Posted : 2015-01-08 16:32
Updated : 2015-01-08 18:10

Qualcomm caught in tech issues

By Yoon Sung-won

U.S. mobile chipmaker Qualcomm is facing the challenge of handling overheating and other technological issues with its latest mobile processor.

The company showcased its new mobile processor at the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show 2015 in Las Vegas on Tuesday (local time), which is being used in LG Electronics' new flexible smartphone, the G Flex 2.

The company unveiled the Snapdragon 810 for the first time in April 2014.

It was designed as a 20-nanometer flagship mobile processor for high-performance smartphones.

It has an octa-core processor with four ARM Cortex-A57 high-performance central processing units (CPUs) and four ARM Cortex-A53 low power-consumption units that support 64-bit commands for data processing.

The system on a chip (SoC) product integrates the fourth-generation long-term evolution advanced model, dubbed category 6, and theoretically supports up to 450 megabit-per-second data download speed.

It also has an Adreno 430 graphic processing unit, which has a 30 percent increase in performance and consumes 20 percent less power than its Adreno 420 predecessor.

It also supports the 4K displays which have been widely used on the latest flagship smartphones.

The Snapdragon 810, however, faces concerns about technological issues.

Problems such as overheating at certain voltages and performance degradation caused by memory controller problems have been reported, and its clock rate, an index representing a processor's performance, was estimated to be lower than its predecessor, the Snapdragon 805.

An uncontrollable limitation of processing speed to prevent overheating has been pointed out. According to the mobile chipset benchmark Geekbench, the Snapdragon 810 had a serious "throttling" problem that forcibly limits the graphic processing performance when it overheats.

The Snapdragon 810's Adreno 430 graphic processing unit and the 64-bit command support also needs more optimization as currently they are known to be incompatible with the G Flex 2.

The new mobile chip has been used in Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S6 and LG Electronics' G4.

Fiercer competition

Qualcomm also faces challenges from outside.

Samsung Electronics plans to release the Exynos 7 Octa series this year. Its flagship smartphone Galaxy Note 4 S LTE-A already uses the octa-core Exynos 7 chipset, and the company will expand use of the product manufactured in the 14-nanometer process for its handsets in the future.

Nvidia also unveiled its new 64-bit mobile chip Tegra X1 and promoted its top-tier graphic processing capability.

Another concern is that its global market leadership as the world's top manufacturer of mobile application processors will be threatened amid aggressive marketing movements by Asian brands in the middle- and low-priced segment amid a rapid shift in the global smartphone industry toward less expensive handsets.

At the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 in Las Vegas, China's Huawei unveiled the new Ascend P8 smartphone which has the 64-bit Kirin 930 octa-core mobile processor it has developed for its flagship handsets.

The Chinese company also promotes the quad-core Kirin 310 processor for cheaper models. The movement can be interpreted as an effort to reduce dependency on Qualcomm's mobile chips.

Taiwan-based mobile chipmaker MediaTek also announced a 64-bit octa-core MT6795 processor, as well as the MT6735 and MT6595 for the budget phone market.

According to a report by Strategy Analytics last year, MediaTek ranked second in global mobile processor shipments, following Qualcomm.

KTB Investment and Securities Analyst Jin Sung-hye said, "Qualcomm's clients, China's Xiaomi, for instance, may look for other options from companies like MediaTek if the Snapdragon 810 processor actually turns out to have problems that are unfixed. This may cause certain changes in the global market structure."

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