Without Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, what the hell is in Samsung’s heart?

In addition to the image sensor business, Samsung has recently begun to play a "small abacus" on its SoC, and has taken on the "small nine-nine". At the summit where Qualcomm first launched the Snapdragon 888, Samsung did not appear on the promotion page, which caused a lot of speculation.

As an example, let’s look at a few sets of data first.

  1. According to TechInsights analysis, Snapdragon 865 chip baseband plus X55 chipset consisting of the price was about $ 150, Xiaolong 888 price based on this number will go up.
  2. The cost of the Apple A14 chip is about US$40, and the price of the chipset composed of the X55 baseband is only about US$130.
  3. The cost of the Apple M1 chip is between 40 and 50 US dollars, while the price of the same level Intel Core series processor on MacBook is about 200 to 225 US dollars.

Samsung should have already accounted for this. The cost of self-developed chips is much lower than that of buying chips from Qualcomm, and it can even be exported to make another profit.

▲ Picture from: sammobile.com

The relationship between Samsung and Qualcomm is very complicated. They are both partners and competitors. Every year, Samsung’s flagship mobile phone adopts a "dual core" strategy. It is not only the first batch of users of Qualcomm's 8 series flagship chip, but also a loyal fan of its own Exynos (Orion). The two parties seem to be cooperating closely, but behind them, they have different thoughts.

Galaxy S21 give up Snapdragon 888 and focus on Exynos?

Samsung did not give Qualcomm a platform, which seems to imply that Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S21 series will abandon the "dual-core strategy" and use Orion wholeheartedly. However, it didn't take long for the S21 series of GeekBench running scores to be revealed on the Internet, indicating that the S21 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 version, and from the running scores, the running scores of the Qualcomm version are still slightly higher than the previously exposed Orion version.

▲ Screenshot of suspected Galaxy S21+ running score, left: Exynos 2100, right: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888.

Therefore, Samsung will continue to continue its dual-core strategy on the Galaxy S21 series and launch different chip products in different markets. For example, it will mainly promote the Qualcomm version in the US and China markets, and the Orion version will be offered in South Korea and Europe.

In addition, this year, the 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip was handed over to Samsung for production. At the same time, Samsung will also produce the 5nm Exynos 1080 (and the unreleased 2100). The relationship between the two is still ambiguous.

▲ Official video of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G.

Unwilling to appear in Qualcomm's "list", it is almost always Samsung's own request. After all, it has its own Exynos (Orion) chip business, so its annual flagship can't help others.

In fact, Qualcomm knows in my heart that although Samsung’s Orion performance has been almost "hot" and the market recognition is not at the same level, Orion is still a rival that cannot be underestimated, and it still needs to sit back and wait.

At some "important" moments, avoiding each other may be the best course for both parties.

Exynos fell because of it, better than Qualcomm also overturned

Samsung is a very distinctive manufacturer. Its industry covers chips, flash memory, screens, cameras, and image processors. It is fully self-sufficient in the entire industry chain. It is also very good at developing processors for its own devices, as is the Exynos series of processors.

▲ Nexus S equipped with Samsung Exynos 3110 processor. Picture from: TheVerge

However, before the establishment of the Exynos (Orion) name, Samsung's processor models were mostly a combination of numbers and letters, which was rather confusing. It was not until 2007 that it was selected by Apple as the processor of the first three generations of iPhones, and it was slowly known to the public and entered the public's field of vision.

In the follow-up, Samsung is determined to develop the Android platform, and the Exynos model is established. The Exynos 3 series launched in 2010 has been applied to Samsung Galaxy S, Nexus S, Galaxy Tab and Meizu M9, among which Samsung’s Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab series product lines have continued to date. (In addition, the A4 processor of iPhone 4 is also a magical version of Exynos 3110.)

Since research infrastructure ▲ Samsung-generation number "Mongoose" in images from: gsmarena.com

If Exynos in 2010 is established as a watershed for Exynos, then the next watershed will be 2015. Exynos began to adopt a self-developed architecture, code-named "Mongoose." Qualcomm's self-developed architecture is code-named "Golden Ring Snake" and Samsung code-named Mongoose, which means that it wants to overcome Qualcomm, but the story goes in a completely different direction.

▲ Meizu Pro 5 chose Samsung Exynos 7420 processor.

Before 2015, Exynos adopted the ARM public version architecture, and the SoC performance of Exynos gradually approached Qualcomm Snapdragon. Exynos's strategy is radical and advanced. It preceded Qualcomm with eight cores and A57 architecture. Even in 2015, the Exynos 7420 completely surpassed the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, and could even beat the Apple A8.

At that time, due to patent issues, Samsung's Exynos processor did not support CDMA networks (China Telecom) and could not be used for all Netcom. Coupled with the fact that all domestic manufacturers are Qualcomm, even if it is as strong as 7420, it is only selected by Meizu. Qualcomm wins in the market, while Samsung's Exynos wins in performance.

▲ Samsung Exynos 8890 processor adopts self-developed M1 architecture. Picture from: ANANDTECH

Later, with this confidence, Samsung also felt that the time was ripe and wanted to develop its own architecture and abandon the ARM public version. At this time, Exynos "Mongoose" completely defeated rival Qualcomm Snapdragon 820.

But at this time, Samsung Note7 appeared "explosive door", Exynos sales and Samsung's reputation plummeted. Since then, Samsung Exynos began to learn from the characteristics of Apple's A-series chips, madly piling up single-core performance, but unable to control power consumption and heat dissipation, performance began to be inferior to the then Snapdragon 8 series chips.

▲ A petition from a Samsung user in Europe. Picture from: change.org

The Exynos 990 equipped with Samsung's Galaxy S20 series has a large performance gap with the Snapdragon 865. European Samsung users even initiated a petition on the website to "please Samsung stop selling phones equipped with Exynos processors to us." Samsung Exynos chips are no longer in the limelight.

Embrace the public version of ARM again, Exynos is doing it again

Before the Samsung Exynos "Mongoose" overturned, Qualcomm had been fighting for many years on the self-developed Krait (Golden Ring Snake), and finally abandoned the self-developed architecture due to the failure of 810 and 820, and returned to the ARM public version architecture. The Qualcomm 8 series flagship processor never pulled the hips again.

Coincidentally, Samsung disbanded the self-developed architecture department in November 2019, and returned to the ARM public version architecture again. Samsung has launched Exynos 880 and 980 based on Cortex-A77, and Exynos 1080 based on Cortex-A78. These three processors are positioned at mid-to-high-end, not at the flagship level.

Among them, Exynos 980 is jointly developed by Samsung and vivo and has appeared on the vivo X30 series of mobile phones. At the same time, the 880 has appeared on the vivo Y51s and Y70s mobile mid-range phones. As for the Exynos 1080, which will be shipped by the end of 2020, it will also be launched by vivo and appear on the new X-series X60.

▲ Vivo X30 Pro equipped with Samsung Exynos 980 processor.

In addition to the Snapdragon 888, it is expected that the Exynos flagship chip of the Samsung Galaxy S21 series will be 2100, which is also Samsung's first flagship chip after abandoning the "Mongoose" architecture. Judging from the recently leaked running scores, Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888 scores are close, not much different, and the light of Android has returned.

Whether Exynos can turn over in 2021 depends on domestically produced machines

Samsung's Orion Exynos is back on track, but Samsung's Galaxy series of mobile phones have plummeted. After the Note7 incident, the domestic market share of Samsung's mobile phones has shrunk year after year, from 20% to about 1%. This also means that the "new" Exynos processor cannot dominate the market with Galaxy phones.

▲ The cooperation between Samsung Exynos and vivo is just the beginning. Picture from: Samsung Exynos Weibo

Therefore, Samsung has set its sights on the domestic manufacturers with the top shipments, and the focus of shipments is the relatively weak mid-range processor products of Snapdragon. First, at the end of 2019, Samsung announced its cooperation with vivo. Mid-to-high-end models will continue to be equipped with Exynos processors. Secondly, in 2021, it plans to cooperate with Xiaomi, OPPO and other manufacturers to provide Exynos processors to more mid- and low-end models. Increase market share.

The recent "Huawei supply cutoff" has given many manufacturers and supply chain opportunities. After all, Huawei's mobile phones and HiSilicon chips have a considerable market share. According to recent Counterpoint survey data, HiSilicon’s market share is about 16%, ranking third, with Qualcomm and MediaTek being the top two, while Samsung’s Exynos is fourth, accounting for 13%.

HiSilicon’s uncertain future has brought new opportunities to other players in the chip market. If the chip wants to increase its market share, it must be linked to the product. Prior to this, Samsung Exynos has been in frequent contact with several major domestic manufacturers, and there should be many actions in 2021.

In addition to the opportunities left by HiSilicon, the Honor brand has recently become independent in order to reduce the impact of "cut supply". The Honor brand has a domestic market share of close to 15%, but after independence, it has been unclear who the Honor mobile phone is equipped with.

On the day of the submission deadline, Samsung Exynos "liked" a Weibo of Honor HONOR on November 30, implying ambiguous meaning. It is not ruled out that Samsung Exynos is seeking the possibility of cooperation with Honor, and it can even be boldly guessed that when Samsung "likes" it, it has reached a cooperation intention.

Using mid-end chips to increase market share is considered a way. In addition, for Samsung Exynos, if you want to achieve an influence similar to Apple’s A-series chips, it is more important to gain market recognition. This part cannot be accomplished overnight, only slowly. Relying on high-end chips with excellent performance to educate the market, and the first step in this process is to look at the specific performance of the flagship Exynos 2100.

Samsung's heart is full of business in the chip market

In the final analysis, intending to dominate the global market is still coveting this "business." The data listed at the beginning can explain the problem very well. The use of self-developed chips can not only greatly reduce the cost of own equipment, but also reduce dependence on suppliers and avoid unexpected situations. Recently, Apple got rid of Intel, launched a self-developed MacBook with M1 chip, and Google also began to plan to customize chips for Pixel devices, which gave Samsung a lot of inspiration.

▲ Rendering of Samsung Galaxy S21. Picture from: t3.com

Samsung Electronics' market value has surpassed Intel and firmly ranks first in the world. The semiconductor business is Samsung's "money cow", but the most profitable is not Exynos processors, but NAND Flash and DRAM memory chips, each accounting for more than 40%. Exynos and CMOS sensor businesses are relatively weak.

Remember how no one loves Sony without 100 million pixels? "As mentioned in this article, Samsung has a "Semiconductor Vision 2030" plan. The goal is global hegemony. The focus is on Exynos processors and CMOS image sensors. The former targets Qualcomm and the latter attacks Sony.

Similar to the image sensor business, in the next ten years, Samsung will continue to invest in Exynos chips, build factories, expand production lines, increase production capacity, and increase manpower.

Exynos's previous self-developed architecture of "Mongoose" has been revised in time, returning to the ARM public version architecture, coupled with Samsung Electronics’ expansion strategy, I believe we will see more domestic mobile phones equipped with Exynos processors come out in 2021. Don't be surprised even if there are several high-end mobile phones equipped with Exynos flagship chips. The lost market share of Samsung's Galaxy series of mobile phones is likely to be regained by Exynos chips.

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