By contrast, there is little disagreement that MediaTek has emerged as a key smartphone supplier. Stuart Robinson, director of the Strategy Analytics Handset Component Technologies service, said in a statement: "MediaTek surged to the number three position in the smartphone applications processor market in 1H 2012, by Strategy Analytics estimates. The company continues to leverage its strong position in the strategic Chinese smartphone market to boost its share."
Strategy Analytics predicted that MediaTek is positioned to "translate its success from feature phones to smartphones" in emerging markets.
Strauss said he suspects the way MediaTek reports its smartphone chip shipments has caused additional confusion in market rankings. MediaTek reported 70 million smartphone chips shipped through the third quarter, but these are “not chip sets,” Strauss said. Rather, the total represents individual chips required in MediaTek’s smartphone reference designs.
For example, MediaTek’s TD-SCDMA smartphone reference design requires an MT6515 (EDGE only) chip, an extra TD-SCDMA baseband, an RF transceiver, power amplifier and a Wi-Fi combo chip, increasing its device count to five chips. The MT6577 dual-core adds a power management IC to the MT6573 single-core chip. Hence, Strategy Analytics may have taken the larger number – including all chips need that go with an apps processor – in calculating Mediatek’s market share, Strauss asserted.
Another issue affecting the rankings is who supplies China’s largest mobile operator, China Mobile, with its smartphone chips. Because China Mobile has adopted the TD-SCDMA standard, chip suppliers with TD-SCDMA-based smartphone solutions would gain market share through that segment.
Marvell's PXA920 family, for example, combines a communication processor supporting TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE and multimedia apps processor functions. According to Forward Concepts, Marvell sold over 16 million TD-SCDMA units in the first half of 2012, grabbing 90 percent of the China Mobile market.
MediaTek’s largest clients are Lenovo, Huawei, TCL and Acer, said Straus. The bulk of MediaTek’s sales are for HSDPA baseband with its four-chip MT6573. That means sales of those chips are restricted to China Unicom, the country's second largest carrier.
In its separate ranking of the top smartphone baseband chip suppliers, Forward Concepts said Qualcomm also leads that market with 131.8 million units shipped, a total that includes baseband-only and baseband/apps combo chips. Qualcomm was followed by Intel (57.7 million), Marvell (21.8 million), TI (16.4 million) and Broadcom (12.6 million).
Smartphone Baseband Chip Shipments (millions of units), 1H 2012
(Source: Forward Concepts)
(Source: Forward Concepts)
--Dylan McGrath contributed to this report from San Francisco