Published in Mobiles

First batch of Galaxy S4s will ship with Snapdragons

by on25 March 2013

Samsung couldn’t build enough Exynos 5 chips

As many as 70 percent of the first 10 million Samsung Galaxy S4 units will ship with a Qualcomm chip under the bonnet. 

The news comes as no surprise, as it became clear that the Snapdragon 600 will power quite a few S4s just days after Samsung introduced the phone. Since the Exynos 5 Octa lacks LTE, it was to be expected in a number of markets where LTE matters, including the US and parts of Europe.

However, lack of onboard LTE is apparently not the only reason Samsung chose to use the Snapdragon 600. According to Korean ETNEws, via Unwiredview, Samsung’s LSI division failed to meet production targets. The new chip apparently had some performance issues and not enough chips were stamped out in time for launch.

The Exynos 5 Octa is Samsung’s first 28nm SoC. Samsung’s 28nm process came on line late last year and something apparently went wrong. With a window of just a few months before the S4 launch, Samsung was clearly cutting it dangerously close. Transitioning to a new process and a new architecture is always risky. That is why Intel employs the tick-tock approach and doesn’t change processes and architectures in the same cycle. Nvidia also faced issues with its Tegra 4 SoC, another 28nm SoC with A15 cores.

The clear winner in all this is Qualcomm. Samsung and Nvidia lost quite a bit of time on their 28nm/A15 transition and in the incredibly competitive mobile SoC market every month counts. Consumers also stand to lose. Having multiple high-end phones based on three different chips would have been quite a bit more interesting, but now it seems most if not all flagship phones coming in the first half of the year will be based on the Qualcomm 600.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s a neat little chip, but things might get a bit boring.

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