This makes Samsung the first to have inked a deal with the US chipset maker for the manufacture of the premium chipsets that will power flagships 5G phones in 2021 and beyond.
The deal worth about $1 billion elevates Samsung from a relatively large chipset supplier for the smartphone market to a major position.
SamMobile reports that Samsung’s offer was slightly better than TSMC’s, but no numbers were revealed in the report.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 875 chipset (tentative name) is manufactured using a 5-nanometer process and it’s aimed at premium smartphones. The new chipset is expected to be unveiled in December, but the first devices powered by Snapdragon 875 won’t be ready until next year.
Samsung Electronics has already started the mass production of the new chipset at its foundry line in South Korea.
Qualcomm flagship chipsets this year have been Snapgragon 865 and Snapdragon 865 Plus, which power majority of flagship Android phones around the world.
But the new line, Snapdragon 875 is set to power Samsung Galaxy S21 5G phones before any others, which include other flagships from Xiaomi and Oppo in China.
According to SamMobile, based on the number of transistors that fit into a square mm, the process node will drop this year from 7nm to 5nm for Apple’s A14 Bionic and Huawei’s new Kirin chipset.
The more transistors inside a chip, the more powerful and energy-efficient it is. The first 5nm Snapdragon chip, the Snapdragon 875, will be widely in use starting in the first quarter of 2021.
Unlike the Snapdragon 865 and 865+, built by TSMC, Qualcomm has reportedly signed a deal valued at approximately $844 million with Samsung to produce all Snapdragon 875 chips.
According to SamMobile, Samsung will use its 5nm EUV assembly line to manufacture the Snapdragon 875 series. EUV stands for extreme ultraviolet lithography, which is a tool used to etch patterns on chips that show where transistors are to be placed.
With 15 billion transistors inside the A14 Bionic, these markings need to be extremely thin which is where EUV comes in to play. Samsung was responsible for the 10nm Snapdragon 835 and Snapdragon 845 SoCs while the Snapdragon 855, 855+, 865, and 865+ were all built by TSMC using its 7nm process node.
One report states that pricing was the reason why Qualcomm returned to Samsung for the 875 series. Samsung can deliver chips with the same quality as those produced by TSMC but at a lower price.
Building a foundry requires long term planning. Samsung is hoping to take over the number one spot from TSMC by 2030 among independent foundries. TSMC and Samsung are currently numbers one and two in that category, respectively.
As for the upcoming year, a leaked photo shows that the Snapdragon 875G and 735G will also be produced by Samsung using the 5nm EUV process. Other chips seen in the leaked image include Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 series 5G chips and the Snapdragon 690 (listed as SDM6835). The latter will be manufactured using Sammy’s 7nm EUV process.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 875 flagship is now reportedly under mass production and is equipped with the Snapdragon X60 5G modem. It should feature the Cortex-X1 as a prime core with the Cortex-A78used as the other three performance cores handling complex tasks.
It also will include Quick Charge 5.0 designed to support fast-charging of 100W. We should start to see new phones powered by the Snapdragon 875 hit the marketplace during the first quarter of 2021.