[EPNC=이나리 기자] Qualcomm has announced a refresh of its high-tier smartphone platforms with the Snapdragon 630 and 660, an update to the 653 and 626, just announced last fall.
These updates come in time to answer some of the products being released by Qualcomm’s competition, such as MediaTek. The 600 tier has been very successful for the company to date, with over 1,000 design wins in smartphones and tablets. The new platforms reinforce the company’s position in the mid-range and high-end smartphone market segments.
The two new platforms demonstrate the rapid pace of innovation occurring outside the premium flagship smartphone market segment and will have some key upgrades relative to their predecessors. As it has in the past, Qualcomm is bringing features, which are common in premium tier Snapdragon 800 devices, down into the 600 tier.
Devices powered by the new platforms should have more extensive camera features, better connectivity options and improved battery lives. The improvement of the LTE modem is a key differentiator for Qualcomm, and moving from category (Cat) 7 to Cat12 LTE will essentially double the downlink speed from 300 megabit per second (Mbps) to 600 Mbps. Also with the new platforms, Qualcomm has moved from a 28 nanometer (nm) to 14 nm process node and incorporated audio/visual processing and contextual awareness capabilities via the integrated Hexagon DSP.
Specifically for the Snapdragon 660, the company introduced its custom Kryo 260 CPU design into the 600 tier. Non-cellular connectivity advances are also present in the 660 with a move to 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi, and both platforms offer Bluetooth 5.
The Snapdragon 600 platform tier serves a large swath of the smartphone market
IHS Markit defines the smartphone market differently than how Qualcomm’s products are defined. Where Qualcomm has four Snapdragon platform tiers (200, 400, 600, and 800) focused on the entry-tier, mid-tier, high-tier and premium tier, respectively, IHS Markit has three.
Based on the average selling price (ASP) of a given smartphone, IHS Markit defines the entry-level product tier as selling for under $150, the mid-tier for those sold at $150-$400 and high-end for more than $400. Although the Snapdragon 660 and 630 fall into Qualcomm’s high-tier product line, many phones powered by past Snapdragon 600 products tend to fall within IHS Markit’s mid-tier smartphone market with some landing in the high-end.
According to the Smartphone Electronics Design Intelligence Service, while the mid-range smartphone market is the smallest of the three smartphone segments tracked by IHS Markit, it is only expected to be three million units smaller than the high-end market in 2017. The mid-range segment is expected to post the fastest growth of the three over the next five years with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5%. By 2021, it will be the largest segment within the smartphone market by shipment volume.
In the past devices with a wide range of ASP were served by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 tier products. For example, phones with the Snapdragon 653, such as the Oppo F3 plus, have prices ranging between $450 and $500, while other phones like a global version of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 have a price under $170.
Despite the wide ASP range of the end devices, these platforms are good for Qualcomm as it should be able to attach more peripheral content, such as WLAN ICs, power management ICs, audio codecs and radio frequency (RF) front end content around the system-on-a-chip (SoC), relative to some premium tier smartphones.
In many of these mid-range/high-end phones, OEMs may opt to use simpler designs that rely more heavily on one supplier in order to reduce the overall development and design cost and time-to-market for the device. In the premium, flagship level tier of the smartphone market, which is currently dominated by Qualcomm and vertically integrated OEMs, phone manufacturers are more likely to diversify their supplier base as they have more resources and more leverage, given the generally high volumes of successful devices in this segment.
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