How to Play the Smartphone Market Without Choosing Sides

If you are a strong believer in mobile computing growth, you have to pick sides in that everlasting religious war:

  • Will Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) keep killing it for years to come?
  • Is Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) going to figure out how to make money on the Android platform, short of shaking down handset partners Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) , Samsung, and HTC for license royalties?
  • And will Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) or Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) ever be relevant again?

But then there are some common threads throughout the whole landscape. Whether the iPhone or the latest Android model dominate the next month, quarter, year, or whatever, you're very likely to find Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) chips inside.

Some smartphones, including many leading Android models, are built around Qualcomm's powerful Snapdragon line of mobile processors. The company's chips also dominate the market for CDMA-style 3G communications, and no mobile gadget guru worth its salt is going to ignore one of the two leading 3G technologies -- and the company is making a push into the growing LTE standards for so-called 4G networking.

So Qualcomm is everywhere.

That makes the company a good proxy for the smartphone and tablet market, and also a bellwether for how that industry is doing in general. Judging by this week's third-quarter report, the patient is feeling just fine, doc.

Revenue rose by 34% year-over-year to $3.6 billion, just edging out Wall Street's estimates. That translates into non-GAAP earnings of $0.73 per share, up 35% from the year-ago quarter and comfortably ahead of analyst expectations.

The recent acquisition of Wi-Fi technologist Atheros gives Qualcomm even broader exposure to the mobile world than before, and also expands the addressable market to include more computer systems and home-entertainment platforms, as Atheros is a popular Wi-Fi choice in laptops and gaming consoles.

Qualcomm shares have dealt a market-beating 46% return to its shareholders over the last year, and The Fool owns shares of this five-star CAPS stock in two separate portfolios. Back in March, fellow Fool Eric Bleeker took advantage of what he saw as overblown concerns about the mobile market to add more shares to his position -- and the stock is only 4% more expensive today. In other words, the stock remains cheap.

Add Qualcomm to your Foolish watchlist right now and watch it grow until the smartphone boom blows over -- years from now. And if this stock still isn't generic enough for your tastes, you should download and read this free report on a small, unheralded company that plays a surprisingly large part in the exploding market for fat data pipes. Find out more in a six-month update on what we called the top stock for 2011, or just grab that report right away -- it's free, after all.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Apple, and Qualcomm. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Apple, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him on Twitter or Google+, or peruse our Foolish disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2011, at 12:19 PM, techy46 wrote:

    Oh how things can change?

    1961: TI builds the first computer to use silicon integrated circuits for the Air Force.

    1976: TI introduces an electronic digital watch that retails for $19.95.

    Consumer gadgets will when Windows 8 comes out in 2012? Windows on ARM (WORM) will eat a few apples :)

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2011, at 1:09 PM, Borbality wrote:

    I'm adding shares. Margins might compress a bit as it expands but it's got a lot of growth projected for the next couple of years to make up for it.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2011, at 10:06 PM, 1caflash wrote:

    Recently, I doubled my RIMM shares. Here are four key words: Security, Network, Profits, Africa.

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