Qualcomm’s year got off to a rough start when reports spread that Samsung, the world’s top Android smartphone vendor, was opting not to use the chip maker’s Snapdragon 810 processor in its Galaxy S6 device because of concerns over overheating.
The decision was the beginning of a string of challenges the chip maker has had to deal with over the year, from ongoing regulatory probes in the United States and overseas as well as pressure from activist shareholder Jana Partners, whose insistence on larger returns for investors led the company in July to announce a restructuring plan that consists of cutting $1.4 billion in expenses—including slashing 15 percent of its workforce—and considering splitting in two.
However, Samsung—which used its own Exynos processors in the Galaxy S6—reportedly now will use Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 820 mobile systems-on-a-chip (SoC) in the Galaxy S7, which is expected to launch next year in the United States and China. Citing a report in the Electronic Times, a South Korean news site, Reuters said Samsung will use its Exynos processors for Galaxy S7s that are sold in other parts of the world.
The news comes as Qualcomm, the world’s top mobile chip vendor, readies the Snapdragon 820 for release this year, with devices powered by the SoC coming out in the first half of 2016.
For the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm officials had moved away from developing its own custom CPU core design, choosing instead to base the chip on an off-the-shelf ARM CPU design to accelerate the company’s move into the market for 64-bit chips. However, soon after reports about Samsung’s decision regarding the Snapdragon 810 and Galaxy S6 smartphone, CEO Steve Mollenkopf in late January said that for the 820, the company was returning to a custom core design.
Qualcomm over the past several weeks has been releasing information on various aspects of the Snapdragon 820, from the connectivity and next-generation Adreno GPU and Spectra camera image signal processor (ISP) to its machine-learning capabilities.
Last month, company officials talked about “Kyro,” Qualcomm’s first custom-designed 64-bit CPU and a key part of its larger heterogeneous computing strategy for enabling mobile devices to better handle such workloads as imaging and virtual reality. It also will bring twice the performance and twice the power efficiency of its predecessor to high-end smartphones, according to officials.
Kyro is a 14-nanometer CPU with speeds up to 2.2GHz and a FinFET transistor architecture for higher performance. It’s integrated with the Adreno 530 GPU and Hexagon 680 digital signal processor (DSP), essentially enabling the chip to use all of the components—CPU, GPU, DSP and ISP—depending on the need of the application to help drive performance and power efficiency.
In a post on the company blog in September, Mark Shedd, director of marketing at Qualcomm, wrote that the chip vendor developed its own CPU because “customization means being able to meet the needs of consumers without compromising on performance or battery life. Higher performance is often at odds with longer battery life—but that’s what we’ve engineered into the first generation of Kyro.”
Samsung’s Galaxy S6 uses an Exynos 7420 chipset that includes a 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and 2.1GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 CPU, leveraging ARM’s big.Little architecture that is designed to improve performance and power efficiency.