SemiAccurate's Charlie Demerjian ran a fascinating story about the rumors that the Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 810. I don't want to spoil the details (you can read the full story here), but the bottom line is that Demerjian asserts that these rumors were patently false and that the Snapdragon 810 works as intended.
However, according to the AnandTech review of the HTC One M9, which uses the Snapdragon 810, not all is perfect with this chip. The reviewer says that in CPU bound tests, the 810 does about as well as the older Snapdragon 805, and in graphics tests, the improvement over the 805 is "generally somewhat minimal."
So, even if it is true that the chip doesn't "overheat," it seems that the chip's power consumption leads to limited performance gains over the prior-generation Snapdragon 805. Note that the 810 is built on a more advanced 20-nanometer technology, which should have given it an "easy" power consumption edge over the 805.
All told, the reviewer leaves the reader with the following conclusion: "I can't help but feel that Snapdragon 805 ends up being a better choice than Snapdragon 810 for a flagship smartphone at this time."
A silver lining to this for Qualcomm
The good news is that if the performance issues seen in the HTC One M9 are truly the fault of the Snapdragon 810's having some issues, then this might bode well for Qualcomm's next flagship processor, the Snapdragon 820.
As you might recall, it was well publicized that Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) chose not to use the Snapdragon 810 in its Galaxy S6. If the 810 had worked as intended, then this would lend further credence to the idea that Samsung simply wants to replace Qualcomm chips with its own internally designed Exynos processors for strategic reasons.
However, if the Snapdragon 810 was simply not a good enough product for Samsung's needs this round, then if Qualcomm can deliver a competitive part with the 820, then I think there's a reasonable chance that future Samsung devices will use the 820 in some regions. This could help Qualcomm's chip-related revenue and margins during the company's next fiscal year.
A potential downside for Qualcomm
While a more competitive Snapdragon 820 could help Qualcomm, I think the drama surrounding the 810 might make Qualcomm customers more willing to consider alternative sources for high-end phone processors.
Samsung has expressed interest in selling chips to other smartphone vendors (and has even done so in the past), but there is an obvious conflict of interest there, since Samsung also sells phones. MediaTek has made it clear that it wants to move upmarket into higher-end smartphones and tablets, and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), too, is developing products for this market.
Qualcomm reportedly vying for Galaxy Note 5 chip orders
One more thing worth taking a look at is the potential launching timing of the Snapdragon 820. According to DigiTimes, Qualcomm is trying to win the applications processor spot for the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
If DigiTimes is correct, then this might imply that Qualcomm will be shipping its next-generation Snapdragon 820 into commercially available devices later this year. If that turns out to be the case, then this would represent a pretty quick transition on Qualcomm's part from the 810 to the 820.