Update: Nvidia Tegra 3 under strong pressure from S4 Pro, say Taiwan makers [DIGITIMES, Dec 7, 2012]
Snapdragon S4 Pro series processors developed by Qualcomm have brought increasing competitive pressure on Nvidia’s Tegra 3 because of its superior overall performance-cost ratio, according to Taiwan-based handset supply chain makers.
Although Nvidia successfully landed orders for Google’s Nexus 7 and Microsoft’s Surface RT in 2012, with Microsoft reportedly planning to adopt Qualcomm’s platform for its next-generation Surface RT, while Tegra-based smartphones have only had average sales performance, Nvidia may find it difficult to continue achieving strong growth in 2013 like in 2012.
In 2012, Nvidia received Tegra orders for smartphones including the HTC One X, LG Electronics Optimus 4X H, ZTE Era, K-Touch Treasure V8 and Fujitsu’s devices.
Qualcomm is expected to start fierce competition against MediaTek and China-based handset chipmakers in China’s mid-range to entry-level smartphone market in the first quarter of 2013, challenging Nvidia’s plans of releasing a solution for CNY1,000 smartphones (US$160), while Qualcomm’s aggressiveness over striving orders from tablet players with its reference design, which is set to release in the first half of 2013, also places strong pressure on Nvidia, the sources noted.
With the new Snapdragon S4 class additions announced three days ago we can make the conclusion that:
– Snapdragon Cortex-A5 based S4 Play smartphones will get quadcore capability only in the first quarter of 2013, so the current S1 and further dual core S4 Play smartphones are to compete till the end of the year.
– Snapdragon Krait-based S4 Plus smartphones will have mid-range LTE (in so called World Mode form) “high-volume“ versions only in the first quarter of 2013, so the current S4 Plus smartphones and similar upcoming ones are to compete till the end of the year.
– No decision was taken for the Cortex-A5 based S4 Play TD-SCDMA smartphone market thus letting Spreadtrum and its competitors to capture the corresponding China Mobile entry market even more.
What does it mean?
For the last, Spreadtrum et al observation it means that Qualcomm cannot do anything yet but stand still as according to my Lowest H2’12 device cost SoCs from Spreadtrum will redefine the entry level smartphone and feature phone markets [July 26 – Aug 16, 2012] post (here on this blog) the entry level TD-SCDMA smartphone market is moving from sub $150 to sub $100 in the H2 2012.
For the other two observations we should first understand what has been delivered so far with Cortex-A5 and Krait based SoCs by the smartphone vendors.
The current Cortex-A5 based Snapdragon S1 UMTS and Krait based S4 Plus UMTS and World Mode SoCs from Qualcomm were adopted by global brands so far as follows:
Source: smartphones in PDAdb.net counted for corresponding SoCs as of Sept 28, 2012
Smartphones based on the new Cortex-A5 SoCs detailed above were introduced
as shown on the chart below:
while the introduction of the new Krait-based smartphones is shown on the above chart
and it was for the UMTS & World mode S4 class Plus tier SoCs detailed below as follows
(i.e. the CDMA/UMTS S4 class Plus tier SoCs were not reflected in the above chart):
So there were no Adreno 305 based S4 class Plus tier smartphones introduced to the market yet except a single one from HTC for November timeframe, actually with Windows Phone 8. This single fact means, however, that in October and November more such smartphones could be introduced as the HTC case shows the Adreno 305 related SoCs availability for Q4 2012. So powerful by today’s market standards yet sold at mass market prices MSM8x27 based Windows Phone 8 and Android smartphones could be available on the market from November at the latest.
Similarly we can expect mid-tier WP8 and Android smartphones based on MSM8x30 SoCs to become available in October or November at prices which are between the latest premium smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S III or HTC One XL, and the new mass market yet “powerful” ones introduced at the same time. As you could see via the number of new premium models introduced so far (not less than 43 if you will add up the numbers attached to each type of new premium SoCs in the table above), the new premium category is well established already both in price and functionality.
Now the global brands could safely establish the new “mid-range” and “mass-market yet powerful” segments of the smartphone market with Qualcomm capable of delivering the new Krait and UMTS—CDMA/UMTS—World Mode technologies in greater volumes than before. With the decision of postponing the availability of the new higher end LTE (World Mode) mid-range category to the Q1 2013 Qualcomm and its global brand partners are in fact letting the market to sort out in November-December the acceptable pricing below whatever MSM8930 could bring in addition to that in Q1 2013.
Somewhat more interesting and remarkable is the case of entry level smartphones which is covered in Qualcomm’s new segmentation strategy by the S1 class Play tier (see the table above). With the decision of leaving the active formation of the new entry-level segment to competitors like MediaTek and Spreadtrum till the end of the year Qualcomm shows not only the company’s unpreparedness to compete fully in TD-SCDMA market (as was already indicated in the beginning of this post), but also a more general unpreparedness to compete with a broader China based phenomenon currently most visible via MediaTek as it was shown in my earlier:
Core post: Boosting the MediaTek MT6575 success story with the MT6577 announcement – UPDATED with MT6588/83 coming
early 2013 in Q42012 and 8-core MT6599 in 2013 [June 27, July 27, Sept 11-13, Sept 26, 2012]. Quoting from that:
… MediaTek 28 nanometer quad-core A7 smartphone chip MTK6588 launch time is expected to advance to the fourth quarter of this year from the first quarter of next year! Because the price is very competitive, only 18 to 20 dollars, not only quadcore smartphone prices in mainland China will immediately fell to less than 150 dollars following that, the company will also have the opportunity to break into [the market of ] first-tier [i.e. global brand] manufacturers such as Samsung. …
Mediatek’s biggest “backer” [in terms of stock market performance] is expected to be the launch of MT6588 (quad-core A7 [with] TD-SCDMA/WCDMA) and MT6599 (8 core of the ARM [with] LTE/TD-SCDMA/WCDMA) smartphone chips in 4th quarter [of this year] and in the next year, respectively.
… we will see in the near future more dual-core 1.7Ghz Krait-based MSM8960A [on one hand], and MSM8974 [on the other], which is same but with quad-core, rather than next to the launch of 8225Q. …
… the fastest possible production of MediaTek quad-core mobile processor chip MTK6588 will start in October this year a small amount, quantity should not be a lot, may be available only to large client proofing purposes. Rumored MediaTek MTK6588 manufacturing cost is even less than dual-core MTK6577. …
MT6588 has a 4-core CPU [Cortex-A7 (!), see on the second slide below] clocked at 1GHz [1.XGHz rather, see the included slides below], supports dual-channel at maximum 1066Mbps, has an integrated multimode modem for WCDMA [+ it is delivering HSPA+ WCDMA performance (!) vs just HSPA with MT6577/75, see the first slide below] and TD (!), that is it can support both Unicom [latest upgrade to HSPA+ service, see the news in the original post materials much below] and China Mobile 3G network, supports an up to 13 MP camera and 1080P video playback. It finally has a GPU upgrade with SGX544, doubles the resolution to 1280×800 HD level, and has 32KB L1 cache and 1MB L2 secondary cache.
Along the MT6588 there is a 28nm dual-core version, MT6583 on the MediaTek 2012 product roadmap. From the chipset parameters it is evident that MT6583 is a scaled down version of MT6588. It has 2 cores less, the camera support is 8MP, the video decoder is of 720P level, and the resolution is down to 854×480.
It is understood that MT6588 and MT6583 will be in production in the first quarter of 2013, early next year the fastest.
Qualcomm’s problems are already immense as follows from another core post of mine stating not less than The low priced, Android based smartphones of China will change the global market [Sept 10-17, 2012], from I will just include this quote:
The best smartphone based on the MediaTek MT6577 both technically and in terms of price is the MT6577-based JiaYu G3 with IPS Gorilla glass 2 sreen of 4.5” etc. for $154 (factory direct) in China and $183 [Sept 13, 2012], which is also the best example of the low priced, Android based smartphones of China will change the global market.
This SoC competitor is also “deadly serious” as MediaTek plans for quad-core chips in budget smartphones by early 2013 [Engadget from China Times (translated) sources, Sept 26, 2012].
Considering also the fact that Spreadtrum’s TD-SCDMA effort will meantime drive the entry level TD-SCDMA smartphone market from sub $150 to sub $100 level in the H2 2012 Qualcomm has to completely redefine its original plans for the upcoming S1 class Play tier by Q1 2013. Especially because its crucial global brand partners are embracing the new Chinese phenomenon as evidenced by the quite new Huawei Ascend G306T (Huawei T8808D) [Sept 14, 2012] example currently sold in China for $183 (Yuan 1,148). Note that here is IPS screen etc. so this is higher than the very entry level.
Note as well that Qualcomm is heavily restricted by the shortage of 28nm foundry capacity which will be lifted only by the end of the year as described in my earlier:
Core post: Qualcomm’s critical reliance on supply constrained 28nm foundry capacity [July 27, 2012]
So for Q1 2013 the company will have plenty of room for effective actions in the competitive space quite unlike this time. It will be interesting to see what happens next!
Related announcements and videos by Qualcomm:
Before the new announcement Qualcomm issued the following “image” video:
How Snapdragon processors stack up against the competition [QUALCOMMVlog YouTube channel, Sept 20, 2012]
Qualcomm Announces New Snapdragon S4 Play MSM8x25Q Processors with Quad-Core CPUs and Reference Design Counterpart for High-Volume Smartphones [Qualcomm press release, Sept 27, 2012]
— Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8x30 Platform to Support LTE -TDD/TD-SCDMA and All Three China Operators
BEIJING – September 27, 2012 – Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced the addition of two new Snapdragon™ S4 mobile processors: the MSM8225Q and MSM8625Q. Both are members of the Snapdragon S4 Play processor tier, optimized specifically for a broad range of smartphone users seeking faster applications and better user experiences. Snapdragon S4 Play processors will now offer OEMs both dual-core and quad-core CPUs and performance for entry-level smartphones, with the more advanced version featuring higher bus bandwidth, larger screen resolution support, HD video and enhanced user experiences. Both processors will be ready for customer sampling by end of 2012 and are expected to be shipping in commercial devices in the first quarter of 2013.
The MSM8225Q and MSM8625Q processors incorporate quad-core CPUs and are the upgraded software compatible variants of the highly successful Snapdragon S4 Play MSM8225 and MSM8625 processors, which both feature dual-core CPUs and dual SIM support. The quad-core variants will support LPDDR2 memory, increasing the bus bandwidth for improved features such as 720p display and 720p video encode and decode. Snapdragon S4 Play MSM8625Q features Qualcomm’s integrated multimode UMTS/CDMA modem, and the MSM8225Q has an integrated UMTS modem. Both processors enable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and FM connectivity using the Qualcomm Atheros AR6005 and WCN2243 chips.
In addition, Qualcomm also announced a single platform, the Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8930, that supports all China operators with UMTS, CDMA and TD-SCDMA. Furthermore, this single platform will support LTE -TDD and TD-SCDMA, targeting mid-tier smartphones for use in China. Announced in February 2011, this processor features dual-core CPUs and as the world’s first single-chip solution with an integrated LTE modem, it is designed to take LTE to high-volume smartphones. Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8930 with LTE-TDD and TD-SCDMA support will be ready for customer sampling by the end of 2012 and is expected to be shipping in commercial devices by the first quarter of 2013.
Qualcomm will also be releasing Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) versions of all three processors. The QRD program includes comprehensive handset development platforms and an ecosystem program providing access to third-party providers of tested and verified hardware and software components so customers can rapidly deliver differentiated smartphones to budget conscious consumers. The Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM connectivity technologies have been pre-validated and tested with the QRD platform to provide reduced time-to-market. There have been more than 50 public QRD-based product launches to date in collaboration with more than 40 OEMs, and there are 100 designs in progress, including QRD-based smartphones enabled by these new Snapdragon S4 Play and Plus processors, which are also expected to be available by the first quarter of 2013.
“Our broad portfolio of Snapdragon S4 mobile processors delivers the optimal balance of features and performance for the high-volume smartphone segment,” said Cristiano Amon, senior vice president and co-president of mobile and computing products. “By offering both dual-core and quad-core CPU versions of the Snapdragon S4 Play processor, we are providing our OEM and operating partners a competitive and differentiated platform.”
The new Snapdragon S4 Play and Plus processors are designed specifically for high-volume smartphones, and they provide device manufacturers the ability to migrate their existing Snapdragon S1-based designs to S4 dual- and quad-core CPU-based designs. This capability is particularly useful for device manufacturers looking to efficiently expand their smartphone product lines with more advanced 3G/LTE smartphone products.
This announcement coincided with a new Graphics Benchmarking [QUALCOMMVlog YouTube channel, Sept 26, 2012] published for Qualcomm’s highest Adreno 320 GPU which is also in the MSM8960 SoC of the Pro tier of the S4 class for which no smartphones were introduced yet (probably in Q1 2013 we will see them):
Along with the first “image” video the company also issued another “giving assurance” type video: Vellamo™ Mobile Benchmark Suite: Setting new standards for system-level mobile benchmarking [QUALCOMMVlog YouTube channel, Sept 20, 2012]
Here is worth to remind you about my last year’s post that Qualcomm is very close to getting the HTML5 web apps performance and feature set to rival that of native OS apps [Oct 11, 2011]. Reading that one will understand this whole Velamo effort from both technical and marketing point of view.
Qualcomm Launches Tiers for Snapdragon S4 platform [Qualcomm’s OnQ blog, June 6, 2012]
Today, Qualcomm launched distinct tiers for its Snapdragon processor platform, starting with the S4 series. The Snapdragon S4 portfolio of processors now includes four distinct tiers – Prime, Pro, Plus and Play—that will better explain the capabilities of the many chipsets within the S4 class, as well future Snapdragon processors.
You probably became acquainted with the Snapdragon processor brand through smartphones and tablets, but the road ahead for these powerful processors will scale beyond such devices. With the launch of the highly-capable Snapdragon S4, our processors are now destined to appear in new platforms like Windows 8 PCs, SmartTVs and set top boxes. The number of device form factors that can potentially benefit from Snapdragon processors’ balance of power and battery efficiency is endless. Our new system of tiers should make it easier for Qualcomm’s customers and consumers to identify the right processor and its features.
Below is a description of each tier:
Snapdragon S4 Prime designed to bring high performance applications, web browsing and connectivity to TVs and set top boxes. Processors in the S4 Prime tier include: MPQ8064.
Snapdragon S4 Pro designed to bring computing-class processors to PCs, tablets and high-end smartphones. Processors in the S4 Pro tier include: APQ8064 and MSM8960T.
Snapdragon S4 Plus covers a broad range of powerful smartphone and tabletprocessors. Processors in the S4 Plus tier include: MSM8960, APQ8060A, MSM8660A, MSM8260A, APQ8030, MSM8930, MSM8630, MSM8230, MSM8627, and MSM8227.
Snapdragon S4 Play consists of processors for high-volume smartphones. Processors in the S4 Play tier include: MSM8625 and MSM8225.
When you look at the broad range of things that Snapdragon S4 processors can do, you’re more likely than ever to be using one.
Qualcomm Brings Snapdragon S4 Processors to High Volume Smartphones and Expands Qualcomm Reference Design Development Platform and Ecosystem Program [Qualcomm press release, Dec 8, 2011]
Addition of Two New Snapdragon S4 Mobile Processors Compatible with QRD Development Platforms Brings Dual-Core Processing and Integrated 3G Connectivity to High Volume Smartphones
SAN DIEGO – December 08, 2011 – Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced two additions to its Snapdragon® S4 class of mobile processors: the MSM8625 and the MSM8225 chipsets. Both chipsets provide dual core CPUs operating up to 1 GHz, Qualcomm’s Adreno® 203 GPU and an integrated 3G modem. The MSM8625 and MSM8225 chipsets are designed to be hardware and software compatible with the MSM7x27A and MSM7x25A family of chipsets, giving device manufacturers the ability to seamlessly migrate their existing Snapdragon S1-based designs to S4 dual core-based designs. This capability is particularly useful for device manufacturers to efficiently expand their smartphone product lines with more advanced and more capable 3G smartphone products.
To further simplify and improve time-to-launch of cost effective 3G solutions for device manufacturers, Qualcomm also announced the third-generation of its Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) ecosystem program to enable third party device manufacturers to develop differentiated high volume smartphones with lower development costs and faster time to market. The QRD ecosystem program includes a comprehensive set of software and hardware components that allows third party hardware and software vendors to have their products pre-tested and optimized for the QRD development platform. A pre-tested and optimized platform gives device manufacturers a development platform with the hardware components (memory, sensors, touch panels, cameras, displays, RF, etc.) and software applications and features (browsers, map/navigation, mail, music, instant messaging, fonts and languages, etc.) needed for basic smartphone functionality already in place. This allows device manufacturers to focus their engineering resources on developing value-added features that will help make their high-volume smartphone stand out from the competition. The QRD ecosystem program is designed to help device manufacturers developing products for regions whose networks are evolving from 2G to 3G and high volume smartphones are becoming increasingly popular.
The MSM8625 and MSM8225 chipsets will be available on Qualcomm’s third generation QRD development platform in the first half of 2012, in addition to being available as standalone chipsets. QRD development platforms based on both the MSM7x27A and MSM7x25A chipsets are currently available. Qualcomm has shipped over 100 million MSM7225 and MSM7227 chipsets, and smartphones based on these chipsets are operating on multiple carrier networks worldwide.
“Smartphones present a large business opportunity for many of our customers, which is why we have created the QRD ecosystem program to assist them with developing compelling product designs with competitive differentiation,” said Cristiano Amon, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm. “The program combines all the elements our customers need to get a new smartphone design to launch quickly and cost effectively, from carrier-ready hardware and software to local technical support resources.”
“As Snapdragon processors power many of today’s most popular smartphones, we are working to port a variety of our core applications to the various QRD platforms,” said Chengmin Liu, senior executive vice president of Tencent, China’s largest integrated internet services provider. “This will offer our customers a strong processing solution to power our applications for future smartphone designs.”
Qualcomm Unveils New Snapdragon Mobile Processors Across All Tiers of Smartphones and Tablets [Qualcomm press release, Nov 16, 2011]
Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) announced today the expansion of its Snapdragon S4 class of next-generation mobile processors and the enhancement of its Snapdragon S1 solutions for entry-level smartphones.
The addition of new Snapdragon S4 processors, which are aimed at lowering design, engineering and inventory costs while bringing leading-edge 3G and 4G Internet connection speeds, will allow OEMs to introduce S4-based devices with next-generation mobile architecture throughout their respective device roadmaps—from basic smartphones to high-end smartphones and tablets. The enhanced S4 processors are also optimized for use with a suite of software solutions available from Qualcomm that help enable OEMs to deliver industry-leading feature sets for multimedia, connectivity, camera, display, security, power management, browsing and natural user interface design.
The Krait CPU is the next generation of Qualcomm’s micro architecture and is purpose-built from the ground up for significant mobile performance and power management advantages leading to enhanced user experience and better battery life. The Krait CPU is an essential part of the Snapdragon S4 class of processors. Today, Qualcomm announced several new S4 chipsets, including the MSM8660A, MSM8260A, MSM8630, MSM8230, MSM8627,MSM8227, APQ8060A and APQ8030. These are additional chipsets to the previously announced MSM8960, MSM8930 and APQ8064. Snapdragon S4 MSM processors include Qualcomm’s leading-edge wireless modem technologies, including EV-DO, HSPA+, TD-SCDMA, LTE FDD, LTE TDD andWi-Fi® standards. Devices based on Snapdragon S4 processors are expected to appear in early 2012.
The Snapdragon S1 product line is driving smartphone growth in all regions, and it offers a significant opportunity for market expansion and migration to 3G. To further this trend, Qualcomm is also announcing an upgrade to four of its existing Snapdragon S1 mobile processors. The MSM7225A, MSM7625A, MSM7227A and MSM7627A have been upgraded to deliver better performance and will enable new mobile experiences for entry-level smartphone users, particularly those transitioning from 2G to 3G.
Qualcomm Announces a Bunch of Krait Based Snapdragon S4 SoCs [Anandtech, Nov 16, 2011]
If you want an 8960 without integrated LTE, Qualcomm has an SoC for you: the MSM8x60A. The CPU specs are the same as the 8960, just without LTE support.
Below the 8960 is the MSM8930, a dual-core Krait (up to 1.2GHz) offering with only a single LPDDR2 memory channel (up to 1066MHz data rate). The 8930 will actually use a faster GPU than the 8960, the Adreno 305, although it’ll be more memory bandwidth limited. The 8930 will also debut later than the 8960 partially due to its new GPU.
The 8930 features LTE support, but if you want a version without it there’s the new MSM8x30. Similarly, if you want a version without an integrated baseband altogether there’s the APQ8030. The ISP in the xx30 series supports 1080p video decode and up to a 13.5MP camera (down from 20MP in the xx60 SoCs).
There’s an even even more affordable S4 in the lineup: the MSM8x27. Here you get two Krait cores running at up to 1GHz, a single channel LPDDR2 interface (800MHz max data rate). Video decode is limited to 720p in the 8×27.
[* the numbering change is: MSM8270 –> MSM8x60A]