The Samsung Galaxy S5 Is Powered by Qualcomm’s First 20-Nanometer Mobile Chip

Breaking news! The first category 6 LTE-Advanced modem will soon be available in the Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE-Advanced built on TSMC's 20-nanometer manufacturing technology.

Jun 20, 2014 at 8:00AM

Just a few short hours after the publication of my prior piece speculating on what cellular modem Samsung's (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) latest Galaxy S5 LTE-Advanced packed, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) went ahead and issued a press release stating that the phone uses both Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805 as well as Qualcomm's MDM9x35 baseband. This is significant not only in that it marks the very first category 6 LTE-Advanced modem to ship, but also the very first 20-nanometer silicon to hit the mobile market.

Say hello to 20-nanometer (it's been quite the wait)
The very first 28-nanometer mobile parts hit the shelves back in early 2012 with Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4. A little over a year later, the first 28-nanometer high-K/metal gate (this is a much higher performance flavor of the 28-nanometer process) built at Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM) showed up in the form of the Snapdragon 800. And now, about a year after that, we're seeing the very first 20-nanometer products hitting mobile.

Interestingly enough, Taiwan Semiconductor went into "volume production" on 20-nanometer parts in early 2014, and about six months later the first mobile-oriented 20-nanometer chips are finding their way into devices that will be commercially available within a matter of weeks. That said, this is in a fairly limited-run, ultrahigh-end phone, but nonetheless availability in a commercial device cannot be disputed.

Good news for Qualcomm and TSMC
This is solid execution on the part of Qualcomm particularly as this is now by far the most advanced modem in the industry built on the most advanced foundry process node in the industry. But another interesting point is that this is solid execution by Taiwan Semiconductor, which is likely the manufacturing partner for this chip.

While the road to 20-nanometer has been difficult, it looks as though Taiwan Semiconductor has overcome the significant hurdles, paving the way for the volume availability of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) A-series chips later this year and Qualcomm's integrated apps processor/modem solution in the first half of 2015.

Does this lend credibility to TSMC's FinFET roadmap?
Taiwan Semiconductor delivered on 20-nanometer, and has promised that its 16-nanometer FinFET node will go into production about a year after the 20-nanometer node. If Qualcomm's product teams can execute, then there is a decent chance that this time next year, we'll be talking about the first 16-nanometer FinFET stand-alone modems, followed by an Apple A-series processor built on that process.

Following that, in the first half of 2016, we should then see the first integrated 16-nanometer apps processor/modem. But do keep in mind that the semiconductor equipment vendors have been talking about the industry facing very challenging yield (that is, number of good chips per wafer) issues with the 16 FinFET node, so the 1-year cadence may not hold exactly.

Foolish bottom line
This is a great job on the parts of both Qualcomm and Taiwan Semiconductor. While this isn't a huge volume rollout, it is encouraging to see the first 20-nanometer mobile chips hit the market. Expect to see larger volumes as we exit the year, presumably as Apple begins selling its iPhone 6, with even more robust growth during 2015. The real question, now, is on the timing of the initial 16 FinFET mobile products.

Warren Buffett's biggest fear is about to come true
Warren Buffett just called this emerging technology a "real threat" to his biggest cash-cow. While Buffett shakes in his billionaire-boots, only a few investors are embracing this new market which experts say will be worth over $2 trillion. It won't be long before everyone on Wall Street wises up, that's why The Motley Fool is releasing this timely investor alert. Click here to learn more about what's keeping Buffett up at night and the one public company we're calling the "brains behind" the technology.

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple 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.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

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.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

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. It's also featured on several dozen 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 ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers