It seems that chip giant Qualcomm (QCOM 3.22%) can't catch a break, dealing with relatively minor challenges like temporarily losing the applications processor spot in some of Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Galaxy S-series smartphones thanks to an overheating chip and existential threats to its wireless technology licensing business -- its main source of profit.
Even though the stock has been terrible to own for a while, it's worth remembering that Qualcomm the company still does quite a lot of things right, even if the stock price doesn't reflect that.
To that end, here are three things that Qualcomm does well.
1. Strengthening wireless chip biz
Qualcomm's largest business by revenue is its Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, or QCT, segment. This business segment generates most of its revenue from the sale of applications processors and related components into smartphones, although the company continues to try to bring its technology to new segments (e.g. tablets, drones, wearable computing, networking, and data centers).
Last quarter, Qualcomm's chip business performed well, with revenue growing 13% year over year to $4.65 billion and earnings before tax hitting $955 million, a 32% surge year over year.
That growth was driven by both chip shipment growth as well as average selling price growth, suggesting that the company shipped a richer mix of products last quarter than it did a year ago.
Qualcomm's financial performance in this segment continues to strengthen, reflecting a strong product portfolio and good relationships with a wide range of smartphone makers.
2. Growing content in mobile
Qualcomm's QCT business relies heavily on the sale of mobile applications processors for most of its revenue, but the company has long aimed to sell more than just applications processors into smartphones.
For example, the company offers Wi-Fi chips, audio codec chips, fingerprint scanning technology, 3D sensing solutions, and has even added RF front end technology to its wireless portfolio.
By offering such components, Qualcomm achieves two things. First, it grows the amount of revenue that it generates from each of the smartphones that it powers. This should, in theory, allow Qualcomm to outperform the broader smartphone market (something that's becoming increasingly important as the overall smartphone market slows down).
Additionally, Qualcomm's ability to offer smartphone vendors most of the key components that they need to build their devices makes life easier for those smartphone makers, making it more likely that they'll opt to use Qualcomm solutions over competing solutions.
3. Leadership wireless technology
Qualcomm is, at its core, an engineering-driven company and it shows. The reason that the company has been so successful in dominating the market for merchant smartphone applications processors is that it has a broad portfolio of processors, each packed with technologies that are leaders in their respective fields.
Modern mobile processors are tasked with performing many technologies, from transmitting data over cellular networks to rendering vivid 3D graphics. That wide range of tasks requires an equally broad set of individual sub-processors to be integrated into a complete chip.
Not only does Qualcomm need to be able to innovate each of those sub-processors consistently each year, but it needs to have leadership technology across the board.
Qualcomm largely succeeds there, with the odd slip up or two every so often and I think many chip companies could learn a thing or two from the company's product development execution.