According to market research firm Strategy Analytics, Qualcomm was the top multicore smartphone application processor vendor in the first half of 2013, with 43 percent market share. This is the same market share percentage the company had in the smartphone application processor market for the whole of 2012, when it was also ranked top. (See: Qualcomm leads smartphone processor market.)
Strategy Analytics told EE Times in an email correspondence that its analysts foresee a developing distinction coming between those companies that can and those that cannot offer an integrated baseband modem for 4G and earlier communication standards. In the email, Strategy Analytics said it expects Broadcom, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Spreadtrum to proliferate the market with low-cost, baseband-integrated quad-core chips in the next few quarters.
In the ranking of multicore application processor vendors for smartphones in the first half of 2013, Qualcomm is followed by Apple, Samsung, MediaTek, and ST-Ericsson in order of reducing market share. The top five vendors of smartphone application processors in 2012 were Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, MediaTek, and Broadcom. The implication is that the ST-Ericsson joint venture, which has been broken up and returned to its parents, was nonetheless able to displace Broadcom in 2013's first half. Chinese fabless chip company Spreadtrum led the single-core segment in 1H13, Strategy Analytics said.
Multi-core chip penetration in smartphones increased to 66 percent in the first half of 2013, up from almost zero in 2010 and about 50 percent in 2012. The penetration of multicore processors in smartphones continues to rise, and by the end of 2013, is likely to be 75 percent, the firm said. Quad-core smartphone applications processor shipments registered five-fold growth in the first half of 2013, compared to the first half of 2012, while single-core smartphone applications processor shipments declined by 14 percent in the same period.
Strategy Analytics classes big-little application processors, such as Samsung's Exynos Octa devices, as quad-cores because they can only use up to four cores at the same time. The first "true" Octa processor is expected to come from MediaTek later in 2013.
However, rather than reaching upwards for more and more cores, Strategy Analytics said that quad-cores are likely to represent the "sweet spot" for years to come with more emphasis on the inclusion of application accelerators, DSP cores, and the use of GPU cores for computing support.
Broadcom, Intel, Marvell, and Spreadtrum started shipping multicore application processors for smartphones in 2013's first quarter, and Strategy Analytics expects to see them all ramp volumes. HiSilicon, Huawei's in-house chip company, with its quad-core K3V2, will also be seeking design wins, the company said.