com article (of July 26, 2012) is providing further interesting details on that:
Lenovo mobile phone whether a flash in the pan? Liu [Jun] said that sustainable success (translation by Google)
联想手机第二是否昙花一现?刘军称可持续成功 (Chinese original)

In 2010, the company launched the “Music Fund”, support for native application development business growth. “Music Fund” first phase of investment of 100 million yuan, managed by Legend Holdings, the company’s professional investment team operations. “Music Fund”, as the angel investors will focus on the development of start-up and early business support in the mobile Internet applications and services.
Liu [Jun, senior vice president of Lenovo Group, MIDH (Lenovo Mobile Internet and Digital Home Business Group) president] said in the dialogue with the Sohu IT, app store has more than 70,000 applications, nearly ten million monthly downloads, the latest data is Lenovo music application store has been downloaded more than 100 million times. Referring to the strategy to build a music store, Liu stressed, Lenovo insisted Android+ strategy on top of the native system in Android, plus Lenovo’s own software.
Liu predicted that Lenovo Mobile [climb up to the market] will be completed within a year or two beyond, to become the leader of the domestic market share. “Speed ​​has become the core competitiveness of Lenovo Mobile, one of R & D speed. First, the speed of the supply chain.” Said Liu Jun, “smart phones than traditional mobile phones more like PCs, therefore, the product delivery time became particularly important, who first to enter the market who will have a head start. “
… Introduced, according to Liu Jun, Lenovo’s first best-selling models A60 color using MTK solution, from design to development to market in just five months, in accordance with the normal process, the same configuration of intelligent models often require 9-12 months of preparation time, Lenovo ahead of competitors in three or four months, in order to grab the opportunity, and accounted for the thousand Yuan machine market.
… Liu said Lenovo Mobile is already considering international expansion, and has taken a number of footsteps, such as Lenovo launched a smart phone in the Russian market. Accordance with the planning of the Lenovo Group, Lenovo will take the first emerging markets, after mature market strategy, the focus of this year, Russia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
At the end of the interview, Liu stressed that our primary task is to do the domestic market into the international market, Lenovo does not rule out in the interview a mergers and acquisitions strategy.
Previously, Lenovo executives repeatedly claimed that M & A has become the core competitiveness of the Lenovo Group. Look at the history of mergers and acquisitions from Lenovo, Lenovo has successfully completed and the integration of the United States IBM, NEC of Japan and Germany, Medion. Of course, the above integration is built around the PC expanded.

In the First Quarter 2012 Results Presentation[May 4, 2012] from Spreadtrum we could find the following slide:

image

and in the Q1 2012 Spreadtrum Communications, Inc Earnings Conference Call Transcript [May 4, 2012] (available via) the following remarks by Dr Leo Li Spreadtrum Communications, Inc – Chairman and CEO: [in]

I just came back from meeting yesterday from China Mobile. … Actually I was told by the Chairman of China Mobile that more than 60 million [will be] centrally procured — actually that’s a minimum number. The actual number will be much higher. So I am very confident my take from China Mobile for recent meetings, executives, yes they are expanded the activities into TD-SCDMA and then they will resume the phase five or phase six type of development, further invested into infrastructure of TD-SCDMA, they will ramp up a much, much higher volume.

Actually next year they — I was told by both China Mobile and other experts in the industry that there will be more than 100 million units expected for TD-SCDMA. This year 80 million to 90 million. So this volume is — I think it’s real and I am very confident that the China Mobile — I was told by China Mobile people, by the way. It’s not that I just say that. It is — TD — it’s here to stay and it will grow very fast.

I think for open channel [i.e. whitebox vendors] will be 20 million-ish or 30 million-ish, will be actually more than 50% of smartphones and for centrally procured — according to China Mobile — I mean, today there is 50-50. So smartphones actually is at or more than 50% of the total TD shipment.

The reason open market [i.e. whitebox vendors] wants TD-SCDMA, you will understand why they want EDGE but TD is very interesting because remember China Mobile has more than 600 million subscribers and then the TD market actually — if you want to use the smartphones obviously you want to have some kind of connectivity, Internet communication and then you have only two choices.

One is W, the other is TD and then the W[CDMA] is more expensive, TD is cheaper. So that’s why — and also TD has this clear advantage over W[CDMA], is that you do not need to change the SIM card. You only change your hand set. You keep your same 2.5G SIM card and then purchase a TD smartphone or TD feature phone. You can enjoy, utilize TD, the wideband or faster data service.

To some extent, even I was told that in the Shenzhen market, maybe it’s kind of like revitalized by the TD-SCDMA or EDGE smartphone type of product, maybe help them to regain so-called strength to engage with the domestic market. Remember in the second half of last year it very rapidly went down — collapsing of (inaudible) market, right. I think I we’ve been asked by many of our Shenzhen customers, asking for both TD products and EDGE smartphone products.

I think [in] the second half the ramp up will be very robust. … both through the carriers … and open channels in the second half of the year, in particular third or fourth quarter, maybe more towards fourth quarter for the open market because people are preparing for the design right now.

… the 8810 and the 6820, those are our so–called single core. I think by the end of Q3 or early Q4 we will offer the dual core 1.2 GHz type of product and then by the end of this year or early next year we will offer quad core, again 1.5 GHz products both of which will be based on 40–nanometers product.

Also it was mentioned in the previous, Q4 2011 Spreadtrum Communications, Inc Earnings Conference Call Transcript [Feb 29, 2012] (available via) that:

… from what we’ve seen, that the open market segment starts growing in volumes or demand is obviously there. I’ll give you examples. There was the WCDMA type of smartphones, right, in China. However, when we go into detail for the WCDMA users, smartphone users, we’ve found that 70% of them are actually China Mobile users, meaning they actually cannot even use the 3G features, WCDMA features for those smartphones.

So obviously there is a natural demand for TD-SCDMA type of low-end smartphones, because for the same China Mobile users they can enable the 3G high-speed data type of applications. So both for feature phones and for smartphones, we’ve seen — from our customer we’ve seen a demand for TD-SCDMA type of products.

we launched the — I think [in] Q4 of the — excuse me, 600 megahertz type of Android [see: World’s lowest cost, US$40-50 Android smartphones — sub-$100 retail — are enabled by Spreadtrum [in this Experiencing the Cloud blog, Dec 11, 2011 – Feb 27, 2012]]. One thing we didn’t anticipate was the market really don’t — they want the higher frequency one. I think we’ve seen an unusually fast market shift. I can tell you this. November, even October/November last year, even October, right, 600 megahertz type of Android smartphone was selling like hotcake. However, by November and then early December, all of a sudden the market demand for 1 gigahertz type of thing, because you want to have some kind of user experience with smartphones.

TD smartphones hasve become very attractive to general consumers and users of the TD type of — the TD market. For our TD-SCDMA 1 gigahertz Android, either Android 2.3 or later 4.0 type of things, ours are highly — maybe the highest level of integration. And like I said, maybe we are lowest cost structure in this segment.

That is Spreadtrum was able readjust its December 2011 strategy for the quickly changed market demand as is clearly visible from the following press releases as well:

Spreadtrum Introduces 1GHz Low-Cost Smartphone Platform For TD-SCDMA & EDGE/WiFi[Spreadtrum press release, Jan 4, 2012]

Spreadtrum Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD; “Spreadtrum” or the “Company”), a leading fabless semiconductor provider in China with advanced technology in 2G and 3G wireless communications standards, today introduced a 1GHz Android smartphone platform for TD-SCDMA (SC8810) and EDGE/WiFi (SC6820) and announced that both products are now samplingwith customers. With these two new solutions, Spreadtrum is redefining the performance standard for low-cost smartphones, enabling OEMs to deliver 1GHz performance at US$100 retail prices.

“Our 1GHz Android platform sets a new bar for low-cost smartphone performance,” said Dr. Leo Li, Spreadtrum’s president and CEO.  “The graphics and web browsing performance of the SC8810 and SC6820 compares favorably to one of the most popular smartphone models globally, delivering a high performance applications and gaming experience for consumers. This type of experience has previously been available only in mid- to high-end handset models and can now be delivered by OEMs in US$100 smartphone models.  This will reshape the definition of and consumer expectations for a low-cost handset.”

Spreadtrum’s 1GHz platform is the most highly integrated, lowest power smartphone platform for the TD-SCDMA market. The solution delivers the lowest chip count with a multimode single-chip RF transceiver supporting TD-SCDMA, EDGE, GPRS and GSM and integrates power management.  The platform’s Cortex A5 processor architecture delivers more than 40% lower power consumption compared to ARM11-based products and more than 70% lower power consumption than Cortex A9 products, delivering differentiated standby and talk time performance relative to other smartphone models.

Designed with 40nm CMOS silicon technology, the SC8810 and SC6820 baseband platforms are powered by a Cortex A5 1GHz processor and incorporate an advanced multimedia subsystem which includes a Mali GPU with 3D/2D graphics acceleration and supports high definition video playback, a 5 megapixel camera, a WVGA [800×480] touch panel and connectivity features including Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS. The SC8810 supports TD-SCDMA with HSDPA at 2.8Mbps, HSUPA at 2.2Mbps as well as quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE with dual-mode auto handover, while the SC6820 supports quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM.  Both products combine silicon hardware with turnkey Android software that reduce both the design time and design resources required to deliver new handsets to market.

Spreadtrum’s expansion of its smartphone platform coincides with rapidly increasing demand in China for smartphone products.  Industry analysts expect the smartphone market in China to exceed 100 million units in 2012, leading global demand for smartphone products.

Spreadtrum Announces Commercial Availability of its 1GHz TD-SCDMA and EDGE Android 2.3/4.0 Platforms [Spreadtrum press release, April 26, 2012]

More than 200 Smartphone Design Wins Lay Foundation for Second Quarter Volume Shipment

SHANGHAI, April 26, 2012 — Spreadtrum Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD; “Spreadtrum” or the “Company”), a leading fabless semiconductor provider in China with advanced technology in 2G, 3G and 4G wireless communications standards, today announced the commercial availability of the SC8810, Spreadtrum’s 1GHz TD-SCDMA Android platform, and the SC6820, Spreadtrum’s 1GHz EDGE/Wifi Android platform. Both the SC8810 and the SC6820 support Android 2.3 and Android 4.0 designs.

“We have now secured more than 200 design wins for our 1GHz TD-SCDMA and EDGE/WiFi Android platforms, and we are expecting to see volume shipments of more than one million units during the second quarter,” said Dr. Leo Li, president and CEO of Spreadtrum Communications. “With these designs, our customers are targeting a $50-100 retailsegment, unsubsidized.”

The SC8810 and SC6820 have been adopted by China and global OEMs on large scale to address the growing demand for low-cost smartphones in China and emerging markets. Both products support both Android 2.3 and Android 4.0 platforms, deliver best-in-class power consumption and demonstrate graphics/web performance on par with globally popular premium smartphone models, while supporting sub-$100 unsubsidized retail price points. The solutions are designed into handsets that are expected to launch commercially starting in May.

The company was also quick to rearrange its 2.5 offering for the feature phone market as there were quick changes as well:

Spreadtrum launches industry’s first 40nm 2.5G baseband [April 26, 2012]

SHANGHAI, CHINA: Spreadtrum Communications Inc. announced commercial availability of the SC6530, the industry’s first 2.5G baseband designed in 40nm CMOS silicon.

“The SC6530 is an industry first for the 2.5G market,” said Dr. Leo Li, president and CEO of Spreadtrum. “By leveraging the most advanced process node in the 2.5G segment, we are able to achieve higher performance at lower cost relative to competitive alternatives.”

The SC6530, in addition to its 40nm design, is the first 2.5G product from Spreadtrum to integrate its leading-edge baseband and RF transceiver technology into a single-chip, simplifying design and reducing overall solution footprint. The chip incorporates an ARM9 processor for high performance on a low-cost platform, and supports quad-band GSM/GPRS, triple-SIM function, HVGA display, H.264 decode and integrates an audio PA. The SC6530 couples its advances in performance, cost and integration with Spreadtrum’s mature, proven turnkey software.

The SC6530 is commercially available now. Spreadtrum expects to achieve volume shipments in May.

Spreadtrum’s three leading SoCs for the second half of 2012 products have the following parameters:

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Source: the following Spreadtrum  product pages
SC8810 TD-HSPA/TD-SCDMA/EDGE/GPRS/GSM 1GHz Low-Cost Smartphone Platform
SC6820 EDGE/GPRS/GSM 1GHz Low-Cost Smartphone Platform
SC6530 GSM/GPRS Single-Chip Baseband/RF Transceiver for Multimedia Feature Phones
Notes:
1. WiFi and location technologies for SC8810 and SC6820 are according to Spreadtrum selects CSR connectivity and Location for Smartphone reference designs [CSR press release, Feb 27, 2012]. This is particularly relevant for SC6820-based EDGE/WiFi smartphones.
2. The ARM Cortex-A5 core has 1.57 DMIPS/MHz performance, while the ARM9EJ-S core 1.1 DMIPS/MHz performance. The former can be used in multicore SoCs as well with upto 4 Cortex-A5 cores (which Spreadtrum will exploit in its upcoming SoCs as well).
3. Dual-SIM Dual Standby solution became available as an option on Spreadtrum’s SC88xx series of TD-SCDMA basebands as well as future products, beginning in 4Q11. See: Spreadtrum Introduces First TD-Dual-SIM Dual-Standby Solution for TD-SCDMA [Spreadtrum press release, Oct 11, 2011]

Just this week came also the announcement of the – probably – highest end smartphone built on SC8810: Spreadtrum Powers Dual-SIM Dual-active TD-SCDMA Smartphone from Huawei [Spreadtrum press release, July 23, 2012]

Huawei T8808D completes China Mobile certification testing

Spreadtrum Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD; “Spreadtrum” or the “Company”), a leading fabless semiconductor provider in China with advanced technology in 2G, 3G and 4G wireless communications standards, today announced that Spreadtrum’s SC8810 1GHz TD-SCDMA smartphone platform is powering the Huawei T8808D, a dual-SIM dual-active smartphone for China Mobile consumers.

Huawei’s dual-SIM dual-activefeature provides consumers with maximum flexibility in how they manage operator service fees. The dual-SIM function allows consumers to choose the SIM that offers the lowest rate or the best network coverage given their location to make or receive calls, send text messages, or use data. Dual-active capability allows both SIMs to be used at the same time, enabling users to switch back and forth between two calls and use voice and data functions simultaneously.

Mr. Wang Weijun, Huawei Device’s president of its Chinese division, said, “T8808D, as Huawei’s first dual-SIM dual-active mobile phone, delivers experience innovation to China’s 3G TD-SCDMA market. In collaboration with Spreadtrum, Huawei will continue to promote popularization and development of smartphones to meet the diverse needs of Chinese consumers with a variety of high quality terminal products.”

“Spreadtrum is driving technology innovation with 2.5G/3G single-chip dual-card dual-standby technology,” said Dr. Leo Li, Spreadtrum’s president and CEO. “In cooperation with Huawei, we have enabled the first TD-SCDMA device based on Spreadtrum’s SC8810 smartphone platform with dual-SIM dual-active capability. This feature will enable consumers to select attractive 3G services while maintaining their original operator service packages. We believe that this flexibility provided to the consumer will help further promote the rapid development of China’s TD-SCDMA market.”

Note that Spreadtrum’s early December 2011 flagship SoCs were clearly inferior to its current flagships:

image

image

Additional source: the following Spreadtrum product pages
SC8805G TD-HSPA/TD-SCDMA/EDGE/GPRS/GSM 600MHz Entry-Level Smartphone Platform
SC6810 EDGE/GPRS/GSM 600MHz Entry-Level Smartphone Platform

Spreadtrum is also investigating alternative software platforms as shown by:

Spreadtrum Low-Cost Smartphone with HTML5 Operating System Demonstrated at Mobile Asia Congress 2012 [Spreadtrum press release, July 16, 2012]

Mozilla showcases Spreadtrum smartphone running Firefox OS, highlighting potential of HTML5 on low-cost smartphones

Spreadtrum Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD; “Spreadtrum” or the “Company”), a leading fabless semiconductor provider in China with advanced technology in 2G, 3G and 4G wireless communications standards, today announced that Spreadtrum’s SC8810 smartphone platform was selected by Mozilla to showcase its HTML5 operating system, Firefox OS, running on low-cost smartphone devices. Mozilla demonstrated the handset, based on Spreadtrum’s 1GHz SC8810 smartphone chip and running Mozilla’s Firefox OS, at its booth during Mobile Asia Congress 2012 held last month in Shanghai, China.

Firefox OS for mobile devices is built on Mozilla’s “Boot to Gecko project” which allows HTML5 applications to access the underlying capabilities of a phone, previously only available to native applications. “Firefox OS is another major step at Mozilla to bring its core values — openness, innovation and opportunity on the web — to users and developers on smartphone platforms,” said Dr. Li Gong, CEO of Mozilla Online Ltd and Mozilla Taiwan. “Our collaboration with Spreadtrum will help enable the power of this truly-open operating system to reach the billions of consumers in emerging markets who will be coming online as first-time smartphone users as well as existing smartphone users who are looking for greater value at lower cost.”

“We have been closely tracking the progress of the “Boot to Gecko project” since its inception and are very excited about Firefox OS as a concrete realization,” said Mr. Yi Kang, vice president of marketing at Spreadtrum Communications. “This type of solution has generated a lot of interest from operators, as the open-source HTML5 platform can provide them with complete control over the handset experience. We expect that the appeal of this platform to our customers will grow as the HTML5 application ecosystem expands.”

This is leading to speculations like: The Feature phone rises (again?) [EE Times, July 24, 2012]

Is it plausible? You bet. I already see signs that make such plots believable.

First is the emergence of Firefox OS. While the jury’s still out on yet another new mobile OS, this HTML5-based mobile operating system may have enough power to stir the debate.

$40 smartphone
Second, there is mounting market pressure (from handset vendors and operators alike) for low, low-cost smartphonesIn an interview with EE Times in early June, Spreadtrum’s CEO Leo Li was on the record by saying that “our customers are ready to roll out $40 ‘real’ smartphones this year.”Every chip company and handset vendor is in the market for a solution that makes all levels of smartphones possible at low cost.

Third, operators are hatching a plot to retain full control of the billing relationship with subscribers.  “Currently, operator billing is available for Android for only a handful of operators, all in developed countries,” according to Daniel Gleeson, an analyst on Mobile at IHS Screen Digest. “Otherwise payments for apps, games etc. go through credit card companies. Obviously operators would prefer that this goes through them as they would get a small slice of that pie as well.”

Fourth, as legal wrangling escalates on Apple iOS vs. Google’s Android IP front, handset vendors are surreptitiously looking for an alternative system – possibly something available for free.

Fifth, let’s not forget about a huge global market — beyond the United States and Europe — that hasn’t embraced smartphones yet. This creates big openings for developers of new technologies and new players on the mobile market.

Above all, I’m convinced that feature phones (OK, “entry-level smartphones”) are not going away, largely because the definition of smartphones vs. feature phones, in my opinion, is fundamentally phony. At best, it’s based on a self-serving marketing pitch by smartphone proponents.

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About Nacsa Sándor

Lazure Kft. • infokommunikációs felhő szakértés • high-tech marketing • elérhetőség: snacsa@live.com Okleveles villamos és automatizálási mérnök (1971) Munkahelyek: Microsoft, EMC, Compaq és Digital veterán. Korábban magyar cégek (GDS Szoftver, Computrend, SzáMOK, OLAJTERV). Jelenleg Lazure Kft. Amire szakmailag büszke vagyok (időrendben visszafelé): – Microsoft .NET 1.0 … .NET 3.5 és Visual Studio Team System bevezetések Magyarországon (2000 — 2008) – Digital Alpha technológia vezető adatközponti és vállalati szerver platformmá tétele (másokkal együttes csapat tagjaként) Magyarországon (1993 — 1998) – Koncepcionális modellezés (ma használatos elnevezéssel: domain-driven design) az objektum-orientált programozással kombinált módon (1985 — 1993) – Poszt-graduális képzés a miniszámítógépes szoftverfejlesztés, konkurrens (párhuzamos) programozás és más témákban (1973 — 1984) Az utóbbi időben általam művelt területek: ld. lazure2.wordpress.com (Experiencing the Cloud) – Predictive strategies based on the cyclical nature of the ICT development (also based on my previous findings during the period of 1978 — 1990) – User Experience Design for the Cloud – Marketing Communications based on the Cloud
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12 Responses to Lowest H2’12 device cost SoCs from Spreadtrum will redefine the entry level smartphone and feature phone markets

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  2. Pingback: The low priced, Android based smartphones of China will change the global market | Experiencing the Cloud

  3. Pingback: Qualcomm decided to compete with the existing Cortex-A5/Krait-based offerings till the end of 2012 | Experiencing the Cloud

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  6. hyno111 says:

    Just here to notify you that SC6820-based “smartphone” will hit the Chinese market with a price as low as ¥299 next week. Link:http://www.moguphone.com/indexM0.html ,note that M2 phone based on MTK6577 is also very cheap.

    • Thanks very much for the information … It was so important for me in the end that I was “internally forced” to put together my first lead post around it:
      $48 Mogu M0 “peoplephone”, i.e. an Android smartphone for everybody to hit the Chinese market on November 15 [Nov 9, 2012]

      Please forward any new significant information of such kind if you meet them.
      Best regards
      Sándor

  7. Pingback: $48 Mogu M0 “peoplephone”, i.e. an Android smartphone for everybody to hit the Chinese market on November 15 | Experiencing the Cloud

  8. Pingback: Boosting both the commodity and premium brand markets in 2013 with much more smartphones and tablets while the Windows notebook shipments will shrink by 2% | Experiencing the Cloud

  9. Pingback: China: going either for good quality commodities or the premium brands only | Experiencing the Cloud

  10. Pingback: Spreadtrum is to be acquired by a Chinese high-tech investment enterprise owned by the state and also belonging to the leading Tsinghua University with microelectronics research interests | Experiencing the Cloud

  11. Pingback: New Asha platform and ecosystem to deliver a breakthrough category of affordable smartphone from Nokia | Experiencing the Cloud

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