LONDON – A deconstruction of the Galaxy S3 E210s mobile phone from Samsung by ABI Research has revealed that Samsung has dropped an externally supplied modem in favor of an internally developed one.
The market research firm speculates that Samsung's use of its own ICs in the Galaxy S3 phone iteration could be the start of a platform war with Apple as Samsung and Apple both attempt to take control of more of the underlying semiconductor technology that drives their equipment businesses.
ABI said that while Samsung has been known for its high-end application processors under the Exynos brand it has typically used modem ICs supplied by companies such as Qualcomm, Intel, Broadcom, ST-Ericsson and Via Telecom.
"Mid last year it [Samsung] introduced a CDMA/LTE phone that was produced with a Via Telecom CDMA modem, a Samsung LTE modem, and a Samsung application processor," said James Mielke, vice president of engineering at ABI Research, in a statement. "What makes this variant of the Galaxy SIII so interesting is the modem is a single-chip HSPA/LTE integrated circuit designed and manufactured by Samsung."
In an earlier teardown of the Galaxy S3 smartphone UBM Techinsights showed Intel had taken advantage of its recently purchased Infineon wireless business unit with design wins for the X-GOLD 626 PMB9811 baseband processor and the PMB5712
GSM/CDMA RF transceiver. Intel is not mentioned in account of the ABI teardown.
In the third quarter of 2012 the Samsung Galaxy S3 was the leading smartphone in the market selling 18 million units to grab about 10.7 percent of the smartphone market of 167.8 million units, according to another market research firm Strategy Analytics. The same firm said Apple sold 16.2 million iPhone 4S handsets and 6.0 million iPhone 5 handsets.
As Samsung's position in the smartphone market rises its growing reliance on captive ICs could be a major concern for the likes of Qualcomm and Via Telecom, according to ABI Research. Samsung also fabricates the A6 and A6X ARM-based processors for Apple.
Samsung's recent purchase of the CSR handset IC business also indicates a move towards a platform battle between Samsung and Apple, said ABI.
Samsung LTE/HSPA+ modem (CM221S), Exynos Application processor and Wolfson Audio
hub/codec (WM1811AE) shown on Galaxy S3 E210s motherboard. Source: ABI Research
The ABI teardown of the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE (SHV-E210s) reveals the components include:
Samsung: 2G/3G/4G 40-nm modem CMC221S Samsung: Quad core Exynos 4412 application processor Samsung: high-performance ISP Triquint: QuadBand EDGE PA Avago and RFMD: 3G PAs Broadcom: BCM4334 WiFi/BT/FM combo connectivity chip Wolfson: WM1811AE audio hub IC Knowles: MEMS microphones STMicroelectronics: inertial and pressure sensor FCI: FC7860 2G/3G/4G transceiver IC Maxim: power management ICs
How is this piece of news, albeit interesting, related to a platform war with Apple? I really do not get how you are connecting dots here. Apple designs no semiconductors of their own (I'll concede the AX apps processor under duress since it is really an ARM fabricated by Samsung), has no fab and NO modem (2G, 3G, 4G, BT, WiFi, or GPS) design experience. Please explain how Apple can be considered the competition in this space? System design and software for sure, but hello, that is not news, they have been suing each other for years now on that.
Think strategically 10 years from now when Apple and Samsung could be designing 100% of the SoCs inside of their consumer devices. Apple did a custom design of the recent A6X processor using a license from ARM, not a reference design from ARM, big difference.
Samsung is a leading smartphone vendor that designs and manufactures the chips inside -- albeit to an Android platform.
Apple is a leading smartphones vendor that designs significant chips inside (but does not manufacture them) but defines the iOS-basded platform.
ABI Research is joining the dots and reckoning that Apple and Samsung will try to take more control of their respective platforms (think modems, graphics, radios) as they go head-to-had in smartphone/superphone/table computers.
Seems like a smart and logical move. After all, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Apple has certainly taught Samsung that having control over every possible part of its hardware supply chain is the way to go....
I don't think you appreciate the complexity and cost of running a modem business. Then multiply that by 6 modems and counting. Apple in not in the ballpark and is not showing any signs of taking up the game.
I think if it is the natural move for these two giants to design their own chip. Whether they have any fab to manufacture does't really matter. The key is to own the IP of core technology while having its own chip is surely the key to win the game. Of course, both investment and risk are large. Apple, on the other hand, also can play with software like OS but it is also burning a lot of money so they must do the thing right all the time.
I think Samsung has always been more in control of its supply chain than Apple, as Samsung manufactures a significant portion (not just chips) of its smartphone components in-house. Apple has been great at managing an controlling an external supply chain, but that cannot beat in-house sourcing.
@tpfj, I agree with you. The technical complexities and the investment required to build modem communication skills for HW and for software is far beyond Apple. Considering also the multiple standards we are talking about.
Intel did not start from scratch. They bought in. Maybe Apple could do that too, but it needs to find someone willing to sell at a distress price. Otherwise, the premium required to buy those businesses might not justify the savings from owning the design process.
We are really talking about multi-hundreds of millions of dollards to build such design centers for WCDMA or LTE (HW and SW).
Samsung, on the other hand, is a multi-faceted company, including a well experienced semiconductor manufacturer. Hence, they leverage their expertise. Apple will need to dig deep into their pockets to buy someone.