Technology stocks have become a surprising source of dividends over the past few years. For a long time, technology companies were reluctant to pay dividends, preferring to use all their spare cash flow to reinvest in their business and continue innovating. However, investors are clamoring for income, and many companies in the technology sector have become big enough to reinvest in growing the business and rewarding shareholders simultaneously.

Two technology stocks that pay solid dividends are chip giants Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). Qualcomm stock yields 2.3% at recent prices, while Intel's dividend yields 2.6% at recent prices. Over the past several years, both companies have aggressively raised their dividends. Here's a look of each company's critical dividend metrics.

Chip stocks are flush with cash
Both companies generate solid cash flow. This allows them to hold a lot of cash on their balance sheets, invest in new product areas, and increase shareholder distributions. Intel's revenue and earnings per share increased 8% and 40%, respectively, last quarter. Over the first six months of the year, Intel generated $3.4 billion in free cash flow. At the same time, Intel paid $2.2 billion of dividends to investors. This means Intel's dividends comprise about two-thirds of free cash flow, which should leave comfortable room for a dividend increase in the near future.

A dividend raise would surely be welcomed by investors, since Intel has not increased its payout in two years. Intel's sluggish growth in recent periods has weighed on its historical dividend growth rate, however -- Intel's five-year compound dividend growth rate stands at 10%.

By contrast, Qualcomm has a significantly better record of dividend growth. Qualcomm has increased its dividend by 20% compounded annually over the past five years. This is because of its stronger fundamentals. Revenue and diluted earnings per share from continuing operations are both up 7% year-to-date. Management credited this to strong demand for the company's 3G and 4G chipsets. In fact, Qualcomm reported revenue, earnings per share, and chipset shipments that each set company records last quarter.

Cash flow is also looking good. Through the first nine months, Qualcomm generated $6.3 billion in free cash flow. This is up 15% versus the same period last year. In addition, Qualcomm paid $1.8 billion worth of dividends to shareholders. That means that Qualcomm's free cash flow payout ratio is a very healthy 28%.

Going forward, management expects a great year for the company, and demonstrated this by raising its outlook for the remainder of the year after providing third-quarter results. The current-quarter outlook calls for as much as 14% revenue growth and 37% diluted earnings growth, year-over-year, at the top of the forecast. For the full fiscal year, revenue growth should clock in at 6%-9%, and earnings-per-share growth is pegged at 17%-21%.

The better pick for income investors
Intel and Qualcomm are both huge chip companies, but are benefiting from the global smartphone boom at varying levels. Intel is still heavily reliant on the personal computer. To its credit, it's investing in new technologies such as the Internet of Things, and it has seen global PC shipments stabilize recently. But nevertheless, this has weighed on Intel's dividend growth over the past couple of years.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm is thriving as smartphones take over the technology landscape. It's putting up much better growth than Intel, which explains its higher dividend growth as well. At recent prices, Intel provides a slightly better dividend yield than Qualcomm, but Qualcomm's much better dividend growth rate makes up for that and then some. Qualcomm's dividend growth over the past five years has been double Intel's, and this is likely to continue as management holds a very optimistic outlook going forward. Qualcomm has a much lower payout ratio and higher dividend growth over the past five years, and expects strong growth for the full year. This should lay the groundwork for much higher dividend growth going forward. As a result, income investors should pick Qualcomm over Intel.

Bob Ciura has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of 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.