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Apple Overtakes Qualcomm in Smartphone Apps Processor Revenue

by Sravan Kundojjala | Feb 03, 2021

After experiencing fifteen consecutive quarters of shipment decline, the smartphone applications processor (AP) market returned to growth in shipment terms in Q3 2020. The AP market is on pace to post first annual revenue growth in four years. What is driving this sudden growth in the AP market?

As we outlined in our blog post earlier, 5G smartphone demand is the primary growth driver. Our research suggests that 5G APs command significantly higher average selling price (ASP) than 4G and 3G APs, helping the smartphone AP industry post massive growth despite slower shipment growth. Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to be a key feature and smartphone APs with on-device artificial intelligence (AI) grew 28 percent in Q3 2020.

Strategy Analytics has been tracking the smartphone AP market for a long time. Here are some highlights from our latest Q3 2020 smartphone AP research.

  • The smartphone AP market surged 32 percent to post an all-time high revenue of $7.4 billion in Q3 2020.
  • Apple overtook Qualcomm in Q3 2020 to capture the top revenue share spot in Q3 2020. Apple capitalized on strong demand for its new 5 nm-based A14 Bionic, which significantly boosted its overall ASPs.
  • Despite posting record semiconductor revenue in Q3 2020, Qualcomm struggled to advance its smartphone AP revenue share, thanks to increased competition from Apple and MediaTek. Qualcomm’s smartphone AP shipments reached the lowest in the last eight years. Although Qualcomm’s 5G APs Snapdragon 865 and 765 got strong traction, the company faced heat in the 4G AP market from MediaTek in Q3 2020. However, we expect Qualcomm to retain its lead in Q4 2020 with increased traction for its 4G and 5G APs.
  • MediaTek ranked number three with 19 percent revenue share in the smartphone AP market in Q3 2020. MediaTek’s smartphone AP revenue more than doubled in Q3 2020 compared to Q3 2019, driven by increased traction for its 5G Dimensity APs.
  • HiSilicon and Samsung LSI both saw their smartphone AP shipments decline in Q3 2020. HiSilicon took a hit as trade restriction significantly affected its primary customer Huawei in Q3 2020. We expect HiSilicon’s shipments to continue to decline in the next few quarters as the company’s manufacturing partner TSMC has stopped taking new orders after September 2020.
  • Samsung LSI continues to push ahead with its ambition to expand outside its in-house customer Samsung Mobile. In 2020, Vivo adopted Samsung LSI’s 5G APs and generated good volume for Samsung LSI.
  • After a long struggle, Unisoc finally showed signs of recovery in its smartphone AP shipments with its new Tiger-branded 4G APs. The company’s new Tiger 6-series and 7-series APs look competitive versus MediaTek’s Helio P range. Strategy Analytics advises the company to capitalize on its strengths and take advantage of long-tail 4G demand in emerging markets.

Strategy Analytics expects the smartphone AP market momentum will continue through 2021. However, the industry faces multiple challenges, including trade-war, NVIDIA-Arm and 5G price wars.

Please let us know if you would like to explore this topic in detail. Strategy Analytics can help you understand the baseband industry in multiple ways with our research and advisory services.

Sravan Kundojjala

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