Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) is the world's largest smartphone maker by unit share, nabbing 21.7% of the market in 2017, according to the International Data Corporation. The company is also a major manufacturer of the key components that go into smartphones such as DRAM, NAND flash, camera sensors, and even applications processors.
Last quarter, Samsung reported that its semiconductor business turned in just over $12 billion in operating profit, making up about 77.7% of the company's total operating profit. Sales of memory semiconductors comprised about 85% of the company's total semiconductor sales in the quarter.
Indeed, Samsung not only operates its own chip manufacturing operations -- it builds chips for both itself and on a contract basis for others -- but it also designs its own applications processors for a range of its own devices. The company's flagship Galaxy S-series and Note-series smartphones, for example, come in variants powered by Samsung-designed processors. Those processors are sold under Samsung's Exynos brand.
On Nov. 14, Samsung announced the next member of its Exynos family of applications processors and the chip that'll surely power a portion of the company's Galaxy S10 and next Galaxy Note smartphones over the next year: Exynos 9820. Here's what you need to know about it.
New CPU, faster LTE, AI engine
Samsung says the Exynos 9820 has a new, custom-designed CPU core that "delivers around 20% improvement in single core performance or 40% in power efficiency compared to its predecessors which can load data or switch between apps much faster."
Multi-core performance, the company says, is up "by around 15%."
The Exynos 9820 features two of those custom CPUs, two of Arm Holdings Cortex A75 cores, and four of Arm's low-power Cortex-A55 cores, for a total of 10 cores.
The chip also incorporates Arm's Mali-G76 graphics cores, something that Samsung claims delivers "a 40% performance boost or 35% power savings, allowing longer play time of graphic-intensive mobile games or interactive [augmented reality] applications."
Samsung is also following the trend Apple and Huawei's HiSilicon set by embedding a dedicated "neural processing unit," that the South Korean giant asserts "performs [artificial intelligence] tasks around seven times faster than the predecessor."
And finally, the Exynos 9820 has a cellular modem that's capable of 2 gigabits-per-second download speeds.
The manufacturing technology and timetable
Samsung's Exynos 9810 was built using the company's second-generation 10 nanometer technology, known as 10nm LPP. The Exynos 9820, Samsung says, is built using the company's 8nm LPP technology, which WikiChip describes as an "extension" of 10nm LPP.
The 8nm LPP, Samsung explains, "reduces power consumption by up to 10% compared to the 10nm LPP process."
In other words, it looks as if the big performance and efficiency increases of the Exynos 9820 come largely from design enhancements rather than from the change in manufacturing technology.
The company claims that this chip should be in mass production by the end of 2018, which is the right timeline for a chip that's expected to power its upcoming flagship Galaxy S10 smartphones in the first half of 2019.