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Author : Tronserve | Monday, 7 October 2019

Qualcomm Could Unveil Its Next-gen Flagship Chip

Author : Tronserve | Monday, 7 October 2019

There is speculation that the chip designer will bring out the Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform. Anticipated to be found inside high-end Android devices next year, the new chipset will be produced by Samsung using its 7nm EUV process. The smaller the process number, the more transistors fit inside the chip causing it to be more powerful and energy-efficient. And extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) is a more precise method of marking up a chip die for transistor placement. Qualcomm’s existing top-of-the-line-chipset is the Snapdragon 855+, an overclocked version of the Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform that offers a 15% improvement in graphics capabilities.

However, there could be another reason for the announcement. As it turns out, some new Android handsets are estimated to be revealed on Tuesday including a pair from Xiaomi (Xiaomi Mi 9 Pro 5G and Xiaomi Mi MIX Alpha), the Sony Xperia 5 and the Realme X2. Taking this into account, the buzz around the water cooler indicates that one or more of these devices could possibly be the reason for the teaser that Qualcomm posted yesterday for the upcoming event. All of the aforementioned phones will employ a Snapdragon SoC with the 855+ expected inside the Mi 9 Pro 5G and possibly the Mi MIX Alpha. The regular Snapdragon 855 SoC will power the Xperia 5 with the Snapdragon 730G chip driving the X2. There must be a connection between the number “3” used in Xiaomi’s teaser and the three smartphone manufacturers we have been discussing in this paragraph.

While Samsung is doing the fab work and developing the Snapdragon 865, Qualcomm will be returning to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) for 2021’s Snapdragon 875 Mobile Platform. The world’s largest independent foundry, TSMC rolls chips off the assembly line for companies that design their own chips, but do not have the facilities to make them. For example, both Apple and Huawei design their own SoCs like the A13 Bionic and Kirin 990 respectively. Nonetheless both rely on TSMC to churn out the chips they have already designed.

As for the Snapdragon 865, traditionally Samsung’s new Galaxy S phones have been the first with a global release to sport the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, and that most likely will not change next year. The very first phone to be powered by the Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform was the Xiaomi Mi 9, but this device was not offered worldwide.

2019 remains quite a tumultuous year for Qualcomm. It set out with the chip designer at the time of a feud with Apple and both companies were getting ready to square off in court multiple times. Qualcomm also was the defendant in an antitrust case brought by the FTC. The non-jury trial in January was presided over by Judge Lucy Koh (of Samsung v. Apple fame). In the time of the proceedings, Apple and other firms testified against Qualcomm’s sales practices including its “No license, no chips” policy, the computation of royalties based on the retail price of a phone, and its failure to license its standards-essential patents in a Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) manner.

Things took a turn for the better in April (as far as Qualcomm is concerned) just as a court battle with Apple was wrapping up; the two outfits agreed on a settlement. All legal action between the companies was dropped and Apple paid Qualcomm an unrevealed amount believed to be $4.5 billion; in return, Apple received a six-year license (with a two-year option) and a multi-year chip supply agreement.

And so Qualcomm sailed alongside, but only for a month. In May, the decision was in and Judge Koh ruled that Qualcomm had involved in anticompetitive behavior. Losing this court case could force the chip designer to overhaul its current business practices. And while Judge Koh declined to grant Qualcomm a stay that would allow it to continue the status quo until all of its appeals have been exhausted, last month the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the stay.

If Qualcomm fails to get Judge Koh’s ruling overturned on appeal, it faces the long, complex and difficult task of renegotiating all of the current contracts it has with phone manufacturers. The chip designer demanded the stay because it did not want to go through this process, win on appeal, and then have to come to terms on a whole new set of contracts.


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