Your smartphone’s CPU is the brain, also known as a System-on-Chip (SoC). All of your device’s functionalities are directed and controlled by it. Most Android devices use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset, but as companies branch out, they’re developing their hardware.
When considering a new smartphone, you may consider the battery life, storage camera specifications, and display quality. However, the device’s chipset does not receive nearly as much attention as it deserves—especially if you are not a tech aficionado.
Why would you want to create your own processor?
Smartphone makers are increasingly following Apple’s lead and creating their chips. While third-party processors are ubiquitous in Android phones, they don’t provide the same amount of customization and optimization that a bespoke chip can.
To combat this, tech behemoths are creating their own smartphone chipsets. Having a processor on staff can be quite beneficial to a company.
Let’s have a look at how this can be accomplished.
Processor Cores’ Customizability:
Brands may personalize CPU cores and improve device performance with bespoke processors. This allows for fine-tuning of the devices rather than having to choose a one-size-fits-all solution.
A device’s software and hardware are more attuned with a bespoke SoC. This translates to longer battery life, better RAM management, new software capabilities, and improved computational photography through picture processing algorithms, among other benefits.
Qualcomm and MediaTek, the two primary chip manufacturers, prioritize different things when it comes to CPU cores. Qualcomm, for example, is well recognized for its GPU performance, which is among the best in the industry. Smartphone manufacturers must compromise if they want the same features but a faster CPU. A bespoke chipset comes in handy in this situation.
Smartphone firms can tweak cores for various tasks because they have their CPU. Google, for example, has been experimenting with specialized cores in order to improve several functions. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a list The Pixel Visual Core enables for faster image processing, while the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) boosts Google Assistant’s responsiveness.
Improved Software Performance:
Android phones typically receive three years of software updates from the time of purchase, whereas Apple’s iOS updates typically last five years. Even though brands may go further, external processors’ insufficient future-proofing precludes them from doing so.
This is the case because SoC manufacturers are presently designing CPUs that can handle three years of software upgrades. Pushing this much further would result in higher engineering expenditures, which would have a negative impact on earnings.
Qualcomm attempted to extend the life of the Snapdragon 888 chip but was only able to provide an additional year of security patches while only enabling three years of OS updates. One of the areas where an in-house processor can outperform external providers is in this area.
The ability to extend software support by designing an in-house processor gives them more control over the ultimate product. This also gives manufacturers the option of customizing CPUs to meet their software requirements. In the next section, we’ll go over this in more detail.
End-User Experience: More Control :
All of the previously mentioned advantages amplify brands’ control over user experience. This is analogous to Apple’s iPhone experience, where the company’s closed environment allows it to customize the best user experience for its hardware.
A proprietary chip, on the other hand, allows corporations to pick and choose what they want to prioritize in their products, whereas an external chip encourages uncertainty and compromise. On the Pixel 6 series, for example, Google wants to prioritize Google Assistant to improve performance and always-on features. Samsung optimizes its native speech assistant, Bixby, with its Exynos CPU in the same way.
Custom silicon can enable features that are specific to the company’s ecosystem, enhancing the user experience. Furthermore, by eliminating an external source, smartphone firms will have one less factor on which to rely and be vulnerable.
Cost-cutting for a competitive advantage:
The most apparent but essential advantage of having an in-house processor is the cost savings. Purchasing processors from a third-party vendor is costly. The fundamental supply-demand law explains this. The majority of smartphone CPUs are made by Qualcomm and MediaTek, resulting in an oligopoly.
This limits the options available to brands, particularly in terms of processor pricing. Manufacturers can raise prices because there is no actual competition, allowing them to make more money. Brands can save money by developing their own chipsets in-house.
As a result, lower-end product prices are possible. As a result of cutting costs and lowering prices, businesses can take advantage of this new competitive advantage to grow sales by providing better value for money.
Custom Processors’ Ascension:
Samsung was the first company to accept the challenge. Exynos 3, codenamed Hummingbird, was unveiled in 2010 as the company’s first in-house chipset. Samsung’s Exynos processor has proven to be a fierce competitor for Qualcomm over the last decade.
Following Samsung, Huawei released its first in-house chip, the Hi3620, in 2012, which was built by HiSilicon, Huawei’s fabless semiconductor subsidiary. Despite its well-publicized problems, Huawei was once one of Qualcomm’s most formidable competitors, constantly producing excellent hardware.
While it may come as a surprise to see Google join the party, the company has already developed co-processors for the Pixel series that work in tandem with a main third-party processor. For task optimization, Google created the Pixel Visual Core for the Pixel 2, Pixel Neural Core for the Pixel 4, and Titan M for the Pixel ¾.
Given their strong position in the SoC market, it’s doubtful that Qualcomm and MediaTek would be forced out. While corporations like Google and Samsung can afford to invest in and create proprietary semiconductors for their devices, smaller businesses must still rely on third-party vendors.
One thing is guaranteed for the regular consumer: technology will get more affordable as time passes. You should expect to get a better bang for your buck the longer you wait to make your next buy, as firms develop new methods to give more with less to survive in the ultra-competitive smartphone industry.