A set of slides detailing Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) upcoming Snapdragon 820 processor aimed at high-end smartphones and tablets recently hit the Web, courtesy of Weibo (via Engadget). The slides indicate that the Snapdragon 820 will bring substantial improvements over Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810, which began rolling out in devices earlier this year.
Let's take a look at some of the chip's purported specifications and what this might mean for the mobile chip giant.
Loaded for bear
The slides indicate that the chip will be built on a 14-nanometer FinFET manufacturing technology (presumably from Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF)), which the company says will bring "significant power/thermal improvements over 20-nanometer."
Snapdragon 820 will feature four of its custom-designed CPU cores code-named Hydra, which the slides indicate deliver a "35% performance improvement" (presumably over the Cortex A57 inside of the Snapdragon 820). In addition, the chip will apparently pack an Adreno 530 GPU, which the slide says will deliver an additional 40% graphics performance as well as a more than 30% reduction in power consumption.
The chip will also feature a host of other features such as decode of 4K video streams at 60 frames per second, as well as both 10-bit HEVC and VP9 decode support.
Finally, the chip is said to include a Category 10 LTE-Advanced modem integrated with the applications processor.
When will it arrive?
Qualcomm has publicly said that the Snapdragon 820 will begin sampling in the second half of 2015, and there's even speculation that Qualcomm will be hosting a "special event" to publicly reveal the specifications of the chip (which might suggest that sampling has begun or is imminent).
The leaked slides show that Qualcomm plans to get this chip into production by the end of the year for a roll-out in flagship devices in early 2016, so the above makes sense.
Will this fix things for Qualcomm?
Qualcomm's chip business has been struggling for a number of reasons, with two major -- and well-known -- ones being:
- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which does not use Qualcomm applications processors, is grabbing meaningful share at the high-end of the smartphone market; and
- Samsung, which often uses Qualcomm-designed applications processors in some versions of its flagship Galaxy S/Note smartphones, shifted to using its own home-grown applications processor exclusively this cycle, materially impacting demand for Qualcomm's high-end applications processors.
A better applications processor in the form of the Snapdragon 820 is unlikely to do much to fix the first issue since I doubt that the Android vendors are losing premium share due to Apple's applications processors.
However, if the Snapdragon 820 proves to be a very competitive flagship-oriented processor (and the leaks suggest that it will be), then Qualcomm could win back spots inside of the flagship Samsung Galaxy S/Galaxy Note smartphones, improving both revenue and profitability (especially since higher-end chips are likely to carry higher-margins).
One more thing worth noting is that the slides indicate that the chip will be built on a 14-nanometer FinFET technology and makes no mention of also being built on a 16-nanometer technology. The fact that Samsung seems to be the sole manufacturer of these chips probably helps Qualcomm's odds of winning spots inside of Samsung flagship devices going forward.