TOKYO -- As global demand for smartphones soars, a cottage industry is growing up around ranking the stiff competition in the strategic application processor market.
Days after market watcher Strategy Analytics released a report on “Smartphone Apps Processor Growth” for the first half of 2012, another researcher, Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.), countered that the ranking by the rival research firm had “totally missed" Marvell Semiconductor, the Silicon Valley chip maker that is widely seen as among the leaders in the apps processor market.
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Both market researchers agree that Qualcomm is the No. 1 smartphone applications processor vendor as measured by both unit sales and revenue during the first half of 2012. Samsung, MediaTek, Broadcom and Texas Instruments rounded out Strategy Analytics' top five rankings for the first six months of this year.
Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts begs to differ. While agreeing that Qualcomm leads the market, Strauss said the failure to include Marvell in the top five is a serious omission.
“Marvell is a major supplier of application processors [and baseband], not only for Research in Motion (RIM) but also for China TD-SCDMA cellphones from companies like Asus, Huawei, Lenovo, Sony, TCL-Alcatel, Tianyu and ZTE," Strauss noted. "Marvell, in the first half of 2012, had a greater unit market share than MediaTek” of Taiwan.
Strauss estimates that Marvell shipped 23.2 million application processors in the first half of 2012, more than TI (18.4 million units) and Broadcom (12.6 million units).
While the dueling market watchers are essentially quibbling over two spots in their industry rankings, the dispute underscores the growing importance of market share in strategic segments like smartphone chips.
Strategy Analytics fired back at Strauss on Monday (Oct. 15). In a blog post, the firm defended its ranking methodology, saying it placed Marvell sixth in smartphone applications processor sales in the first half of year. According to Strategy Analytics, Marvell's strong performance in TD-SCDMA smartphone apps processor shipments to China Mobile were not enough to offset declining shipments at RIM, a big Marvell customer. Marvell dropped out of Strategy Analytics' top five in applications processors after shipments declined 26 percent during the first half of the year compared to the first half of 2011.
Forward Concepts also includes Apple in its apps processor rankings, resulting in the following vendor ranking for smartphone apps processors: Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, Marvell and TI.
Smartphone Application Processor Shipments (millions of units), 1H 2012
(Source: Forward Concepts)
(Source: Forward Concepts)