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Smartphone Multi-Core Apps Processor Share: Qualcomm Leads Multi-Core and Spreadtrum Leads Single-Core in 1H 2013

by Sravan Kundojjala | 9月 09, 2013

We have been tracking the multi-core smartphone apps processor (MCSPAP) market developments since the introduction of such chips back in 2011. Last month, we have released our MCSPAP report, which details single-core, dual-core, quad-core and octa-core smartphone processor shipments across stand-alone and integrated categories up to Q2 2013.

Some of the highlights of our multi-core smartphone apps processor tracker report:

  • Based on Strategy Analytics research, multi-core chip penetration in smartphones increased to 66 percent in 1H 2013, up from almost zero in 2010. MCSPAP shipments registered more than two-fold year-on-year growth in 1H 2013. This multi-core proliferation can be attributed to strong efforts from chipset companies to bring advanced features at a lower cost. Chipset vendors now offer MCSPAPs at various price points and thanks to chip vendors’ efforts, dual-core smartphones are now available at sub-$100 price points in emerging markets.
  • Multi-core smartphone apps processors (MCSPAP) first out-shipped single-core APs in Q3 2012, thanks to strong traction for flagship chips such as Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 and low-cost Cortex-A5 / Cortex-A7 chips from multiple vendors.
  • Quad-core smartphone applications processor shipments registered five-fold growth in 1H 2013 compared to 1H 2012, while single-core smartphone applications processor shipments declined by 14 percent in the same period.
  • Qualcomm led the MCSPAP market with 43 percent volume share followed by Apple, Samsung, MediaTek and ST-Ericsson in 1H 2013. It was during 4Q12 that Qualcomm overtook Apple to become the leading MCSPAP vendor and continued in 1H 2013. Spreadtrum led the single-core segment in 1H 2013.
  • Qualcomm’s multi-core Snapdragon chips gained strong traction and featured in multiple flagship smartphones including the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 among others.
  • NVIDIA, despite being an early entrant in the MCSPAP market, lost momentum in smartphones. However, NVIDIA’s upcoming LTE Tegra chip Tegra 4i could generate more volume in the smartphone market.
  • HiSilicon, Huawei’s in-house silicon designer, also gained strong traction in MCSPAPs with its K3V2 quad-core chip, but volumes were low.
  • Broadcom, Intel, Marvell and Spreadtrum started shipping their respective MCSPAPs in 1H 2013 and these vendors are still at the beginning of their multi-core product cycles. We expect these vendors to ramp up in the next few quarters.
  • In terms of baseband-integration market trends, single-core has the highest baseband-integrated chip penetration while quad-core segment has the lowest baseband-integrated chip penetration. This can be attributed to time-to-market advantage with stand-alone applications processors. Qualcomm, a strong proponent of integrated chip, used stand-alone approach to gain share in multi-core chips initially. We expect Broadcom, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm and Spreadtrum to proliferate the market with low-cost baseband-integrated quad-core chips.
  • There are plenty of interesting multi-core technical approaches emerging such as ARM’s big.Little, NVIDIA’s 4-Plus-1 and ST-Ericsson’s eQuad.

Overall, multi-core penetration in smartphones continues to rise and by end of this year multi-core penetration could cross 75 percent. While it is debatable how many number of cores would be enough, the market is expected to see the first true octa core chip from MediaTek later this year. We think quad-core is the sweet spot in smartphones for years to come and we also expect the increased emphasis on GPU and DSP computing from chipset vendors, not just CPU core computing.

Sravan Kundojjala

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