When it’s not churning out smartphones and giant tablets and uh, giant container ships, the company also does healthy business manufacturing microprocessors. It does such a good job, in fact, that chip-making rival Qualcomm will be using Samsung’s foundaries for its next big thing.
The Snapdragon 820 was announced late last year. It’s a chip you’re going to be seeing a lot of in higher-end Android handsets over the next year or two, and it brings some good tricks to the table, notably 40 per cent better graphics, a faster integrated modem, and better battery life.
A large part of achieving all that is manufacturing on a better, smaller 14nm process. Building devices on a 14nm process isn’t something that Qualcomm or its traditional manufacturing partner TSMC can do, so the Snapdragon 820 chips are being made by Samsung.
Why does it matter which foundry your smartphone’s processor comes from? Well, Samsung taking over manufacturing for Qualcomm’s flagship product puts it in a dominant position over mobile processors: it makes (some) of the A9 chips in Apple’s latest devices, the Exynos processors that power its own devices, and now the Qualcomm chips that live inside most other flagship Android products.
Sure, there’s a lot more work that goes into designing and testing chips apart from just the manufacture. But as one side of Samsung’s mobile business goes into gentle decline, it’s interesting to see the other end look increasingly like the only business in town.