Each generation of technology changes is accompanied by the reshuffle of mobile phone brands. Under the homogenization of hardware, chip self-research has become the direction for major mobile phone manufacturers to break through in recent years.
Apple’s self-developed baseband chip (modem) is already a semi-public “secret” in the industry, and domestic manufacturers China, Huawei, Xiaomi, vivo and OPPO have their own chip teams.
Faced with mobile phone manufacturers’ increase in self-developed chips, chip supplier Qualcomm responded. At the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit held on December 2, Judd Heape, vice president of product management of Qualcomm Technologies, told reporters including China Business News that some of the core technology innovations of mobile phone manufacturers in imaging are actually more related to the main chip. The two do not conflict with each other.
“Many OEMs are customizing (self-developed chips) in imaging, because the effects of customization in the imaging part are more obvious. We also welcome their practices, especially on the basis of the current Snapdragon platform. On top, it can be further customized at the software level.” Judd Heape said that sometimes manufacturers will add an additional chip on top of the Snapdragon platform to present different characteristics. For example, a new image sensor may need to be added, or new hardware may be needed, or a new IP may be needed. In fact, with the development of the main chip, the features that OEM manufacturers add to the hardware will also be integrated in the main chip in the future, thus replacing the way of adding additional hardware.
Ziad Asghar, vice president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, told reporters that Qualcomm has accumulated many years of technology in imaging technology, AI experience and gaming experience, and it is not just a combination of authorized technologies. “Qualcomm has a unique advantage in self-developed IP, which is also an important reason why we are ahead of our friends.”
However, a signal revealed at the previous Qualcomm investor conference is that Apple will launch a series of self-developed baseband chips in 2023. By then, Apple’s purchase of baseband chips from Qualcomm will drop to 20% of demand.
According to supply chain news, Apple will use TSMC’s 4nm process technology to produce iPhone 5G baseband chips from 2023. At the same time, Apple is developing its own radio frequency, millimeter wave components and power management chips for baseband chips to enhance the iPhone’s 5G performance.
In this regard, Qualcomm President and CEO An Meng believes that Qualcomm’s business is rapidly diversifying, not relying on a single industry or a single customer.
In Qualcomm’s view, most of the growth in the smartphone chip business will come from Android devices, which account for 85% of the smartphone market. In the fourth quarter of Qualcomm’s 2021 fiscal year, the released or shipped terminals equipped with the Snapdragon flagship platform increased by 21% year-on-year. “Xiaomi, Honor, Vivo and OPPO have determined to cooperate with us in flagship and high-end mobile phones in the next two years. Samsung will use the Snapdragon mobile platform in its multi-level terminals in 2022.” Qualcomm’s relevant person in charge said, in addition, in 2021, Qualcomm’s cumulative shipments of RF front-end units reached 8 billion, of which individual component shipments exceeded 300 million.
However, from the perspective of industry competition, not only Apple, but also Android phone manufacturers will increase their investment in self-developed chips. The person in charge of a domestic mobile phone manufacturer told reporters that such an approach can put market demand ahead of the tapeout, and in an era when chip iteration speeds are accelerating, it can also prevent the risk of technology leaving the market.
“Self-developed chips can first ensure the uniqueness and exclusivity of new technologies, and are a great tool for differentiated competition. Secondly, self-developed chips with a scale can increase the gross profit of products, allowing manufacturers to have more resources to invest in channels and marketing. Consolidate the high-end image, thus forming a virtuous circle. Thirdly, manufacturers with self-developed chips have more bargaining chips when negotiating with third-party chip manufacturers.” Strategy Analytics senior analyst Wu Yiwen told reporters that product innovation lies in the high-end market Very important in the competition.
Wu Yiwen told reporters that domestic manufacturers are still in their infancy in component self-research. In this context, cooperation with suppliers is very important, which is reflected in the launch and exclusivity of new technologies. “Brands that have scale, have a good reputation in the supply chain, and have invested and patiently invested in brand building are more likely to win long-term competition.”