US chip designer Qualcomm Inc yesterday said it would use its own central processing units in its high-end quad-core chipsets for smartphones to differentiate itself from its rivals’ quad-core products.
For chipsets used in entry-level smartphones, or handsets with a price tag of below 1,000 yuan (US$160), Qualcomm said it would use licensed microprocessors from other companies, such as ARM Holdings PLC.
Qualcomm’s comments came after Taiwanese chip designer MediaTek Inc (聯發科), its biggest rival in China, unveiled its quad-core chipsets for smartphones and tablets on Wednesday. MediaTek expects customers to launch smartphones using its quad-core chipsets next quarter.
“When quad-core chipsets become popular, those chipsets will be very similar to each other,” James Shen (沈勁), vice president of Qualcomm’s Greater China area, told reporters in Taipei.
“Consumers, in fact, are not concerned about what kind of chipsets [are used in their phones]. Instead, they are more concerned about which brands are used in those electronics [products], and they are more concerned about the overall performance of the chipsets,” he said.
In China, a growing number of small chipmakers also plan to roll out quad-core chipsets next year, Shen said, adding that most of them manufacture chips for white-box handsets and tablets.
Those companies include Fuzhou Rockchips Electronics Co (瑞芯), he said.
Qualcomm’s quad-core chipsets are used in HTC Corp’s (宏達電) Buttferfly smartphone, Samsung’s Galaxy Note II and Asustek Computer Inc’s (華碩電腦) Padfone 2.
However, quad-core chipsets do not necessarily offer better performance or longer battery life than dual-core chipsets, Shen said.
Qualcomm’s new dual-core MSM8x30, for Chinese clients, are two or three times better than the quad-core chipsets made by its competitors, he added.
China’s Huawei Technologies (華為) used the MSM8x30 in its latest smartphone and more handsets using this chipset are likely to hit the market by the Lunar New Year holiday, Shen said.
Qualcomm offers Qualcomm reference design (QRD) services for its Chinese customers only. At the moment, about 60 Chinese mobile phone makers have joined the QRD program, 47 of which have launched 100 products and have another 100 products in design, Qualcomm said.
Qualcomm plans to provide QRD services for quad-core MSM8x26 chipsets for Chinese clients early next year.
Shen said China is one of the fastest-growing emerging markets, with 3G handsets accounting for only 27 percent of the market.
Citing figures from iSuppli, Shen said China ships 700 million mobile phones a year.