The Mystery of the Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE-Advanced

Samsung just announced the oft-rumored Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE-Advanced, but there's a mystery about it that needs solving.

Jun 18, 2014 at 7:37PM

Samsung Electronics (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) just announced its long-awaited higher-end Galaxy S5 smartphone with a Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 805 and a 2560x1440 Super AMOLED display. This device touts LTE-Advanced, which promises download speeds of up to 225 megabits per second. However, this number, coupled with a complete lack of disclosure about the cellular modem chip inside, raises an interesting question: which company's modem powers this device?

Three choices: Qualcomm, Intel, or Samsung
We know the phone's applications processor is the Snapdragon 805. However, this processor -- unlike the Snapdragon 801 found inside the standard Galaxy S5 -- does not have an integrated cellular baseband block, so any phone implementing it requires pairing with a separate baseband processor.

To date, only two merchant vendors have announced the imminent availability of LTE-Advanced capable cellular basebands: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) with its XMM 7260 and Qualcomm with its MDM9x35. However, neither player was mentioned in the announcement of the new Galaxy S5.

There is also the distinct possibility that this platform is actually powered by an internally designed Samsung cellular baseband chip.

South Korea Telecom only at first, eh?
The big challenge when it comes to any cellular baseband or RF solution isn't necessarily in implementing the latest standard, but instead in having that solution certified for the numerous carrier networks on which a typical smartphone launches. This process is rigorous, brutal, and time consuming, which is why the development of cellular/RF solutions is so difficult and has such a high barrier to entry.

Samsung is releasing this smartphone exclusively in South Korea. While this doesn't necessarily prove anything, it lends credence to the idea that this device could feature Samsung's own baseband and that this baseband has only been certified on South Korea Telecom (and will probably slowly roll out to other carriers).

If that's true, why not use Exynos?
The biggest counterargument to the idea that Samsung is using its own baseband is that if the company is going through all of that trouble, why not also use its own internally designed Exynos 5 Octa processor?

The Exynos 5 Octa offers roughly similar performance to the Snapdragon 801/805 parts, but has the advantage of being built at Samsung's own manufacturing plants (leading to higher use of its factories and lower chip costs).

That said, the Snapdragon 805 should have superior graphics performance to any available Exynos processor, which should prove vital in driving the resource-intensive 2560x1440 display.

Foolish takeaway
It's still unclear who has won this baseband socket. If it's Qualcomm, then this would also mark not only the first Snapdragon 805 design win, but it would also mean the very first MDM9x35 win (meaning the first commercially available 20-nanometer chip from Taiwan Semiconductor). If it's Intel, then this would be a clear validation of the time to market and quality of its XMM 7260 solution. And if it's Samsung, then it'll be interesting to see how far the company takes its in-house baseband efforts in the long run. 

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning, it may shock you)
Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out, and some early viewers are claiming its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, and Qualcomm. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.

 


Compare Brokers