Since July 2012, TechInsights' Teardown.com has performed nearly 400 teardowns on mobile handsets and tablets. Roughly 100 of these included full bill of materials analysis and costing analysis. Of these devices, 10% were WiFi-only tablets. The remaining 90% were units that contained a cellular chipset (from 3G to LTE) of some kind. Based on our ongoing research, the following provides a quick overview of our observations of major players in the area of cellular modem ICs, cellular RF transceiver ICs, separate applications processors, and WiFi/Bluetooth-enabling ICs/modules.
Of the roughly 80 units we analyzed, Qualcomm was present in 70%, making it the undisputed leader in our sample. This is also reflective of the vendor's marketshare and its own claims as the leader in this space. Though Qualcomm is the leader, this doesn't mean it has no competition. In our teardowns, we also documented ICs from Intel (15%) and MediaTek (10%). Four units were powered by other chipset vendors.
For RF transceivers, we again documented Qualcomm appearing 76% of the time (some units had more than one part), followed by Intel (13%), MediaTek (9%), and Broadcom with the rest.
For separate processors that are not integrated into the cellular modem IC, we see roughly half with separate applications processors. The bulk of these (18 units) are of the Qualcomm APQ80xx family. Samsung Exynos processors account for ICs in seven devices, Apple for six, Nvidia for five, Intel for four (tablets), and Texas Instruments for three (2012 vintage units). At that rate, it isn't surprising why TI exited the mobile application processor market in 2012.
Ninety percent of the teardown candidates came with WiFi, Bluetooth, or both functions incorporated into the IC. The dominant player for these combo radio ICs was Broadcom (33% of the units), followed by Qualcomm (25%), Murata (10%), and a few others. It should be noted that Broadcom was the dominant IC integrated into our decap analysts of the modules made by Murata and others, having their WiFi/Bluetooth die embedded in the supplier's package.
Clearly, Qualcomm is a dominant player, but it is not the only player. Samsung has been keen to marry up its high-end Exynos processors with relatively inexpensive HSPA/HSPA+ cellular modems in some HSPA devices or to use Exynos in its WiFi tablets. Qualcomm has yet to win the WiFi/Bluetooth space, but it is catching up to the leader, Broadcom.
For our next blog entry, we will go over other connectivity and sensors observed.
— Joel Martin is senior vice president and general manager of Teardown.com, a part of TechInsights that has been doing design, integrated circuit analysis, and bill of material costing for 15 years.